Leland Hotel History

Written by Rosemarie Parent in 2006 using information from the Arrow Lakes Historical Society’s publications and extensive archives.

Before 1892, work had begun clearing Nakusp’s waterfront. Also because of the mining in the Kootenays and the necessity of finding ways into the rich mineral deposits, Captain Robert Sanderson, William Cowan and Frederick Hume formed a company called the Columbia Transportation Company to provide boat service on the Arrow Lakes from Revelstoke to Sproat’s Landing in 1888. The CPR sent out engineers and survey parties to explore the country lying between Nakusp and Slocan Lake in 1891. Early in 1892 estimates for the cost of a railway from Nakusp to Three Forks were submitted as well.

All the hype of mining activity, boat building and CPR involvement brought the need for accommodation at Nakusp for the entrepreneurs and workers. The Nakusp House, which was later called the Madden House was the first hotel to be erected in early 1892. It wasn’t till later that the hotel was given the name the Grand Hotel. Today (2006) you can see where it used to sit in an empty lot across the street from the Leland Hotel. The Grand burned to the ground in 1925.

The Leland Hotel, formerly called the Rathwell House, was built very shortly after the Grand Hotel was erected in 1892. At this time, there was another small hotel built all of logs called the Prospect House, which was built some distance away from the waterfront, near where Pat and Laura Beingesser live now (2006). Another log hotel was built late in 1892 named the Columbia House, which was situated on Broadway St. next to the Bon Marche. On Bay St. below the Leland Hotel was another hotel erected by a Mr. Thomas in 1892 called Hotel Nakusp, which sat just above the boat landing.

The Leland Hotel was built by Mr. Rathwell and leased to Grant Thorburn and Harry Phair, who changed the name from Nakusp House to Leland Hotel. In 1893, a well was dug 80 feet in depth. It had been a tremendous task to get water the year before because it had to be packed up from the lake. Conditions at the hotel were still quite primitive because they catered mostly to construction workers and the entrepreneurs.

D. Alan and Ellen McDougald, from California were relative newcomers to British Columbia, where they were lured by the prospecting opportunities in the Kootenays. They purchased the Leland Hotel from Mr. Rathwell for $1,000 in 1892, and were involved in all social work to obtain necessities for the town, such as a school. Alan died as the result of tuberculosis in 1895, leaving his wife, Ellen, and three children to run the hotel and make a living.

On July 24, 1897, the Sandon Paystreak newspaper wrote “…The Leland Hotel will have 50 plastered rooms when the addition, now under construction, is thrown open. Mrs. [Ellen] McDougald, the proprietor of this well known hotel, is to be congratulated for the able and energetic manner in which she has built up one of the largest hotels in all the Kootenays….” This addition was a three-storey structure on the west side of the building. The Leland was fortress-like in appearance and was made up of three separate segments that were however, quite appealing to the eye. The roofline displayed numerous inverted ‘v’s. Dormers had been added to the original building while bay windows were designed into the two newer sections. A balcony was also added to the upstairs in front of the dormers, where customers could view with awe the spectacular scenery and busy harbour.

Information shows that about 1907, Rachel McKitrick and William Ogilvie were the new proprietors of the Leland. In 1912, Henry and Pearl Bohart looked after the hotel for the new owner, Henry’s grandfather. However, they were forced to leave when they could not keep up the payments and Jimmy Sneddon took over the building again.

Jimmy Sneddon bought the hotel at the end of 1917 and in 1918, George Keys rented the hotel for a few months while waiting to find other accommodation in town when he took over the foreman’s job at the shipyard. When the hotel was empty again, Jim Sneddon moved back in with Sam Jackson and his wife Jennie, who was Jim’s sister, to help him reopen the hotel. They were there until 1921.

William and Agatha Pratt, with their daughter Edith, came to visit each year with Agatha’s father, Herbert Redfern at Demars. In 1918, they decided to settle in Demars to get away from the unbearable heat of the east where they lived in Detroit. This was also an attempt to improve Agatha’s health but unfortunately, she passed away in 1920. Bill and Edith were getting set to move back to the east when he heard of Jim Sneddon’s wish to sell the Leland. Bill liked a challenge and decided to take on this new experience on the first of May 1921.

His first project after buying the hotel was to install a proper heating system. Since its earliest expansion, the hotel was warmed by a series of small stoves spread throughout the building. This was not very effective, leaving many rooms almost without heat in the cold winter days. A large furnace and boiler were installed which produced low-pressure steam and was piped to registers placed at regular intervals along the halls. The system worked well but took huge amounts of fuel and burned a cord of four-foot-lengths of wood a day during the coldest spells!

