LUNDBRECK’S WINDSOR HOTEL
by Farley Wuth, Curator,
Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village
Copyright, Pincher Creek & District Historical Society
The eye-catching Windsor Hotel, noted for a unique architectural feature, served as a much-patronized Lundbreck landmark for well over half a century. It was this coal mining and ranching settlement’s only business offering both meals and temporary accommodations during the pioneer era.
The settlement’s coal mining and ranching industries dated to the 1880s, with the establishment of the Mart Holloway mine and such corporate agricultural conglomerates as the Walrond. The community came into physical existence in 1897-98 as the ninth siding on the Crowsnest Line of the C.P.R. Geographically isolated, Lundbreck’s location enhanced its business development. Area miners and ranchers found it much more convenient to patronize the local commercial outlets on a regular basis than travel to distant Pincher Creek.
HERITAGE NAME AND MEMORABLE STRUCTURE
Against this backdrop the Windsor Hotel was constructed in 1905 and officially opened in January 1906. Like many of its counterparts in the neighbouring settlements of Cowley, Pincher City and Pincher Creek, the hotel proprietors selected a name reflective of the patriotic British times in which they lived. The business proudly bore the name “Windsor”, the surname of the Royal Family in England.
The rectangular two-story hotel boasted a number of important hospitality services. On the main floor were the publicly-accessible lobby, dining room and bar. A metal and plastic bottle opener, now an artifact housed at the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village, was used in the bar during post-World War Two years. These public rooms were supplemented by the rear kitchen where the meals were prepared. Twenty-two rooms, most of which were on the second floor, provided accommodations for the travelling public.
The unique structural feature was the two-storey outhouse located at the rear (to the west) of the hotel. It was designed exclusively for hotel patrons. Heritage Park historians, where the outhouse is now on exhibit, noted that the outhouse’s second floor was connected to the upper level of the hotel via a wooden footbridge which spanned the ground below. This was much appreciated by hotel guests who did not have to walk down the front staircase and through the lobby and bar to reach the outdoor privy. Physically, the outhouse had an interesting disposal design. Its first floor boasted four stalls, while upstairs there were two. To prevent spillage, the upper storey seats were set behind the lower level seats, and a wooden wall was constructed behind those on the first storey which separated them from the upper level disposal shafts. Even though the hotel has now ceased to be in operation for nearly half a century, its sanitary system continues to be fondly etched in the community’s collective memory.
The Windsor Hotel was located on the west side of Robinson Avenue, near the settlement’s small downtown core. Immediately to its south was the Lundbreck Trading Company, another local business landmark that for decades served as a general mercantile.
HOTEL WAS WELL-PATRONIZED
For years the Windsor built up a solid reputation as a fine local place to stay, enjoy a meal or liquor service, or to hold meetings and organized social gatherings. Well-patronized by district residents, it was most popular with area ranchers who welcomed its local charm and proximity to their ranches. The hotel’s locale was especially convenient for the countless cattle sales and ranch meetings held over the decades. These events attracted non-local ranchers as well.
The Lundbreck branches of the Victorian Order of Nurses and the Red Cross regularly held functions at the Windsor, particularly during the war eras or during disease outbreaks.
From the early 1900s through the 1920s, a time when coal mining was at its best in Lundbreck, many miners appreciated boarding at the Windsor. For many single men who could only find temporary work at the mines, the hotel provided much needed accommodations difficult to find elsewhere. Hearty meals were available and for those who wished to indulge, the bar was a popular watering hole for anyone putting in a hard workday in the nearby mines.
The 1911 Dominion Census provides a glimpse back at three of those early miners boarding at the Windsor. The first listed was the Italian born Angelo Ansolide, whose birth dated to August 1883. He was affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and worked in the mines all 52 weeks during the 1910 calendar year. The second miner of Italian ancestry was Balliston Giachino who was born in July 1881. He secured forty weeks of coal mining work the previous year. Alexander McLeod was the third miner. Of Scottish ancestry and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, he was born in January 1879.
That same year a contractor who may have been affiliated with either the coal mines or the C.P.R. line that ran through Lundbreck also boarded at the hotel. Robert Alexander’s ancestry was Irish and he was born in July 1881.
The travelling public also patronized the Windsor Hotel. Many of these were hunters who came each autumn in pursuit of the big game which populated the nearby foothills and mountains. During the post-World War II era the business’ slogan quite correctly was “Where Sportsmen Meet”.
