Tuesday, July 19, 2016

History of the Kingsway Hotel: Part I, 1925-1955

  History of the Kingsway Hotel

 Part I, 1925-1955

In an age when large historic hotels are closing, being re-purposed or are burning down, the Kingsway Hotel and Pub in Port Alberni endures. Fine food is available from Adrien’s Grill located inside the pub, and the bar dutifully dispenses draft beer by the glass and by the mug as well as wine, cider and a variety of spirits, seven days a week. A number of entertaining events take place on a regular basis at the old Kingsway Hotel from live music to a weekly meat draw in which all the proceeds go to Ty Watson House, operated by the Alberni Valley Hospice Society.

Upon entering the Kingsway one is greeted by a working shuffleboard table, a rare sight now-a-days in any hotel other than a Royal Canadian Legion. As your eyes adjust to the inside lighting they may focus on the walls of the old hostelry which are richly decorated with photographs of commercial and sports fishing boats and fishers proudly displaying their bountiful catches. Local scenes of logging and fishing are mixed in with a variety of ephemera that can be seen all over the large pub, from signs that boast “Free Beer – Tomorrow” to things that can best be described as strange and very likely concocted while under the influence of a good deal of beer, like the fish head with deer antlers. This article traces the long and colourful history of the Kingsway Hotel. 
The Kingsway Hotel opened in March 1925 by Theodore Gattman, who owned the block surrounded by Kingsway and Athol Streets, First and Second Avenue. In April that year, shortly after the four-storey Kingsway Hotel opened, his application for a liquor license was approved, which provided a substantial economic boost to the new hotel. Initially the majority of patrons that stayed in the hotel and drank in the beer parlours worked in the primary resource sector. Loggers, sawmill workers, longshoremen, fishermen and tradesmen made up the bulk of customers at the Kingsway. This was a blue collar beer parlour, where men and women worked hard and played hard.

In May 1927, Gattman was elected alderman for the City of Port Alberni. That same year he sold the Kingsway Hotel to Fred Cicconi from Calgary and Emolio “Blackie” Maralia from Italy. But that wasn’t the end of Gattman’s involvement in the hotel industry as he built his new hotel, the Arrowview on the northern end of his property close to the Kingsway Hotel. The Arrowview opened in 1928.

The new proprietors, Cicconi and Maralia partnership didn’t last long as Fred Cicconi died in 1928 leaving Emolio Maralia the sole proprietor of the Kingsway Hotel. Maralia operated the hotel for the next eleven years, but there were some problems along the way. In December 1939 Maralia was arrested for a hit and run accident and was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $200 plus court costs. After that incident his name was no longer identified with the Kingsway Hotel.

The Kingsway Hotel in 1948 (BC Archives #E-05416)

From 1940 to 1945 the Kingsway Hotel went through a couple of managers until A.A. McDonald & L. Knight became the proprietors of the hotel. In October 1946, a fire at a local cafe, aptly named the Golden Glow, which only been opened for two weeks, saw James A. Anderson, his wife Wilma and their infant son Ronald rescued from the blaze. They were put up by Mr. Leonard Knight, proprietor of the Kingsway Hotel. The 1940’s and 1947 in particular, were notorious due to the rash of fires that plagued the Alberni Valley. The small Port Alberni Hotel on lower Argyle was destroyed by fire in October 1942 and both the Somass Hotel and the King Edward Hotel burned down, with loss of life at the King Edward, in 1947.

Fortunately the Kingsway Hotel survived these horrendous fires and by 1948 the Kingsway Hotel Company was formed with J. Wasco & F. Collins as the first directors. They managed the hotel until 1953 when they were succeeded by Jean Gagnon and T. Len Hamilton who operated the hotel until 1955.

Part II of the History of the Kingsway Hotel will continue from 1955 right up until the present day.

A Brief History of the Arrowview Hotel in Port Alberni, BC

The Arrowview Hotel

The Arrowview Hotel Collage by Glen A. Mofford

On April 5, 2015, the aging Arrowview building, located on the corner of Athol Street and Second Avenue, was in the news. The once popular hotel had been closed and neglected for years when a fire broke out in the empty building. The Port Alberni Fire Department, and regional volunteer firefighters, quickly extinguished the blaze. Investigators determined the cause to be electrical as the building still had power, water and heat, but it is just a question of time before the decaying Arrowview building is torn down before it falls down.

 The Arrowview Hotel opened in 1928 by Theodore Gattman, who owned the block encompassing Kingsway and Athol Streets, First and Second Avenue. Gattman was a blacksmith in Port Alberni. In 1925 Gattman built and operated the Kingsway Hotel and by 1927, just as the Arrowview Hotel was under construction, he was elected alderman for Port Alberni District. The Kingsway Hotel received a liquor license in April 1925 but two years later Gattman sold it to help finance the Arrowview Hotel. Both hotels were built with giant fir timber that, if maintained properly, should last for many years.

The three-storey Arrowview boasted modern and comfortable rooms based on the European plan (shared washrooms on each floor). An advertisement in the Daily Colonist read, "Bright, cheerful, Modern Outside Rooms Spring-filled mattresses. Room rates $1.50 up, with bath $2 up; First Class Dining Room Sample Room, Agent Canadian Airways.” The west facing rooms offered an excellent view of the Alberni Inlet, and had a large dining room and an even larger beer parlour. Unfortunately for Gattman, the Liquor Control Board did not grant him a liquor license as the board felt that it was too close to the Kingsway Hotel beer parlour. Gattman used the unlicensed beer parlour for storage.

