By Carson Ellis
Stettler’s rapid growth was noted when the community was months old. Mixed trains from Lacombe were arriving three times a week with real estate agents, homesteaders, settlers and more.
Many of these people would step off the train looking for a place to stay. They looked while they conducted their business or as a resting point before carrying on with the rest of their journey, and in Stettler’s early days, on the north end of Main Street, across from the Canadian Pacific’s railway station, there was no shortage of places to stay.
In 1905, Wilson Pyper was quick to start construction on two hotels along Railway (51) Ave. The first one to be completed was the Alberta hotel and opened in the spring of 1906. Pyper’s larger hotel the Dominion, opened on the north-east corner of Main Street and Railway Ave. in August of that year.
Around that time, Pyper then sold his Alberta Hotel to a Charles Hanson. It was in the fall of 1906 that a Mr. R. Brown built the first Royal Hotel in Stettler.
Sadly, On Jan. 7, 1907, a fire believed to have started in the back storehouse of the three-storey Royal Hotel, quickly consumed the entire building. Passerby’s noticed smoke arising from the building and quickly raised the alarm. Residents of the town were noted to be attending an ice carnival that day and word quickly spread through the crowd about the growing blaze. Citizens, and visitors rushed to the end of Main Street, as the local fire brigade was also quick on the scene in hopes of preventing the fire from spreading to the two-storey Alberta hotel, which was nearly butted up against the larger structure.
However, as would be the case in several instances over the years, the cold temperatures hindered their efforts. The biggest of which being the town’s fire truck was left out in the cold and crews were struggling to get it running properly.
Efforts to use buckets of snow to contain the blaze proved futile. It didn’t take long for the blaze to spread to the second building, at which point the focus changed to preventing the blaze from spreading to nearby structures, which included the Dominion and a lumberyard.
Local M.P.P Mr. W. Puffer, as well as one or two others, were credited for running into the burning building and returning several times with valuable articles from the business. The fire raged throughout the evening, with several people carefully watching to ensure it didn’t spark up elsewhere.
Thankfully, the fire started at a time when most of the two hotels’ occupants weren’t in bed, or there could have been more serious results from the blaze. A play celebrating Stettler’s 60th Anniversary would depict events at the Alberta hotel the night of the blaze. Although there would never be another Alberta hotel, the second Royal Hotel sits on the block south-east of its predecessor.
Editor’s note: Carson Ellis is a member of the Stettler History Book Committee. He has lived in Stettler his entire life and has a keen interest in Stettler’s history.