Railway & Main

Joan Champ

Joan Champ

Joan’s love of stories led her to study western Canadian history at the University of Saskatchewan where she earned a master’s degree. Her knowledge of history opened the door to a career at the Western Development Museum, first in exhibit production and finally as the chief executive officer for all four WDMs. Joan retired from the WDM in 2016. She and her husband Gordon recently moved to North Battleford. One of their favourite activities is exploring the backroads and small towns of Saskatchewan. Joan began writing a weekly history column a year ago for the Prince Albert Daily Herald and her column is now being picked up by several other community newspapers in the province.

  • Biggar’s Empire Hotel Became the Eden

    One of two hotels built in Biggar in 1909, the Empire Hotel on the corner of First Avenue and Main Street was first owned by a Mr. Heather and the Fisher Brothers. Sometime before the hotel opened . . .

    Joan ChampSeptember 12, 2019

  • Hot Times at the Biggar Hotel

    Eugene Baron, a native of France, built the Biggar Hotel at 115 First Avenue West in 1909, just down the street from the town’s other hotel, the Empire, built that same year. The original . . .

    Joan ChampSeptember 9, 2019

  • Fire at Young’s Century-Old Hotel in 2011

    In the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2011, two sisters, ages 10 and 12, snuck out of their parents’ home and huddled in the front porch of the old, unoccupied hotel at Young. They lit some papers. . .

    August 31, 2019

  • Colourful Characters at Oxbow’s Alexandra Hotel

    In 1904, Harry Gleiser and his family took over Oxbow’s Palace Hotel, built on the corner of Railway and Main in 1892. Gleiser enlarged the hotel’s dining room and built an addition at the back, . . .

    Joan ChampAugust 24, 2019

  • North Portal: ‘Roughs Come in from Dakota’

    The border town of North Portal was a wild and woolly place in the early 1900s, due mainly to the sale of alcohol to residents of North Dakota, a “dry” state from 1889 to 1932. Sales of liquor . . .

    Joan ChampAugust 15, 2019

  • Gambling on Kindersley’s Seymour Hotel

    When town lots went up for sale in Kindersley on Oct. 7, 1909, the Canadian Northern Railway realized sales of over $60,000 – the most expensive of which was a lot on the corner of Railway and Main. . .

    Joan ChampAugust 8, 2019

  • ‘There’s a Fire in the House!’ - Arson at the Sovereign Hotel

    On the night of March 28, 1915, Molly Kelly, the chambermaid at the Sovereign Hotel, was so nervous that she went to bed fully clothed. She had only been working at the hotel for two weeks but the . . .

    Joan ChampAugust 1, 2019

  • ‘Your Home on the Range:’ The Commercial Hotel at Maple Creek (Part 2)

    Special thanks to Royce E. W. Pettyjohn, Park Manager at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, for his assistance in the preparation of this column. The Commercial Hotel went through several owners. . .

    Joan ChampJuly 26, 2019

  • Wolseley’s Leland Hotel – Built by Founder of Beaver Lumber Co.

    Wolseley’s first hotel, a one-storey, wood-frame structure with a canvas top built in 1883, might have been a primitive affair, but William. D. Perley and Edwin. A. Banbury had big plans. Banbury, . . .

    Joan ChampJuly 11, 2019

  • Hotel Wynyard: ‘A City Hotel in a Country Town’

    J. O. Lewis must have had considerable confidence in the future of the hotel business in Wynyard when, in 1925, he built a three-storey brick hotel on the southwest corner of Bosworth Street and . . .

    Joan ChampJuly 4, 2019

  • “A Chinaman’s Chance” – Chinese Curlers in Saskatchewan

    As I research small-town Saskatchewan hotels, I often come across references to the men-only enclaves of Chinese laundry, restaurant and hotel owners that had settled in nearly every village, town . . .

    Joan ChampJune 26, 2019

  • Unfair Play at the Windthorst Hotel

    In 1907-08, Albert E. Playfair built the three-storey hotel at Windthorst, 140 kilometres east of Regina on Hwy 48. By 1911, hotelkeeper William Williamson was living in the hotel with his three . . .

    Joan ChampJune 20, 2019

  • Behind the Bar - Barrels, Beer Kegs, and Bung Starters

    How did small-town Saskatchewan hotels serve beer in the early 1900s? It started with the shipment of wooden beer barrels by train to the hotels, unloaded on railway station platforms. The Bulyea . . .

    Joan ChampJune 13, 2019

  • Ups and downs at Morse’s Elkhorn Hotel

    The Elkhorn Hotel in Morse burned down twice before it finally put down roots. Jack Webster built the village’s first hotel in 1907 directly opposite the CPR station on the corner of Railway and . . .

    Joan ChampJune 8, 2019

  • The Colonsay Hotel – Canada’s ‘leading case’ in insurance law

    The Colonsay Hotel was at the centre of a major insurance case that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in the early 1920s. The court’s decision, handed down on June 15, 1923, greatly . . .

