Guest post by Royce E. W. Pettyjohn, Coordinator of Maple Creek's Main Street Program.
Maple Creek's oldest continually operated business, the Commercial Hotel, is truly a community treasure. Thanks to a group of new immigrants from the Philippines, this heritage hotel has been recently restored to its former glory. Today's visitors can still get a sense of the hotel’s rich history as a result of the atmosphere and furnishings that have been preserved in the hotel lobby.
|Marcelo Del Barrio, Jayson Catalasan, Ronald Del Barrio, and Noy Lim, hold a painting of the original hotel built in 1884/1885. Source|
Hotel on the Ranching Frontier
The story of the Commercial Hotel began on November 23, 1883 when Thomas Melfort Rasin, purchased Lot #3 on Block #2 (on the original town plan) in Maple Creek. The hotel was constructed of logs and faced will milled lumber. By 1885, it was in operation. The 1886 Territorial Directory billed the Commercial Hotel as “The largest hotel in the Northwest Territory, T.M. Rasin proprietor, first class in all its departments.”
|The original hotel c. 1885. Submitted photo.|
Rasin sold the Commercial Hotel to Edward Fearon on August 18, 1890; Lot #4 was sold to James Baird on March 2, 1898. Fearon, who was elected to the Territorial Assembly in November of 1894, sold the hotel to John Henry Fleming on Christmas Eve 1896. A little over two years later, Fleming also acquired Lot #4 from Baird.
The Commercial Hotel’s only competition in Maple Creek during the 1880s and 1890s was the International Hotel, built by J. J. English in 1883 on the east corner of Jasper Street and Pacific Avenue (destroyed by fire in August 1896). Between 1902 and 1904, however, the Cypress Hotel, the Jasper Hotel and the Maple Leaf Hotel had all been constructed and the aging Commercial Hotel was no longer the establishment of choice in town. In A.M. Merton 1904 booklet called The New West Era he refers to the Commercial Hotel as a “dollar house” under the management of the Henderson-Downer system (which owned the Cypress Hotel).
According to the Maple Creek News editor W.J. Redmond, it was around this time that Fleming decided to once again “make the Commercial the best hotel in town.” Around 1906 the original wooden Commercial Hotel structure was moved back on the lot and a large three-storey brick addition was constructed on the front of the hotel. This addition is represented today by the beverage room and everything above it. The location where the original wooden building was attached to the new brick addition is still visible at the back of the hotel.
|The 1906 section of the Commercial Hotel. Submitted photo.|
In 1910, Fleming sold the Commercial Hotel to Norman Robson., who immediately started to work on a second expansion. His addition to the east encroached onto Lot #4 and is represented today by the current lobby, dining room and everything above them. The new addition opened on August 30th, 1911. The next day, the Maple Creek News provided the following account:
"The new addition of the Commercial Hotel was put into commission yesterday and Maple Creekites have good reason to be proud of the Pacific Avenue hostelry. The ground floor is taken up by the rotunda and dining room. Both rooms are spacious, finished in golden oak, well lighted, and modern in every particular. New mission furniture in the dining room adds greatly to the attractiveness. The rotunda and the bar room have tile floors. Upstairs the new bedrooms have the advantages gained by plumbing and eight of them have baths in connection. The house now has 52 rooms and is steam heated throughout. The old rotunda is being overhauled and will be utilized for a pool and billiard room. The owner, Mr. N. L. Robson is to be congratulated upon the appearance of the Commercial, and it is more than likely that his efforts to keep the hotel up to the requirements of a growing town will be appreciated by the public."
Weathering Hard Times
It was during this time that Prohibition started in Saskatchewan. Click here to see blog post. This meant hard times for the hotel business. On June 10, 1919 Sophia Richardson & James Wilson bought the Commercial Hotel. After a struggle to keep the hotel afloat, Wilson lost his interest to the Land Securities Company of Canada Ltd. on March 30, 1921. Nine months later, his partner Sophia bought out his interests from the security company. Unfortunately Sophia Richardson lost the Commercial Hotel to the Bank of Montreal on March 9, 1927.
|Fire plan c. 1930 shows the hotel with all its original sections. Submitted image.|
The Commercial Hotel went through several owners between 1945 and the early 1970s. These owners included John “Scotty” MacLaren (1945); Hazen Bonser (1945 to 1947); Frederick, William and Alvin Ehnis (1947 to 1956); and Louis Liepert (1956 to 1973). Sometime during the 1960s additional hotel rooms were built in the original dining room space.
Flood of 2010 and Aftermath
|2010 flood; Commercial Hotel at upper right. Source|
Lee continued to preserve the heritage features of the building; however he had the misfortune of owning the hotel at the time of the disastrous flood of 2010. The flood caused extensive damage to the lower levels of the hotel, forcing it to close for the first time in its long history. Lee struggled to recoup his losses and reopen the hotel, without success.
At the end of 2012, Lee sold the Commercial Hotel to a group of Filipino investors who had recently immigrated to Canada, settling in Maple Creek. The seven stakeholders – Noy and Marchelle Lim, Jayson and Alneena Catalasan and Agnes, Marcelo and Ronald Del Barrio – formed Licadel Hotel Group Ltd. and made big plans for the hotel. They began a rehabilitation of the century-plus heritage landmark.
For SWTV news story video (December 17, 2012), click here
|Noy Lim and crew reviewing plans, March 2013. Source.|
For SWTV news story video (July 6, 2013), click here
Reopened for Business
A rustic, saloon-style bar at the Commercial Hotel opened in the summer of 2013; the hotel itself reopened in December of that that year. In February 2014, the Licadel stakeholders were presented with Maple Creek’s Business of the Year award, as well as the award for excellence in heritage conservation.
|Noy Lim with Premier Brad Wall, October 2013. Source|
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has said that Lim and his partners in the Commercial Hotel are close friends of the whole province. After the flood of 2010, the Premier noted, everyone was convinced that it was closed for good. Licadel's team of seven, doing a lot of the work with their own hands, brought the hotel back to its former glory. “The Commercial Hotel takes you back to that era,” said Wall. “It’s a special place, a very special place.”