Great lodges of the past

Despite the frigid temperatures of late, summer is on its way. For many, this means cottages and rural getaways, much the same as it did for Winnipeggers more than a century ago.

Deer Lodge Hotel (1859, 1907), 2109 Portage Avenue

Today, most of us associate the name Deer Lodge with the personal care home, but the site has had many incarnations over the past 160 years.

Deer Lodge was the name of the house built in the 1850s for Margaret Rowland and James McKay on the vast Silver Heights estate owned by Margaret’s father.

McKay would go on to be a minister in the Manitoba government and when it was looking for a residence to house province’s first Lieutenant Governor, Nova Scotian Adams George Archibald, the couple leased Deer Lodge to the government. Archibald’s successor, Alexander Morris, also used it as his official residence from 1872 - 1877.

When McKay died in December 1879 the property was sold off and soon reopened as the Deer Lodge Hotel under J. M. Ross. Just 10 kilometres from the city, it became a popular luncheon and banquet retreat for well-heeled Winnipeggers.

A couple of years later, hotelier H. A. “Chad” Chadwick took over the business and rechristened it Chad’s Deer Lodge. One newspaper said of Chad’s, "It was the favourite resort of driving and dancing parties, horseshoe and shooting clubs and of private dinner parties." Those parties would go late into the night which led to several fines for serving alcohol after hours and on Sundays.

Around 1906, the ageing hotel was closed and bought by Rod. J. Mackenzie, chief of construction for Canadian Northern Railway.

Deer Lodge burned down in 1907 and Mackenzie had it rebuilt combining the architectural features of an English country lodge with the modern amenities of a big-city hotel, such as hot and cold running water in each room.

Opened in October 1907, the new Deer Lodge’s main floor contained a dining hall outfitted in oak and leather furniture. There was also a small music room with a custom-built piano and a modest-sized ballroom.

The hotel offered 74 rooms for rent, though just 38 were bedrooms as many visitors came for a day’s outing and only required a room in which to relax and change clothing between events.

Chadwick was wooed back to manage the new hotel and it provided entertainment every weekend. A whippet racing track was added to the grounds which attracted hundreds of people on race days. On most weekends an orchestra would play on the hotel’s oversized veranda as people strolled through the grounds.

By 1916, the hotel was as popular as ever and suburban development was encroaching on the site which made it an extremely valuable piece of property. Mackenzie, however, thought Deer Lodge had a greater purpose.

In April, Mackenzie announced that he was donating the property to the federal government to be turned into Manitoba’s main hospital and convalescent home for soldiers injured in the war.

After a quick retrofit, Deer Lodge Hospital was officially opened on June 29, 1916 by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught.

Minaki Lodge (1914, 1927), Minaki, Ontatario

When the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway (GTP) opened a rail bridge across the Winnipeg River in 1910 at what is now Minaki, Ontario, it felt that the beautiful location, just 185 kilometres or a three-hour train ride east of Winnipeg, would make the perfect spot on which to build a resort.

In 1913, plans were unveiled for a $100,000 development. The railway’s press release stated, "It is felt by the passenger department of the GTP that it is time for the West to have a park similar to Algonquin Park in Ontario, the winter resort par excellence..."

The $100,000 Minaki Inn opened on June 26, 1914. It included a dining room, dance hall and rooms for 250 guests.

There was a separate annex called “The Lodge” that held 75 more people, many in a cluster of cabins situated around it. It was the lodge that was supposed to stay open all year, though it appears that the resort remained a summer-only affair.

The cost to a stay at Minaki was $5 per night including meals or about $90 in today’s money. By comparison, a stay at the GTP’s Hotel Fort Garry in Winnipeg was around $4 per night without food. To entice people to stay during weekdays, two could stay for a week for $34.00.

While the resort was a success, the GTP was failing under a crushing debt load. It went into receivership in 1919 and Canadian National Railways (CNR) purchased the Minaki property.

In the spring of 1925, the CNR undertook $25,000 worth of renovations to the resort which included adding a new power plant. On the eve of its season opening, June 11, 1925, a fire that started in the plant destroyed the Minaki Inn.

The CNR vowed to rebuild and those who had pre-booked holidays were transferred to the Minaki Lodge annex which survived the fire. Additional cabins were hurriedly added to the site over the next two seasons.

The newly rebuilt Minaki Lodge opened for business on June 18, 1927.

The architect used stone and wood harvested from near the site to build a lodge in the “old English style” that made the most of the views of the river and surrounding terrain. It had a generous rotunda area for guests as well as a dining hall and a ballroom that could hold 300.

The hotel’s capacity was 180 guests contained within the main building and the surrounding four-room cabins. The rate was still $5 per night.

In 1955, the CPR sold off the resort and it went through a series of owners, including the Ontario government from 1974 to 1986 and White Dog First Nation from 1994 to 1998. Despite promises of greater things to come by all of its owners the resort spent much of the time since 1974 shuttered.

The grand, old Minaki Lodge burned to the ground on October 12, 2003.

Christian writes about local history on his blog, West End Dumplings