The backbone of the Hotel’s business was with everyday citizens. However, some of its patronage came from well-known Canadians and Americans, particularly during its early days. One such person to stay at the Windsor was Sir Sam Hughes, the Minister of Militia in the Dominion Union Government of Sir Robert Borden which held power during the First World War. Another famous visitor was Louis Hill, a brother of J. J. Hill, the high-powered railway magnate.
PIONEER OWNERS AND STAFF
The Windsor Hotel was owned by several well-connected pioneers who had deep roots in Lundbreck and the Crowsnest Pass. Each worked hard to ensure the outlet’s success. The original business partners were Reuben Steeves and Thomas Madden, whose commercial arrangement continued until the former’s accidental death by drowning in August, 1908. The fellows were brothers-in-law; both had married sisters Mary and Ellen Bayne respectively. Steeves, a descendent of a Father of Confederation from New Brunswick, was a well-known Pass resident, arriving in Blairmore in 1901 where he served as the C.P.R. agent. Later that year, the Steeves family moved to Frank where Reuben built and operated the Imperial Hotel. The family patriarch also served on the Village’s first Council. There were three children, two daughters Eva and Ruby and a son Gordon, in the Steeves Family.
Madden, who had come to Lundbreck from Ontario and Manitoba with his young family, was born in August 1857. His wife Ellen was more than a dozen years younger, her birth dating to December 1869. The couple had a family of four, three daughters and one son. Their eldest three children, Hazel (who as an adult became Mrs. O. Sparrow of Vancouver), Clifford, and Pearl all were born in Manitoba in November 1892, April 1895 and November 1900 respectively. Their youngest daughter Marguerite was born in Lundbreck. Thomas had lost an arm in an industrial accident and was forced to seek alternative work, hence his interest in the hotel business. Madden passed away suddenly at the family residence on Christmas morning in 1922. His service followed on Thursday, December 28th.
Subsequent hotel owners included Joe Diamond whose business tenure dated to the late 1940s. On August 14th, 1950 the commercial outlet was sold to Lundbreck natives Walter and Bill Sapeta. The hotel continued to be a business success and the family operated it until its unfortunate demise in 1963.
Employed at the Windsor Hotel were a number of local pioneers representing a variety of cultures. One such individual was William Wilson who served as the establishment’s bartender for at least four years starting as late as 1910. He is listed as such in the 1911 Dominion Census, but resigned his posting in May 1914 when he moved to Lethbridge. Of Scottish ancestry and affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, he was born in May 1881. Other hotel employees from 1910 included Chin Bark who was born in China in November 1865. The forty-five year old individual worked as the cook in the kitchen for all 52 weeks that year and earned five-hundred dollars in wages. Miss Janet Muir worked as a waitress in the dining room. Her annual wages totaled three-hundred dollars. She was born in Scotland in July 1876 and had immigrated to Canada in 1910, securing her employment at the hotel almost immediately. Doris Evans and Eliza Rose both likely worked in the hotel’s housekeeping department, although according to the 1911 Census, the former was listed as a chambermaid and the latter as a servant. Evans was the younger of the two, having been born in November 1894 in British Columbia. Rose’s birth, nearly a decade earlier in December 1894, took place in England. Like her waitressing colleague Miss Muir, she too immigrated to Canada in 1910. Both Evans and Rose worked all year long at the Windsor Hotel and pulled in three-hundred dollars apiece in wages.
A CHAPTER IN LOCAL HISTORY CLOSES
The Windsor Hotel flourished as a Lundbreck business for over half a century but came to a sad end when it tragically burned to the ground early in the morning of Thursday, February 21st, 1963. Flames shooting out of the rear of the building were spotted at 3:30 a.m. and in spite of the valiant efforts of the Cowley, Bellevue, and Municipal District of Pincher Creek Volunteer Fire Departments, supplemented by a 2,000 gallon water tank truck owned by Jim Clinton from nearby Cowley, the fire quickly consumed the historic structure. Only the outhouse survived. The work of the firefighters and a calm night with little wind was credited for the fire being contained to the hotel alone, sparing the rest of the community’s downtown core. Financial losses were pegged at 50,000 dollars. Seven guests who stayed at the Hotel that fateful night fortunately escaped without injury, but lost most of their personal belongings. News of the hotel’s demise was carried in both the Pincher Creek Echo and the Lethbridge Herald. An intriguing chapter in Lundbreck’s commercial heritage had come to a devastating close.