On the morning of Aug. 10, 2009, the 97-year-old Prelate Hotel burned to the ground. The owner, Sherri Farrer, and her son were out of town at the time of the fire, and no one else was in the hotel. By the time the Prelate volunteer fire department got to the hotel, it was too late to save it, even with the help of fire crews from surrounding towns. “The wood was so dry and old it was like a can of gas,” said Prelate volunteer fire chief, Brad Goldade. All they could do was watch. There was so much smoke, they had a hard time even locating the blaze. The owner and her son lost all their possessions.
When I originally wrote about this hotel fire for my “Railway & Main” blog (hotelhistories.blogspot.com), I was contacted by Sheri Hassman, daughter of former owners Lloyd and Sandra Hassman. The Prelate Hotel did not hold happy memories for Sheri, who was seven when her family lived in the hotel. “I’m sorry for the current owner of the hotel to lose all of their belongings. I am not sorry to see this hotel burn down!” Sheri wrote. “This hotel should have been torn down a long time ago. It was cold and dangerous. Especially with the cisterns in the basement. The third floor was closed off when we lived there.”
The three-storey Prelate Hotel was built in 1912 in the town of the same name, located on Highway 32 12 kilometres east of Leader. Its first owners were Guy and Mary Linderman. At least one of their children was born in the hotel. By 1918, the hotel was owned and operated by Charles Cohen. His son, Edward Cohen, was managing the hotel in 1935 when the provincial government licensed the premises for the sale of beer by the glass.
In 1961, Ed Paul, the owner of the Prelate Hotel, requested a vote be taken by the town to allow mixed drinking. The vote carried, and women were permitted to drink in the beverage room of the Prelate Hotel for the first time. The hotel was then sold to Peter J. Kosolofski, and later, to Phillip and Inga Walston. Lloyd and Sandra Hassman owned the Prelate Hotel for about a year and a half. The Hassmans sold the business in 1975 or 1976 to Larry and Linda Steier who raised their sons in the hotel.
The bar at the Prelate Hotel was a popular spot. On the Facebook page, “Memories of the Prelate Hotel,” O’Neil Zuck recalls staying as a guest in the hotel one hot summer night in 1999. “It was an interesting experience. My pregnant wife was not used to such accommodations and my 4-year-old daughter did not know what to think. The first thing we noticed was there was one common bathroom to share with everyone staying overnight in the hotel. The second thing was we had a room over the bar. We had to keep the window open as it was too hot in the room. It was a breezy Friday evening; the sign swung and squeaked until about 1:00 AM. When the bar closed about 1:00 AM the patrons moved their socializing outside underneath the once squeaky sign. So we listened to boisterous conversations. I think it was after sunrise that we finally fell into a nice restful sleep.”
The Prelate Hotel was listed for sale in July 2005 by the owner, Sherri Farrer. The 1,800 square-foot living quarters and seven guest rooms were on the second floor. The 87-seat bar – which was the primary business source for the hotel – was on the main floor alongside a restaurant that was no longer in use. The third floor had been blocked off – its windows covered over by the stucco exterior. Those third-floor windows made a brief, ghostly appearance during the blaze of 2009 before the old hotel building collapsed into ashes.