People sometimes ask me if I’ve ever stayed in one of these old, small-town hotels I write about. The answer is “Yes – once!”
On a spring day in 2006, as I meandered south of Melville near the Qu’Appelle Valley, I stopped by the hotel in Neudorf, then called Gasthaus Neudorf. The hotel was being renovated by Bernhard and Janice Caulien. The couple invited me in and showed me around the construction site. They had purchased the old prairie hotel in 2002 with the goal of turning it into a European-style “guest house” or country inn. A fire in 2004 had been a major setback, but the Cauliens persevered.
In mid-winter 2008, I returned to stay overnight at Gasthous Neudorf. The Cauliens had suggested I come that evening as there was a dinner show featuring a magician from Nova Scotia. It was a full house in the hotel’s beverage room for the magic show despite frigid temperatures. Amusingly, I was the only non-local in the audience, so the good people of Neudorf naturally suspected that I was a “plant” for the magician’s act!
Bernhard and Janice had made good progress since my previous visit. There was a restaurant which served good food, as well as three modern, comfortable guest rooms, each with its own bathroom – a rarity in old hotels! Gasthaus Neudorf was advertised as “a place to rest, a place to dine, a place to frolic,” with international home-cooked meals, and “the biggest selection of local and import beer, wine and spirits east of Regina.”
Neudorf’s hotel had its roots in the settlement period. In 1906, Fritz Engelland and his cousin John Paysen, recent arrivals from Germany, purchased two lots on the corner of Railway Avenue and Main Street and built the hotel. Perhaps the two partners flipped a coin over which one of them the hotel was to be named after, and John Paysen won.
After the Paysen Hotel opened in 1907, Engelland, his wife Augusta, and their four children lived in the hotel, as did his bachelor partner, Paysen, and all the hotel staff. Living in such close quarters eventually led to a romance between Paysen and one of the maids, Barbara Ulmer. By 1911, the two were married with two children and farming in the Moose Jaw district.
In 1909, the hotel’s name changed to King George Hotel; that name stuck until 1929. The hotel featured a dining room, a pool hall, a theatre, a dance floor, and a barber shop. In the spring of 1911, the Neudorf hotel was purchased by business partners, Michael Bateman and Henry Shatsky.
Prohibition came into effect in Saskatchewan on July 1, 1915, closing the bars, and with them, many rural hotels. While the Neudorf hotel remained open, there was a noticeable downturn in business. By the time Prohibition ended in 1924, the third floor of the hotel had been closed off. Owners came and went over the years, and at some point, the name was changed to the Leland Hotel.
In the 1990s, the hotel became known for some unique food served in the bar: pickled chicken gizzards. In 1998, the hotel’s name changed to the Gizzard Inn to reflect this culinary novelty.
The Cauliens’ Gasthaus project came to an end in 2015 when the couple sold the hotel and moved to British Columbia. The business then became known as the Neudorf Bar and Grille.
In the early morning of Sept. 3, 2017, Neudorf’s old hotel burned to the ground. The owner and his son, the only two people in the building when the fire broke out, managed to get out safely.
“Well, it’s been a long, tiring, not to mention devastating, week for our family and this great community,” the owners posted on Facebook. “At this time our plan is to rebuild.”