Special thanks to Royce E. W. Pettyjohn, Park Manager at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, for his assistance in the preparation of this column.
One of the oldest hotels in Saskatchewan is the Commercial Hotel in Maple Creek, located in the southwest corner of the province. On Nov. 23, 1883, Thomas M. Rasin purchased a lot in Maple Creek and constructed a log hotel faced with milled lumber. The hotel was in operation by 1885. After expanding the hotel onto an adjoining lot, Rasin sold the Commercial Hotel to Edward Fearon on Aug. 18, 1890. Fearon, who was elected to the Territorial Assembly in November of 1894, sold the hotel to John Henry Fleming on Christmas Eve 1896.
Fleming was an American cowboy who had worked as a ranch foreman upon coming to Canada. Canada’s 1901 census shows Fleming, age 36, living in the Commercial Hotel with his wife Mary and their two children. Hotel staff in 1901 consisted of two bartenders and four chambermaids.
Between 1902 and 1904, the construction of the Cypress Hotel, the Jasper Hotel and the Maple Leaf Hotel meant that the aging Commercial Hotel was no longer the establishment of choice in town. According to the Maple Creek News, Fleming decided to “make the Commercial the best hotel in town” once again. Around 1906 the original wooden Commercial Hotel structure was moved back on the lot and a large, three-storey brick addition was constructed on the front of the hotel.
In 1910, Fleming sold the Commercial Hotel to Norman Robson who immediately started to work on a second expansion. The new addition opened on Aug. 30, 1911. The next day, the Maple Creek News wrote: “The new addition of the Commercial Hotel was put into commission yesterday and Maple Creekites have good reason to be proud of the Pacific Avenue hostelry. The ground floor is taken up by the rotunda and dining room. Both rooms are spacious, finished in golden oak, well lighted, and modern in every particular. New mission furniture in the dining room adds greatly to the attractiveness. The rotunda and the bar room have tile floors. Upstairs the new bedrooms have the advantages gained by plumbing and eight of them have baths in connection. The house now has 52 rooms and is steam heated throughout. The old rotunda is being overhauled and will be utilized for a billiard room.”
Unfortunately, the dining room furniture referenced by the newspaper did not survive. However, the Commercial Hotel’s beautiful lobby furniture from the circa 1885 wooden hotel structure was reused in the 1911 lobby where it remains to this day. The 1911 marble tile floor has also survived with very little loss over the course of the last 103 years.
In December 1912, Robson sold the hotel to William McRoberts and associates. Prohibition in Saskatchewan (1915-1924) meant hard times for the hotel business. On June 10, 1919 Sophia Richardson and James Wilson bought the Commercial Hotel. After a struggle to keep the hotel afloat, Wilson lost his interest to the Land Securities Company of Canada Ltd. in 1921. Nine months later, his partner Sophia bought out his interests from the security company. Unfortunately, she lost the Commercial Hotel to the Bank of Montreal in March 1927.
The former beverage room was converted to house the bank’s operations. The Bank of Montreal moved out of the Commercial Hotel in 1932, although the bank continued to hold the title to the hotel until 1945. Matt Fleming operated the Commercial Hotel between 1927 and 1945. It was Fleming who adopted the hotel’s motto, “Your Home on the Range,” around 1935.
Watch for Part 2 in next week’s column.