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 between 1945 and the early 1970s. On July 31, 1973, Bent Sorensen bought the Commercial Hotel and embarked on major renovations. The hotel’s street appearance was updated, and the rooms on the second floor were modernized to include baths. The official opening of the newly renovated Commercial Hotel occurred on Jan. 2, 1976.
The modernization of the second-floor rooms obliterated virtually all the 1906 and 1911 features from that area of the building. However, the original doors, baseboards, mouldings, trim and burlap wainscoting on the third floor of the hotel survived.
Sam and Darlene Boychuck bought the Commercial Hotel in 1986. The Boychucks did an admirable job of ensuring that the heritage character of the old hotel remained intact. During the Town of Maple Creek’s Centennial of Incorporation celebrations in 2003, the significance of the Commercial Hotel to the history of the community was officially recognized on one the town’s commemorative centennial coins. The Boychucks have the distinction of being the longest owners of the hotel in its 120-year history. After 20 years, the couple sold the Commercial Hotel to Young Han Shin in 2006, who then sold it to Chung Lee.
Lee had the misfortune of owning the hotel when the disastrous flood of 2010 hit Maple Creek. The flood filled the lower levels of the hotel with water, causing extensive damage. The hotel closed for the first time in its long history. Lee struggled to recoup his losses and reopen the hotel, without success.
In 2012, Lee sold the Commercial Hotel to a group of Filipino investors who had recently immigrated to Canada, settling in Maple Creek. The seven stakeholders formed Licadel Hotel Group Ltd. and began rehabilitating the century-plus heritage landmark. Noy Lim, a classically trained chef, told the Maple Creek News that the restoration of the hotel was a way for them to thank the community for welcoming them as newcomers.
The Filipino group first cleaned the entire building, then embarked on a complete upgrade of the hotel to bring it up to modern standards while maintaining its historical integrity. The Maple Creek Main Street program and the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation assisted the Filipino investors in their efforts to restore the Commercial Hotel. The Town of Maple Creek designated the hotel as a Municipal Heritage Property on Feb. 26, 2013.
A rustic, saloon-style bar at the Commercial Hotel opened in the summer of 2013; the hotel itself reopened in December of that year. In February 2014, the Licadel stakeholders were presented with Maple Creek’s Business of the Year award, as well as the award for excellence in heritage conservation.
“Your Home on the Range” for more than 130 years, the newly renovated Commercial Hotel had 14 guest rooms including a honeymoon suite. The dining room, which seated 50, featured specialty international cuisine prepared by Chef Noy Lim.
Sadly, the 1885 landmark closed again in April 2017 when the Licadel team declared bankruptcy, blaming the economy and other factors for exhausting all their resources. Several private contractors were left out of pocket as a result. “We cannot apologize enough, and we will always regret this has happened. Trust is hard-earned and we have failed everyone,” Lim and his colleagues wrote in a letter to one creditor.
The Commercial Hotel is now closed and listed for sale by Royal Lepage. “You may be waiting 100 years before an opportunity as exquisite at this one comes up so do not hesitate,” the listing states. Maple Creek is located 40 km north of the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park on Highway 21.