The Coalmont Hotel will re-open for business just in time for its 100th anniversary in April.
The red-and-white hotel – once praised for its beauty and modern conveniences – looks much like it did a century ago, but with more than a few nicks and scratches to tell its long history.
Michelle Cole, who bought the business at the end of last year, is painstakingly renovating the entire building, including the saloon and guestrooms upstairs.
It’s slated to open in mid-April, in time for the annual influx of tourists to the South Okanagan.
Over 200 people celebrated the hotel’s grand opening in April 1912. The “fully modern” inn with “ample bath accommodation” was praised as the finest hotel between the coast and Spokane.
The hotel was built for $26,000 in only 60 days for the rush of gold miners and prospectors settling in the Similkameen Valley in search of their share of riches.
Today, the hotel stands much as it did 100 years ago. Antique paintings, photos and antlers hang on the forest-green walls of the saloon, which has stayed running throughout the years.
A wood-burning fireplace and original molding set the saloon back in time.
But there are modern touches. A flat-screen TV for sports and large speakers entertain pub-goers in the evening. Band equipment is available for anyone to use.
“Almost everything has been taken from the building, including the bedroom doors,” says Cole, who has redecorated the hotel with her collection of antiques.
“The bar tables and chairs were the only things left.”
She is completely renovating the upstairs guestrooms, which have been damaged from years of visitors passing through.
“It’s a huge job to fix-up, but as soon as I saw this place I knew I had to have it.”
Cole, who has a passion for Victorian-style architecture, likes how visiting the hotel instantly transports her to a romantic era.
She is targeting her business towards campers, ATV users and snowmobilers who pass through Coalmont.
Summer will be her busiest time, but she has already began to attract winter tourists and locals to the saloon.
who have run the hotel. In 1911, businessmen Louis Marcotte and J.T. Ryan decided to build the hotel in the young but booming town.
The original colours – CPR red and white trim – were similar to what they are today.
The hotel has since been used as a barber shop, church, theatre and a popular place to hold balls. In 1912, the hotel hosted a “bachelors’ ball” with music and free dinner.
During prohibition, the pub sold “near beer,” a concoction with less than two per cent alcohol.
Cole is using the hotel’s past to influence how she will run it today. She holds a potluck dinner every Saturday to get people together to chat.
Rumors of the Coalmont hotel being haunted have spread around town throughout the years. Residents have reported seeing ghosts in the hotel, including a woman wearing an old-fashioned bonnet and a man walking across the porch.
The lights are said to go on and off for no reason, and water is reported to suddenly run full blast in the middle of the night.
Cole isn’t sure if the rumors are true.
“It could be electrical problems or something wrong with the pipes,” she says. “But you never know.”
Coalmont residents who believe the hotel is haunted aren’t sure who the ghosts are.
But the building has been through its fair share of owners, many of whom have been buried close by.
In 1922, two men bought the hotel and ran it as a theatre on Saturday evenings. Admission was 35 cents for adults and 15 cents for children.
Rooms rented for $2 a night and meals were 50 cents when the hotel was resold in 1928. Locals used the bathtubs for 50 cents because most didn’t have their own at home.
The hotel then went through the hands of several other owners before Cole bought it.
With all the people who have called the hotel home, it’s difficult to tell who could be haunting it, she says.
The saloon is now open from Monday to Saturday from noon to 2 a.m. and Sunday from noon to 12 a.m. Cash only until mid-April.