Bill Pratt continuously worked at improving the hotel over the years. From the Arrow Lakes News ‘…in 1923, he replaced the old verandah with a new enlarged one….’ ‘… In 1925, he repainted the hotel and laid a new floor in the sitting room….’ ‘… In 1926, new tables were installed in the dining room and new chandeliers have taken the place of the old drops. Two canaries lend their charm to all who are there to enjoy them. He planted flowers around the front of the hotel in the summer….’

Continuing from the Arrow Lakes News in 1927, ‘…W.J. Pratt has put in four large glass windows covering thirty-three feet of space. The entire frontage of the dining room overlooks six miles of lake. The guests are able now to eat their meals and view the charming lake scene while doing so….’ Also ‘…Mrs. Best and Mrs. Lorenzo arrived this week to take charge of the dining room and the kitchen of the Leland Hotel….’ In 1929, ‘…Charles Dilley and Merril Barrow are engaged in leveling off the lot in the rear of the Leland Hotel with a scraper and team. Wm. J. Pratt, our enterprising hotelkeeper, is planning an addition to his flower garden. Eventually the buildings in the rear of the hotel will be moved and a nice lawn and flower bed will greet the eye of the passerby….’ Also, ‘…the roof of the Leland Hotel is being reshingled….’

In 1925, when the Grand Hotel burned, the fire was so fierce that at the Leland they hung wet blankets out the windows to keep the building from burning from flying sparks as well. The volunteers that helped to keep the fire contained had little experience and fire equipment but were praised for their heroic efforts. The loss of the Grand Hotel was a sad time for the town.

Bill Pratt had some ideas that did not fare well. He attempted to have a little zoo for his patrons and the children of the town. A grizzly bear cub hung itself when his chain caught while he attempted to climb out of his cage. A fawn got out and was found dead when it couldn’t fend for itself and an eagle escaped from its cage. About this same time period in 1931, an overheated furnace caused some fire damage but luckily, was easily brought under control.

In 1937, William Pratt died at sixty-six years of age and his daughter Edith and her husband Merril Barrow took over the proprietorship. Merril kept his job driving truck for the Dept. of Highways at first because money was tight. But in 1938, a crew was brought in to do an overhaul on the Minto and stayed at the hotel. They took in about $10,000 that year and this got them on their feet.

In 1940, Merril built a new and larger furnace room and installed a bigger and better boiler. He, like his late father-in-law, kept the hotel well maintained and made improvements every year. The men’s beer parlour portion was redecorated to represent an old-time log cabin. Deer, bear and moose heads and old rifles were used as decorations to reflect the pioneer days of the west. The ladies’ beer parlor was also repainted and new fluorescent lighting and electric fireplace was added.

In 1945, the Barrows reopened the third floor of rooms after modernizing and replacing with new beds, carpeting and heating system. This floor had been closed off for several years but with more trade, it was necessary to expand.

By 1951, Merril was forced to replace his old bar with one with modern refrigeration and a washing and sterilizing system. The ladies’ beer parlour also received an uplift to modernize that portion. The kitchen was renovated in 1955 replacing the plaster on the walls with gyproc and furniture was repainted and extra shelving added to the pantry. The electric wiring was redone and arborite added to the tops of tables.

Merril and Edith Barrow decided to retire to Vancouver in 1957 and sold the hotel to Mr. and Mrs. Ernest E. Davidson of Vancouver. Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Herman Kegal from Switzerland took over the kitchen management at this time. In 1960, the hotel changed hands once again. The new owners were Roy Tricula and Nick Davis, who joined together to operate the hotel with the help of Roy’s older brother, Chris. Almost immediately, they resold the hotel to Ralph and Peggy Tedesco later in 1960.

The Leland changed hands again in 1967 when Mr. and Mrs. Ed Milton and Mr. and Mrs. Mike Sommers purchased it. But in 1969, brothers Corrado and Bruno Cultura bought the hotel. Then, Bob and Caroline White, Bob’s parents, Eric and Helen White, Bob’s sister, Carol and brother-in-law, Emil LaFrance bought the hotel in 1973. Again the hotel sold in 1976, to Roy Shaw and Murray Ardies. About a year to a year and a half later, Murray sold his interests to Clay Eng. In 1984, they sold to Lynn and Dennis Gautier.

Klaas Toering became the owner of the Leland in 1985 and continuously upgraded the hotel, especially the bedrooms upstairs, over the following years. He constructed a deck in the front so that in summer all could enjoy eating outdoors. This is a tremendous asset to the only restaurant in town with a panoramic view of the lake.

Last year in 2005, Danny Watt and Sharon Metlewsky bought the hotel from Klaus and continue the work of upgrading the building. Executive Chef, Laura Tremblay, has brought her incredible culinary talents to the kitchen, an attraction for the locals and tourists alike. We wish them all well in the years to come.

The Leland Hotel, like the town of Nakusp, will be 114 years old this year. We believe it is one of the oldest hotels in BC. As a former owner put it, “…If these walls could talk….”