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Grand Union Hotel

Athabasca

Other Names:

Statement of Significance

Description of Historic Place


Heritage Value


Character-Defining Elements


Location



Street Address: 4924 - 50 Street
Community: Athabasca
Boundaries: Plan RN5 (V), Block 1, Lot 12 and a portion of Lot 11
Contributing Resources: Building

ATS Legal Description:
Mer Rge Twp Sec LSD
4
22
66
20
1 (ptn.)

PBL Legal Description (Cadastral Reference):
Plan Block Lot Parcel
RN5
RN5
1
1
12
11



Latitude/Longitude:
Latitude Longitude CDT Datum Type
54.721044 -113.285388 GPS NAD 83

UTM Reference:
Northing Easting Zone CDT Datum Type

Recognition

Recognition Authority: Province of Alberta
Designation Status: Registered Historic Resource
Date of Designation: 1997/04/25

Historical Information

Built: 1913/01/01 To 1913/01/01
Significant Date(s) N/A
Theme(s)
Historic Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Hotel, Motel or Inn
Current Function(s): Commerce / Commercial Services : Hotel, Motel or Inn
Architect:
Builder:
Context: HERITAGE SIGNIFICANCE

The historical significance of the Grand Union Hotel lies primarily in its juxtaposition near the Athabasca River and railway station, symbolizing the central position of Athabasca Landing in the development of the north prior to World War One. The Hotel also symbolizes the buoyant economic optimism held for this community at the time and also as a focus for the town and the largest hotel in the district for years to come.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

In 1878, the Hudson's Bay Company (H.B.C.) cut a trail from Fort Edmonton north to a southerly elbow on the Athabasca River, which soon became known as Athabasca Landing. Over the years, this location became a centre for fur trade operations in the North West, and a focal point of all transportation from Edmonton down the Athabasca River and into the MacKenzie Basin. As northern commerce expanded with the turn of the century, the community grew in size. In 1912, the railway arrived and a land boom ensued. That year, the Landing was incorporated as the Town of Athabasca.

In 1913, a fire devastated the downtown core of Athabasca. With the buoyant optimism of the time, however, the business district was soon restructured to accommodate extensive future growth. Among the edifices to grace the new town centre, was the largest and most lavish hotel north of Edmonton at that time, the Grand Union. Owned and operated by W.R. Day, this brick structure replaced the earlier wood frame Grand Union that had been destroyed by the fire. The new hotel included 50 rooms, many with private baths, and centralized steam heating. The building itself also included a café, tavern, billiard room, bowling alley and writing room.

Located in Strathcona (Main) Avenue just across from the railway station, this structure would for years to come, accommodate all variety of travelers to the North. One was Charles Bedaux, the international industrialist, on his way to Fort St. John in 1934 to push a road (unsuccessfully) through the Rock and Cassiar Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

As the Edmonton, Dunvegan and British Columbia (ED and BC) Railway by-passed Athabasca in 1914, however, the community and hotel did not come to serve many of the settlers bound for the Peace River Country. In 1919, the Alberta and Great Waterways Railway was completed to Fort McMurray, and another major traffic flow was diverted from Athabasca. In the years that followed, the community held its own as lumbering centre with some mixed farming in its vicinity, but it did not attain the development level anticipated in 1914. With time, the quality of service in the town's largest hotel diminished somewhat although the prominent placement oft the structure at the town's centre would always render it a familiar landmark and a common watering hole for local residents. In later years, it was acquired by the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company and in 1964, was sold to the Highfield Hotel Company owned by P.A. Giannone.

Additional Information

Object Number: 4665-0714
Designation File: DES 1728
Related Listing(s):
Heritage Survey File: HS 28308
Website Link:
Data Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 1728)
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