Red Deer's downtown hotels have
reprinted from Red Deer Express June 3, 2009
The recent demolition of the
Arlington Inn, Red Deer's oldest remaining hotel, and the closure of
the Valley, means the end of a major part of Red Deer's history.
No longer will the city have the cluster of old downtown hotels that
have been one of the landmark features not only of Red Deer, but
also of almost every community in Western Canada.
There was a strong reason for this pattern of development. The main
means of travel, until after the Second World War, was by rail.
When people arrived in a community, one of the first things they
looked for was a place to stay. Thus, there was a strong incentive
to build hotels within sight of the local railroad station.
The first hotel to be constructed in Red Deer was the Queen's. It
was a small single storey structure, built in the spring of 1891,
immediately east of the railroad station along Holt (51) Ave.
In the early spring of 1892, a two-storey hotel, the Alberta, was
constructed on the southeast corner of Ross St. and Holt (51) Ave.
The Alberta quickly developed a reputation as one of the better
places to stay on the C&E Railroad line.
As the business grew and prospered, an addition was built on the
east side. In 1899, a third storey was added to the frame structure.
That same year, Thomas and Edith Pennington Ellis, who had been
running the old Queen's Hotel, demolished the original structure and
replaced it with a much larger building.
The hotel, named the Arlington, opened with a grand ball and supper
on October 12, 1899.
It was also in 1899 that Steve Wilson, who had taken over the
Alberta Hotel, constructed a substantial frame and sandstone
building south of the Canadian Pacific (former C. & E.) Railroad
The building was originally used as a public hall, which was known
as Nelson's Hall. However, in 1903, it was turned into a hotel
facility. Initially called the Royal Hotel, it was renamed the
Windsor in 1905.
In 1902, Fredrick Krause built the Alexandra Hotel on the east end
of Ross St. near MacKenzie (49) Ave.
This was the first hotel to be constructed that was not directly
across the street from the railroad station.
Another hotel, the Great West, was constructed south of the Windsor.
However, this was a "temperance hotel", without a bar. It went out
of business in 1908.
Meanwhile, with Red Deer growing very rapidly between 1901 and 1913,
the other hotels grew and prospered. Large additions were
constructed onto the Arlington, Alberta and Windsor.
The great boom ended with the outbreak of the First World War in
1914. The implementation of Prohibition in 1915 dealt a catastrophic
blow to the local hoteliers.
For a while, both the Alexandra and the Windsor closed their doors,
while the Arlington fell into turmoil when the managers tried to
break their lease with the owners. Only the Alberta was able to
remain continuously open.
The 1920s were quiet years. The Windsor reopened, as did the
Alexandra, albeit under a new name, the Auditorium. The abandoned
Great West was torn down as a fire hazard.
In 1939, with the economy beginning to emerge from the Great
Depression, the west end of the Alberta was replaced with a new
building and the hotel was renamed the Buffalo.
New prosperity came during the Second World War. There was a large
military training centre in Red Deer and two airbases at Penhold and
Bowden. Rooms were soon full of visitors and lodgers. The beer
parlours were full of both military personnel and civilians.
In 1947, John Phelan, the owner of the Windsor, constructed the
Valley Hotel on the corner of 49 St. and 51 Ave. He also later built
the small Phelan Hotel south of the Windsor.
In 1947, the Auditorium was remodeled and renamed the Park Hotel.
Later, a small bar-less hotel, the Waskasoo, was built on Gaetz Ave.
There were more changes in the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s.
The hotels were full with newcomers and travelers.
However, in the late 1960s and 1970s, the downtown hotels became
more noted for their taverns. Some became rather notorious. In the
1980s, the Windsor even took as its slogan "Doing It Right on the
Wrong Side of Town".
There was a big decline in the past 20 years. The Windsor closed in
1993 and burned down a year later. The Waskasoo also burned down in
In 2001, the John Howard Society changed the Park Hotel into a
halfway house with businesses on the main floor.
In 2007, the Buffalo was purchased by the Potter's Hands ministry
and turned into a place of worship as well as affordable housing for
Now, the last of the traditional downtown hotels have either been
demolished or closed.
An era, more than a century long, has come to an end.
Station Park once shining jewel of Red Deer
(Red Deer Express June 2009)
The history of Red Deer's CPR station
(Red Deer Express April 2007)
Red Deer becomes a divisional point for CPR
(Red Deer Advocate Special March 2007)
Canadian Pacific Railway Stations in Central Alberta
Red Deer 1910 CPR station 'jewel' still
dominates Ross Street
Calgary and Edmonton Railway (CPR)
Calgary and Edmonton Railway at Red Deer (CPR)
News article: Arches mark influence of
railroad on city (Red Deer
News article: A new face for the old
(Red Deer Life July 1996)