August 2nd, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 31
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Looking Back - John Kinnear
The Prince of Wales – In the Beginning
Looking Back
John Kinnear and online photos
The forest lobby of the Glacier Park Lodge with 54 to 70 foot trees
July 25th the Prince of Wales turned 90 years old. That would be the hotel in Waterton not the aye whot heir apparent to Queen Elizabeth the Second. That Prince is only 68. In Canada there are five Canadian schools, a mountain range, a cape, an island a bridge, a fort and a strait that carry the name Prince of Wales but that magnificent castle on the promontory overlooking Upper Waterton Lakes is my favourite. The story of how that hotel came to be is interesting for sure and may surprise some as to who built it and why. I doubt I can get through this remarkable story in just one pass so stay tuned for the next column.

The hotel was the brain child of Louis Warren Hill, son of a Canadian born famous American entrepreneur named James J. Hill, also known as the Empire Builder. James J. amassed a fortune building Mississippi riverboats and then turned his eye to railroading, eventually taking over the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company and renaming it the Great Northern. It was the first railroad to push lines north to the Canadian border and he prudently linked it to mining, forestry and agriculture developments out west. One of his lines came north from Rexford all the way to Michel, B.C. and hauled coal back to Spokane until the 1930’s. The tunnel you go through on your way to Elko was originally a Great Northern railway tunnel.
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But I digress. In 1900 James J. Hill and J.P. Morgan eventually took over another railroad called the Northern Pacific, a line that had linked itself to America’s first national park, Yellowstone. The massive tourist draw to Yellowstone meant high traffic for that line which is what railroads were all about back then.

Louis Hill joined his father’s railway in 1893 and worked his way up to Chairman of the Board by 1912. The younger Hill recognized that the Glacier area had the same potential as Yellowstone and along with Montana senators and a congressman lobbied persistently the US Congress for the creation of that 1,500 square miles of wilderness known as Glacier National Park. It was no coincidence that the Great Northern ran along the south limit of this park. Once created in 1910 he set about making his mark there turning it into his vision of an American Switzerland. He oversaw in great detail the construction of the spectacular Glacier Park Hotel, the Many Glacier Hotel and several chalets. Tourists came in droves, by stage coach, bus and tour boat to explore what was called: “the backbone of the continent.”

In 1913, the very same year that Glacier Park Hotel opened, Louis W. travelled up to Waterton, stood on that hill below Mt. Crandell, looked out over Upper Waterton Lake and declared he would build what would become the Prince of Wales Hotel. It took fourteen years for him to make this happen. During that time World War One broke out and the US government nationalized the Great Northern along with all other railways. So any development and advertising was set aside.
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It wasn’t until 1920 that the Northern came back into private hands. Incredibly, a year earlier, Alberta Government engineers had recommended building a dam at the narrows between Upper and Middle Waterton Lakes for irrigation as farmers in the area has suffered through three years of drought. GASP! This would have flooded the present day Waterton town site. Lot sales in the area were suspended and it took two years of public outcry and a lot of pressure and several wet summers to shut that idea down. This was one of many obstacles thrown at the Great Northern in its bid to extend its tourism reach north.

Then in 1923 the concept of the hotel got a lot more viable for Louis Hill and the Great Northern. In October thirsty Alberta voters won out and ended prohibition in the province. Great Northern recognized the potential lure that having alcohol available at Waterton would present for tourists, who were still under prohibition stateside. But someone else also saw the light.

According to Ray Djuff, author of “High on a Windy Hill – The Story of the Prince of Wales Hotel”, a Lethbridge businessman named Mark Rogers proposed tearing down the old Waterton Lakes Hotel in 1924 and building a new one. He qualified his offer by saying only if the province would grant him a liquor license. Djuff’s book incidentally is the definitive work on the hotel’s story and a must read for anyone interested in how it all went around at the park right from the very beginning.
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Mark Rogers was not just a prudent businessman but was also a bootlegger who stored his illicit liquor in the silos on his farm east of Coaldale. As an aside, respected historian and author Adriana Davies has linked Rogers directly to a conspiracy by himself and Mr. Big “Jack Wilson” (a Fernie bootlegger) in what she feels was a sting operation that brought down Emilio Picariello. Her book: “The Rise and Fall of Emilio Picariello” treats his story as a cold case and her in-depth research raises many questions about the circumstances into Constable Lawson’s death. It is a thorough and balanced investigation and a must read for anyone who really wants to go deeper into this story.

The answer to Rogers demand for a license came back “emphatically no” from then Attorney General John Brownlee, who was top cop in 1922 and was trying to deal with the bootlegging headache at the time of the Lawson shooting. The Great Northern was not deterred by this response to Rogers and proceeded with obtaining a lease to build in the park. No doubt they were confident that they could eventually obtain a license to operate a beer parlour. Their officials were very discreet and waited until they were well into the hotel’s construction before an application was quietly made.

Great Northern managed to prompt groups like the Alberta Motor Association and the Moderation League of Alberta to support their application. The League petitioned Brownlee, who was now premier, and noted: “…tourists to Waterton were being discriminated against since it was the only national park in Alberta where no liquor licenses had been issued.” East of the park the support was not so forthcoming. There was the Cardston issue, as you can imagine.
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The GN amazingly, had the backing of R.J. Dinning who was then Alberta’s liquor commissioner. Dinning felt that Waterton had become: “an international playground and the wishes of the people of the province generally had to be respected.” R.J. was Jim Dinning’s grandfather. Jim Dinning was a well known Alberta PC MLA for eleven years and who ran against Stelmach to replace Ralph Klein in 2006.

So to alleviate the problem of Waterton’s east boundary being up against a “dry” district that had voted very strongly for prohibition, a minor boundary adjustment was made which was not well received but defended as being in the works for five years anyways.

I will get back to the amazing hotel construction story next week but for now I will conclude by sharing a bit more of Waterton boundary history. Waterton has had its boundaries changed no less than seven times over its history. It started out at 54 square miles as a Dominion Park. In 1911 it was reduced to a pathetic 13.5 square miles so that “the small park staff could effectively manage it.” So it was merely the mountain slopes bordering the west side of the Upper and Middle Lakes. Really? And just to exacerbate the issue they had a two mile wide strip between it and Glacier Park, offering “sportsmen a paradise for shooting.” So much for wildlife protection, long advocated by men like Kootenai Brown and Fredrick Godsal. (see Spirit Wrestlers and an Oxford Graduate – Dec 14, 2016 column on line).

So many like Brown and Godsal pled the case for a larger park which the government accommodated in 1914 by pushing it to 423 sq. miles, north to the North Kootenay Pass and the Carbondale River. Interesting! A 1921 adjustment took it to 294 sq. miles. Goodbye northwest corner. Between 1930 and 1955 there were three more reductions until the final 203 sq. miles was achieved.

Author’s Note: I promise next week I will get into the hotel story big time.
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August 2nd, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 31
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