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, Wolseley’s first settler, arrived from Ontario in 1882. Perley arrived that same year with his young family after being defeated in a provincial election in New Brunswick. Soon after they arrived, both men built several small businesses, one of which was the wood and canvas hotel.
The Leland Hotel, a more substantial three-storey brick building with distinctive arched windows on the second floor, was built on Front Street in 1901 by Robert E. Hall and his wife, Eliza. Not to be outdone, Perley and Banbury built the brick, three-storey Empire Hotel on Sherbrooke Street a few years later.
Banbury was the co-founder, along with his brother, of the Beaver Lumber Company. His hotel provided him with the capital he needed to establish Banbury Bros. Lumber Company in the 1890s. A series of mergers and takeovers led to the formation of one large lumber company in 1906. A name was needed that had something to do with wood. Banbury came up with “Beaver” which remained the company’s name until 1999, when it was taken over by Home Hardware.
Perley was elected to the Northwest Territorial Council for Qu’Appelle in 1885. In 1887, he was the first elected MP for the riding of East Assiniboia. After two years, Perley resigned to accept an appointment to the Senate in 1889. He served on the Senate until his death in 1909.
In the middle of the night on Oct. 5, 1923, a fire broke out in the basement of the Leland Hotel. Within four hours, the hotel burned to the ground. All 30 people inside the hotel at the time managed to escape with their lives. About half of them were guests – mainly commercial travellers; the rest were regular boarders and hotel staff. The proprietor of the Leland, Pearl Corbett (daughter of the Halls) and her four children, were among the first to be rescued. Some of the hotel guests had to jump from the upper floors. Others lowered themselves from the windows of their rooms with ropes. One salesman crawled down the hall on his hands and knees, through the acrid smoke, only to fall down the stairs. He managed to get out the front door with only a few bruises.
According to the Regina Morning Leader (Oct. 6, 1923), Frank Vincent, the postmaster for Wolseley who roomed on the hotel’s third floor, had the most spectacular escape. “Overcome by smoke in his bedroom he could only be reached by a couple of ladders,” the newspaper recounted. “The upper ladder was held from the top of the lower ladder by two men while the third assisted Mr. Vincent over the window sill and down the perilous upper ladder.” None of the contents of the hotel was saved. People lost everything except the pajamas they were wearing as they escaped the blaze.
After the fire, the Corbetts and Grandma [Eliza] Hall bought the Empire Hotel and renamed it the Leland Hotel. This hotel was owned and operated by Victor Hunter and family from 1971 until at least 2010. Today, Lucky Singh owns Wolseley’s old hotel where he serves East Indian food. Wolseley is 100 kilometres east of Regina on the Trans-Canada Highway.