Our town Stettler: A glimpse back at Alberta Avenue in early 1900s

Bank’s money was kept in a suitcase but no records of bank ever beng robbed

By Carson Ellis

In this 1906 photo, we get a glimpse of the block of Alberta (50) Avenue, west of Main Street. Although in this picture it is hard to make out the south side operations, I have been able to identify the Thorson and Souch Hardware store sitting about the center of the block (also mentioned on the banner in the center of the photo.) Behind that is a billiards hall. Although the other signs are blocked by the first two, they appear to have the word Market in them.

The north side of the photo is surprisingly lined with historical ‘tidbits’.

J.B Griffith’s Flour and Feed is on the west side of the Blair Hotel. John Burley Griffith came from Ontario and arrived in Stettler late 1905, early 1906. He built his business on the lot where the Jewel theatre now sits, and served as the Massey Harris agent for a few years. The upper floor of his building was one of the many places used as a makeshift school. Since the upper floor was not a complete level, a wooden railing was erected around the opening of the upper floor to prevent children from falling. Even after the first official four-room schoolhouse was built in the town in 1907, Griffith’s place was still used for some of the older children.

The Blair Hotel opened in June 1906 by a Mrs. Threlkeld. The chimney of the Blair Hotel would soon catch fire, and although it was put out, it was never properly repaired and would catch fire again, this time to the extent a new roof would need to be built. The hotel was sold to a Mr. R. Brown who fixed the entire place up and renamed it the Grand Union. After the fire of 1908, Mr. C.W. Willis would purchase the lot and build the new home of the Stettler Independent.

Across the alley to the east of the Blair Hotel, you can see a small simple two-storey structure. Originally built in the temporary community of Blumenau, this building would serve as the branch office of the Calgary German American Colonization company (based out of Calgary) and was run by Carl Stettler. It was under this company that Carl operated as the CPR land agent. Afterwards, he also ran the Stettler Post Office, and the first Stettler telephone switchboard out of it. All of which was mostly actually run by his step-daughter Katherine Raemer.

Finally, the Merchants Bank building is either their second building on that lot or an addition to the original 10-foot wide by 12 feet long building. This building had just enough room for the manager and a clerk who did most of their work over a makeshift counter and kept the money in a suitcase. However, there is no known account of the bank being robbed. A more stately brick building would be erected after the 1908 fire, and only a couple of feet over from its shown location, putting it on Main Street.

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