    Joan ChampMay 23, 2019

  • Preeceville’s Golden West Hotel

    One of the most unique old hotels I have visited is the one in Preeceville. The town is located in the rolling hills of east-central Saskatchewan, approximately 100 kilometres north of Yorkton at . . .

    Joan ChampMay 16, 2019

  • Bienfait Hotel – Mute witness to troubled times

    Bienfait, a coal-mining town east of Estevan, has seen more than its share of trouble and the Bienfait hotel stood in mute witness to it all. In 1904, the Canadian Pacific Railway opened Bienfait. . .

    Joan ChampMay 9, 2019

  • Woman in the Well – Murder at Sutherland’s Shore Hotel

    On June 29, 2006, on the west corner of 108th Street and Central Avenue in the Saskatoon neighbourhood of Sutherland, a work crew discovered a woman’s body while excavating fuel tanks from an old . . .

    Joan ChampApril 30, 2019

  • Ferries at the Invermay Hotel

    The Invermay Hotel on the corner of Railway and Main was built by Anthony Turner in 1905 to accommodate the influx of settlers brought in by the railway. Despite the fact that the bar was closed . . .

    Joan ChampApril 26, 2019

  • Chambermaid blues

    Chambermaids were essential to the operation of a small-town Saskatchewan hotel back in the early 1900s. The hotel chambermaid worked from morning ‘til night, cleaning guest rooms, doing laundry . . .

    Joan ChampApril 4, 2019

  • Melville’s King George Hotel: Royal Heritage

    Originally named the Windsor Hotel, the King George Hotel in Melville was built in 1909 by J. N. Pomerleau. It was one of three hotels in the community. The 1916 Canada Census shows that Joseph . . .

    Joan ChampMarch 28, 2019

  • Tar and feathering and other hotel stories

    As I do my research, I often come across stories of odd or violent incidents at small-town Saskatchewan hotels. Here is a sampling. Beating at the Hague Hotel:On March 31, 1910, the Rosthern . . .

    Joan ChampMarch 21, 2019

  • Saskatchewan hotels after prohibition

    There was a great deal of anxiety on the part of Saskatchewan’s hotel owners when Prohibition came into effect in the province on July 1, 1915. With closure of the bars, their chief source of . . .

    Joan ChampMarch 14, 2019

  • The Hotel in Rouleau – AKA Dog River

    The most famous small-town hotel in Saskatchewan has to be the one in Rouleau – aka Dog River. Located on Highway 39 southeast of Moose Jaw, Rouleau was the shooting location for the hit Canadian . . .

    Joan ChampMarch 7, 2019

  • Carievale’s Shakespeare Hotel

    William Decimus Godson married Catherine (Kate) Stanley in England on May 8, 1902, and built the Shakespeare Hotel in Carievale, Saskatchewan, a few months later. The hotel opened for business in . . .

    Joan ChampMarch 1, 2019

  • The Daintrees of Dilke

    “If you take a knuckle of beef, simmer it four hours, then throw in some barley, diced carrots, turnips, onions, celery, leaves as well, salt and pepper, you’ll have soup, but ten to one you won’t . . .

    Joan ChampFebruary 21, 2019

  • A Second Look: The Kyle Hotel

    “Don’t drive by, not every time. Stop for a second look. Look around. Take a breath. It’s later than you think.” These are the words of the late Cam Fuller (1963-2018), a long-time columnist for . . .

    Joan ChampFebruary 14, 2019

  • Neudorf Hotel – “A place to rest, a place to dine, a place to frolic”

    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. . .

    Joan ChampFebruary 7, 2019

  • Prelate Hotel destroyed by fire

    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. . .

    Joan ChampJanuary 31, 2019

  • Hoax at Grenfell’s Granite Hotel

    In 1887, Robert A. Copeland and W. H. Fleming bought the hotel in Grenfell with a down payment of two yoke of oxen. Eighteen years later in 1905, David Black bought the Granite Hotel from Copeland . . .

    Joan ChampJanuary 24, 2019

  • Raymore Hotel built by storeowner-postmaster with ambitions

    On an April day in 1908, Archibald G. MacLean set out on a long walk. MacLean had arrived from Prince Edward Island a few years earlier and was working as a clerk in the Govan general store. . . .

    Joan ChampJanuary 10, 2019

  • The viability of rural hotels in Saskatchewan

    While hotels are one of the oldest and most common forms of business enterprise in small-town Saskatchewan, in most cases, they are hotels in name only. They do not rely on room rental for revenue.. . .

    Joan ChampDecember 27, 2018

  • Simpson’s Hotel: The bar spells success

    After only living for a short time on the homestead he had filed near Simpson in 1906, Eli “Tom” Tikotsky was tired of homesteading. One day, he went to his neighbours’ house and told them he was . . .

    Joan ChampDecember 20, 2018

  • Hotels offered sample rooms for commercial travellers

    In the early 1900s, hotels were an essential feature in Saskatchewan’s commercial landscape. The settlers who homesteaded on the prairies had to travel to the nearest town to buy provisions such as. . .

    Joan ChampDecember 13, 2018

  • Growing up in the Queen’s Hotel at Moosomin

    Growing up in a small-town Saskatchewan hotel sounds like a cool experience, doesn’t it? For a kid, imagine how thrilling it must have been to be able to run the hallways and staircases in such a . . .

