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  Alberta and Arlington Hotels 1909

Forth Junction Project
Michael Dawe

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Forth Junction
Heritage Society

Red Deer's downtown hotels have
celebrated history

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 Station.

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. North.

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 1994.

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 the community.

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.

       CPR 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 Advocate Oct.2013)
       News article: A new face for the old station
(Red Deer Life July 1996)

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