The Arrowview proved to be a popular hostelry over the years and a number of key events took place there. In December 1930, the Canadian Club started a Port Alberni Chapter electing E.J. Cronk as the first President. The Arrowview played host to the event which included an appetizing three-course meal. Throughout the 1930’s the popular hotel was managed by Mrs. R. Baragon. By 1939, Dr. Latimer, an ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Latimer opened an office in the Arrowview.

By 1940’s the Arrowview continued to do a good business advertising their new beds each with a Simmonds mattress in which the customer can obtaining a whole new level of comfort. The dining-room was fully booked for years by local clubs and organizations. 

From the 1950’s through to the early 1980’s, Loggers, mill workers and fishers began taking advantage of the seasonally low monthly rates offered by the Arrowview Hotel. 

In 2001 the old Arrowview Hotel gained some notoriety when it, along with the Somass and other Port Alberni locations, was filmed for the Hollywood movie Insomnia staring Al Pacino, Hilary Swank and Robin Williams. That was the last hurrah for the historic hotel. A few years later the last resident moved out and the building owners used the space inside as storage. Unfortunately the building maintenance was neglected and it quickly fell into disrepair.

Next time you find yourself near the Arrowview building, check it out before it’s gone. And if you’re lucky, you may just hear singing and music coming out of the past when they held dances and elaborate banquets in the dining room of the Arrowview Hotel all those years ago.

On second thought, what I heard may just be the boisterous customers next door in the Kingsway Pub smoking room.

A History of the Cassidy Inn, Cassidy, BC

Greetings. Finally a new post:

A brief history of the Cassidy Hotel (later Cassidy Inn), 1914-2016.


The building that eventually became the Cassidy Inn was built in 1914 and used as a reception area and bunkhouse, first for surveyors and engineers under the employment of coal Barron Robert Dunsmuir. The Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting and Power Company decided that the Douglas coal seam was rich enough to mine and the town of Cassidy began in 1918.

The future Cassidy Inn was converted into recreation centre with a small store in it operated by the colourful Napoleon Manca. The store expanded over the years and by 1925 Manca was granted a beer parlour license and his "new" hotel and beer parlour was born. That was the first year that beer was served in the future Cassidy Inn, back then known as the Cassidy Hotel.

In 1932 the coal mine closed and by 1936 everything that couldn't be moved was auctioned off. You may enjoy this story: Napoleon Manca, proprietor fell in love with a unique and old player piano. The seven foot, 1500 pound piano had a lovely painting on it of a buxom woman, typical of pictures that use to hang above saloon bars. This magnificent player piano was built in Brussels in 1890 by a popular Italian piano maker, then shipped via ship, train and finally dogsled to its wealthy owner in Dawson City in 1898 during the height of the Klondike gold rush. The new owner paid a princely sum of $1,850!
To operate the piano, one would put a coin (a small nickle in those days) into the coin slot, then choose one of ten delightful tunes for the piano to play. Once you chose the tune you would then have to crank the large handle and the tune would begin.
The piano did get some use and was certainly a curiosity for the whole region. Unfortunately Manca was not permitted to display the wonderful old piano in his beer parlour as strict regulations forbade any and all forms of entertainment.I speculate that the piano was put to use from 1954 onward as the strict rules inside beer parlours were relaxed somewhat. But it sure needed tuning.
Napoleon Manca did not wish to depart with his player piano but to date I do not know what happened to it.

Meanwhile the Cassidy Hotel was sold to Mr. Hodge in 1947 who operated the place for a number of years. The hotel had gone through an extensive renovation which added more rooms and enlarged the beer parlours.

In 1953 Mr. V. Osborne became the new owner of the Cassidy Hotel, which continued to do a good business. That same year the Island Highway was finally paved; that alone boosted traffic and new customers from both Nanaimo and points south.

By the 1970's the place was looking pretty rough (rustic some may say). I remember going in there for a beer and I loved the look and feel of the place - good service, cheap beer and very "laid-back".

In January 1983 Jane and Bob Kelly owned the Cassidy Inn business was waning and their energy and ideas revived the Cassidy Inn as a neighbourhood pub. They operated it until new owners bought the place in 1989. The Cassidy Inn, as it was known by then, had great live country and western music. Saturday afternoons beginning at 3 the C&W jam started. A great draw for those of all generations (over the age of 19). Food was also greatly improved during these years. It turned into a great neighbourhood pub.
In the 1990's Vic Charlton purchased the charming Cassidy Inn where he continued the music mixed with motorcycles.

But the smoking bylaw and later the harsh drinking and driving legislation, coupled with the tragic accident and potential for more accidents as the highway was widened and the Cassidy Inn was on the edge - eventually led to its closing. The old Inn sat vacant and neglected for a number of years before it's final end in a ball of fire in the evening of July 4, 2016.

The fate of the Cassidy Inn, July 2016; photograph by Janice Simpson

These roadside hotels and pubs have a great many tales to tell, I hope you enjoyed this insight into one of our historic hotels/pubs. There are precious few left and they are disappearing.