    Joan ChampNovember 29, 2018

  • Saskatchewan’s first steak pit at Maryfield’s Arlington Hotel

    One year after Reg and Louise Dlouhy bought the Arlington Hotel in Maryfield in 1976, they opened the first steak pit in Saskatchewan. It proved to be a major attraction for the town, which is . . .

    Joan ChampNovember 7, 2018

  • ‘Ladies and escorts:’ Women allowed in bars in the 1960s

    When Jack and John Morrow opened the Shell Lake Hotel in 1957, only men were allowed in the beverage room. On Saturday nights, while the farmers were enjoying each other’s company in the bar, their. . .

    Joan ChampOctober 30, 2018

  • Sasko, The Hudson Bay Hotel's pet moose

    In the winter of 1911, lumberjacks brought a baby moose to Marcotte’s Hotel at Hudson Bay Junction located in northeast Saskatchewan. The hotel owner, Alcide Marcotte, obtained a government permit . . .

    Joan ChampOctober 3, 2018

  • Anatomy of an old hotel

    When the Canadian Northern Railway arrived at Dinsmore in 1913, it brought with it 12 railway cars of lumber for the construction of a hotel, built by T.W. McCrea & Delisle Bros. at a cost of . . .

    Joan ChampSeptember 20, 2018

  • Murders at Shaunavon’s Grand Hotel

    On March 16, 1940, Mah Sai, a Chinese baker in Shaunavon, was playing solitaire in a sheltered corner of the Grand Hotel rotunda when he witnessed the fatal shooting of RCMP Sgt. Arthur Julian . . .

    Joan ChampSeptember 11, 2018

  • ‘Hell is burning’ – hotel fires

    Many of the hotels that once commanded the corners of Railway and Main in small-town Saskatchewan have burned to the ground over the years. Most recently (at the time of writing), the 72-year-old . . .

    Joan ChampSeptember 6, 2018

  • Two-storey outhouse at the Bradwell Hotel

    After several sad stories about hotels on the corners of Railway and Main, it is time for something a little more lighthearted. In 1907, Ben Cook built the hotel in Bradwel, complete with a . . .

    Joan ChampAugust 26, 2018

  • Saskatchewan hotels allowed to serve beer in 1935

    During Prohibition (1915-24), too many people in Saskatchewan were drinking illegally, thanks to bootleggers. Prohibition had contributed to a marked increase in crime and violence. The new slogan . . .

    Joan ChampAugust 18, 2018

  • Chinese hotel owners: ‘Best of service’

    “George Brennan built the first hotel and managed it until Prohibition came. When he could no longer get a licence for the bar, he sold it to some Chinamen.” This line from Pennant’s history book . . .

    Joan ChampAugust 9, 2018

  • Death at Weyburn’s Royal Hotel

    Tragedy visited the 100-room Royal Hotel in Weyburn in 1917 – a tragedy that continues to defy understanding. On April 14 of that year, two Saskatchewan doctors died in their rooms at the Royal . . .

    Joan ChampAugust 1, 2018

  • The Commercial Hotel at Blaine Lake

    Old hotels are full of stories – some of them sad. The Commercial Hotel at Blaine Lake is no exception. Here are a few tragic stories about this still-standing hotel. In November 1912, a year and. . .

    Joan ChampJuly 28, 2018

  • Fire at the Leask Hotel

    At 3 a.m. on Feb. 9, 2011, Ed Musich, the owner and manager of the Leask Hotel, woke up to the sound of his smoke alarm. He barely had time to escape the hotel in his stocking feet before the 99-. . .

    Joan ChampJuly 21, 2018

  • Working from morning ‘til night

    Running a small-town Saskatchewan hotel back in the early 1900s was hard work. The hotel staff usually consisted of at least two chambermaids and a cook who worked from morning until night, . . .

    Joan ChampJuly 16, 2018

  • Belly up to the bar: Saskatchewan’s hotel bars before Prohibition

    Saskatchewan’s hotel bars were busy places in the early 1900s. The typical hotel in 1910 had a long, ornate wooden bar complete with a large mirror behind it, brass foot rails and brass spittoons. . . .

    Joan ChampJuly 7, 2018

  • The Shellbrook Hotel

    In 1909, shortly after the railway arrived, George Stalker and his partner Howard Hudson spared no expense building the grand, three-storey Shellbrook Hotel on the corner of Railway Avenue and Main. . .

    Joan ChampJune 16, 2018

  • Hotel hygiene – thunder mugs and communal tubs

    While some old hotels in small-town Saskatchewan still have a sink in the room and bathroom down the hall, they have come a long way from the days when a “thunder mug” was placed under the bed. . . .

    Joan ChampJune 13, 2018

  • Stories of Saskatchewan’s old hotels

    Hotels are one of the oldest and most common forms of business enterprise in Saskatchewan – in cities and in small towns. The fact so many of them have survived is a testament to the determination . . .

    Joan ChampJune 6, 2018

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