Hotel Allan – A bear story

Railway & Main

In 1920, Peter J. Loehndorf decided to buy the 10-year-old hotel in Allan, 60 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon. Despite his impressive accumulation of seven quarters of land, plus 150 head of cattle on his homestead near Leofeld he was ready for a change. Perhaps his restlessness was due to the fact that he and his wife Maria had 10 children, including two sets of twins. Every birth had necessitated another addition to the family’s log home since he had filed for the homestead in 1903. Then, in 1917, Peter’s father, John Loehndorf arrived from Germany to make his home with them. The thought of owning a hotel with lots of bedrooms for his large family clearly appealed to Peter.

In 1936, changes in Saskatchewan’s liquor laws allowed Peter to open a beer parlour in the Allan Hotel. It is quite likely that his wife, a deeply religious woman, did not approve. “Maria’s greatest comfort was the rocking chair and her faithful companion was the Rosary with which she prayed daily with sincere devotion,” Allan’s history Times Past to Present (1981) explains. “Daily ritual required the family to recite meal prayers, morning and evening prayers.” Maria’s prayers may even have saved the Allan Hotel from destruction by fire in 1935. “Fire ravaged building after building as it raced towards the hotel,” Allan’s history book records. “Women flocked to the church to pray. It was only through the tireless efforts of the fire brigade, and the prayers too, that the hotel came through with just one wall scorched.”

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After the death of his father in 1923, Peter embarked on a new hobby – taxidermy. He taught himself how to prepare, stuff and mount the skins of dead animals and birds – his sons’ hunting trophies – for display. Eventually, his collection included samples of almost every creature seen in Saskatchewan, including a two-headed calf donated by an area farmer. People came from miles around to see his finished work, which lined the walls of the bar in the Allan Hotel.

In 1941, Peter added a live animal to his menagerie. During one of his trips to northern Saskatchewan, he captured a bear cub. To the amazement of the children of Allan, Peter put the bear in a pen beside the hotel. A year later, the bear had grown so large and strong that it was a menace. Peter’s solution was simple. “Bear meat being a delicacy, he was butchered, and his meat distributed to various families around town,” the village history recounts. “Peter made up some summer sausage … and sent some of it to his son, Paul, who was still in England serving with the Canadian Armed Forces.” 

Peter and Maria Loehndorf, both in their mid-70s, sold the Allan Hotel in 1946. “Grandpa Loehndorf,” as he was known, died on Nov. 6, 1950.

When I stopped by the Allan Hotel in 2006, nothing remained of Loehndorf’s stuffed menagerie. There was a 121-seat beverage room and a 32-seat restaurant on the main floor. The 10 guest rooms on the second floor – three with sinks in the room – all shared a bathroom and shower, accessible from the hallway. The owners’ two-bedroom living quarters was also located on the second floor.

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