The Queen of the Queen’s Hotel

Jim Cameron looks as the history of the Queen's Hotel in early Cranbrook.

The Queen's Hotel.

Jim Cameron

The Queen’s Hotel stood on Baker Street in the heart of Cranbrook’s downtown business district for over 60 years; in fact it first stood when there was no heart at all, except, of course, the brave hearts of the sturdy pioneers who travelled across the lonely, barren wastes to settle a strange and savage…START AGAIN!

In the final days of March, 1898, months before the railway came through, there were four buildings in Cranbrook aside from those on the Baker homestead: the CPR storehouse, Hilliard’s blacksmith shop, the Cranbrook Hotel and the East Kootenay Hotel, the latter of which stood two blocks – two very empty blocks – away from all the others, near the corner of what would become 10th Avenue and Baker Street.

There were five women in town at the time and one of them, Mrs. Mary Hannah Donahue, age approximately 45, was the lone proprietress of the East Kootenay Hotel and a local property owner of note. To say that she was an astute, determined, independent woman would be pretty much on the mark.

She was certainly the first businesswoman in the town and would remain so for many years. Mrs. Donahue came to Cranbrook by way of Golden and the North Star Landing on the Kootenay River near Fort Steele, where she opened her first boarding house a year or so previously.  Determining the nearly vacant townsite of Cranbrook to be on the cusp of rapid growth, she purchased numerous city lots and erected a small hotel on a piece of ground that seemed a long way off from the site of the CPR rail yard.

Her ad, one of the first and few in the March, 1898, Herald newspaper read, “East Kootenay Hotel – Mrs. Mary Donahue, Proprietor: Cooking in Home Style, Warm Rooms and Comfortable Beds. No pains spared to make everything pleasant for visitors.” And that was, indeed, the tone of the hotel for years to come.

As the town of Cranbrook rapidly grew, Mrs. Donahue continued both improving her hotel and gradually relinquishing control. By July, a two-storey addition to the east side of the hotel was underway which added over a dozen new rooms, office space and a bar.

Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Donahue passed the management of the hotel over to Oliver Burge and Frank McQuinston, who immediately ensured an ample supply of good cigars and liquors on site. By December, 1898, the town boasted a population of 1200 people and five hotels with the East Kootenay Hotel continued to enjoy an excellent reputation and steady clientele.

Management of the East Kootenay Hotel passed from the hands of Burge and McQuinston to T.T. Richards to Hugh Cameron in the space of months at which point Mrs. Donahue attempted to sell the building following another round of renovations and the securing of a public liquor license for the bar.

A series of managers followed with Robert Shaw, Peter Matheson, A. McPeak, Alexander Chenette, George Gougeon, J. Netterfield, N.P. Molander and Gus Andeen  taking charge in the space of the next seven years, during which time the name was changed to the Queen’s Hotel, and another two-storey 10’ x 18’ addition was added.

Although Mrs. Donahue was by now living primarily in Calgary she still visited on occasion to see old friends and attend to her local business interests. The hotel continued to undergo renovations and improvements including one of the earliest metal roofs in the city added in 1909 by local carpenter and undertaker W.R. Beatty.

Local entrepreneur Nils Hanson, a good friend and business partner of Mrs. Donahue announced yet another addition to the hotel in1910. The lean-to kitchen at the rear was replaced and that, in conjunction with opening up the top story, added another 13 rooms.

It was during this construction that contractors Christian and Jones set a somewhat controversial local precedent by allowing workers a half holiday on Saturday afternoons. The entire façade of the original building – or rather, what there was of the original building – was remodeled and plate glass windows added.

The construction next door (the corner of 10th and Baker) of the three-storey, brick, Hanson Block in 1911, which later became the Norbury Hotel, would likely have taken much of the Queen’s Hotel’s business had not the two buildings been joined via a passageway on the second floor and, in effect, became one unit.

Frank Carlson took control of the Queen’s in 1913, passing it on to Teddy Clauson a few years later, then to Benson and Veeburg, Gunnar Swanson, back to Clauson, over to Dencoe, Shypitka, Lynch and Skene and finally on to Jack Dowart, who was in possession during the early morning hours of May 17, 1959, when Norbury Hotel proprietors Mr. and Mrs. Harry Walkley, awoke to discover the ground floor filled with smoke.

Firefighters were on the scene directly and both hotels were safely evacuated. Within no time both the Queen’s and Norbury Hotels were a raging inferno of flames, one of the city’s most notable conflagrations. Both building were completely razed as firefighters, using one-and-a-half miles of hose, worked well into the morning to save the downtown core. Heat from the blaze shattered the windows of buildings across the street and melted the face of the post office clock facing the blaze.

All that remained was the large safe of the Norbury Hotel which was incorporated into the Phoenix building which was constructed on the spot of the Norbury Hotel in 1961.  Mary Donahue died in Calgary in December, 1934.

Trivia: The very first religious service in Cranbrook was held the dining room of the East Kootenay Hotel on March 20, 1898. On October 8, 1898, Mrs. Donahue’s private residence was destroyed by fire, the first such occurrence in town

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dan Herrick, the head coach for the Rocky Mountain Rams, supervises drills during a practice at Mount Baker Secondary School. Trevor Crawley photo.
Rocky Mountain Rams program thriving as fall season wraps up

The Rocky Mountain Rams Football Club is set to wrap up another… Continue reading

BC ELECTION
Kootenay East voters out in droves already

A third of Kootenay East voters have either already voted or requested mail-in ballots

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

Lake Koocanusa weir; Cranbrook RCMP report; Cranbrook Community Theatre; Can Greens and NDP get along?

The people known to be in this photo are (front row, left to right) Lily Watts with young Lily Watts, who was born in Cranbrook, on her knee; Agnes Watts (holding rifle); unknown lady with child; Ernest Charles Watts with William Watts on knee. The names of the four gentlemen in the back row are unknown.
Who are these Cranbrook homesteaders?

Can you help identity the people in this 1914 photograph?

Bats are pictured snuggled in a bat box. (J. Saremba file)
Next week is International Bat Week

Monitoring for white-nose syndrome in B.C. will continue this winter

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

More and more electric cars are on the road, but one Chevy Bolt owner was shocked to see how much his BC Hydro bill skyrocketed once he started charging the vehicle. (Black Press file photo)
Lower Mainland man sees significant spike in BC Hydro bill after buying electrical vehicle

An increase should be expected, but Brian Chwiendacz experienced a 200-plus per cent hike

The Anonymous YVR is an Instagram page that reviews restaurants and other establishments around B.C. based on how well they adhere to COVID-19 rules. (Instagram)
Anonymous Instagram page reviews COVID-19 safety measures at B.C. businesses

There are a number of public health orders various types of establishments must follow to slow virus’s spread

Jordan Naterer, an electrical engineer from Vancouver, was last seen Saturday Oct. 10. (Facebook photo)
Search efforts to resume for missing Manning Park hiker; Trudeau speaks on case

PM says he’ll do what he can to ‘nudge’ efforts to find Jordan Naterer, yet has little leverage locally

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

École de L’Anse-au-sable. (Google Maps)
B.C. records first COVID-19 outbreak at school, six weeks after students return to class

Three cases of the virus have been identified at École de L’Anse-au-sable

Most Read