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Deer Lodge Hotel — rebuilt inn along Portage Avenue was officially opened by the premier on October 29, 1907
Apr 13, 2017

by Bruce Cherney (part 3 of 3)

Roderick John Mackenzie, a Canadian Northern Railway (CNR) contractor, was an Ontarian who first came to Winnipeg in 1885 and settled there permanently in 1895. In 1910, he was listed by the Winnipeg Telegram as one of Winnipeg’s 19 millionaires.

Articles claimed that he bought the Deer Lodge Hotel as an investment property, although no specific date for his purchase is mentioned.

“The Deer Lodge property has been under the management of Mr. Chadwick for the past seventeen years,” related the Winnipeg Tribune on February 11, 1907.

Since the fire was in 1907, that puts the hotel under Chadwick’s management since 1890, adding to the confusion about his tenure at the lodge.

Days after the fire, Chadwick announced that the Deer Lodge Hotel would be rebuilt.

According to the March 28, Tribune, “H.A. Chadwick, who was proprietor of the old Deer Lodge Hotel, is determined that the restful and peaceful associations connected with that ancient hostelry will not be lost sight of in the construction of the new Deer Lodge, and with this end in view plans are being prepared after the fashion of the old English inn, with tiled roof, tall chimneys, and broad, roomy verandahs.”

The architectural firm for the new hotel was Pratt and Ross, and S.B. Ritchie was the contractor.

“Work is progressing rapidly on the new Deer Lodge Hotel and it is expected the structure will be completed by the fifteenth of September next,” announced the August 22, Tribune.

The same newspaper on July 27, mentioned that the new hotel was being built by R.J. Mackenzie.

The projected date of completion was not fulfilled, as construction delays led to a change in the new lodge’s official opening.

On October 29, 1907, a ceremonial dinner was held to mark the opening of the new Deer Lodge Hotel.

The Free Press, the following day, reported that the hotel had risen phoenix-like from the ashes of the old roadside inn. In fact, the new hotel was built on the very spot where the old Deer Lodge had stood. It called the new Deer Lodge “one of the finest country hotels on the continent” and a “monument to the perseverance of H.A. Chadwick.”

The new edifice was formally dedicated by Premier Rodmond Roblin, who said each landlord of the former hotel “increased the charm and interest of the place until to-day in the garb of a modern hotel it was relegated to its just due in a community of the metropolitan size and ambitions of Winnipeg.”

It was the premier that acknowledged that the hotel ownership had changed hands several times. Even before Ross and Chadwick’s association with Deer Lodge, there is a mention on February 19, 1881, in the Free Press that, “Capt. Donaldson has bought Deer Lodge,” for an undisclosed price.

During his speech, the premier also toasted Chadwick.

“We have in our host,” he said, “a man who has contributed to our material wants; a man who has won his way into the hearts and affections of those who come to know him, and this gathering is an evidence of the popularity of Chadwick of Deer Lodge.”

According to the article, Chadwick replied that he didn’t deserve all the credit for the new hotel as Mackenzie, the owner, had a hand in its construction.

The dining-room, which measured 52-by-26 feet, where the gathering was held, “looked a picture of comfort, while its beauty was enhanced by palms, flowers and fruit, which mingled their bright colors under the electric light which shone from hammered lamps, whose sides were set with opalescent glass shades.” It was furnished with quarter cut oak and hung with mohair and champagne-coloured silks.

At the rear of the dining-room was the kitchen.

When entering the south portal, visitors stepped into a broad hallway off which doors opened to the rose room, blue room and two women’s parlours.

“The rose room is furnished in pink rose tints, hung tastefully with silk and decorated with some very fine art productions representing scenes of the halcyon days of Venice and Rome. The blue room is similarly treated with a variation in the color scheme.”

According to the newspaper, the two parlours were laid out with luxurious leather chairs and settees and highly-polished wood tables.

On the first floor was a music room with a mission-style piano made specifically for the hotel. The floor was laid with expensive Turkish rugs.

Opposite the music room was the reception area.

A ballroom, 56-by-38 feet, was in the west wing of the hotel. The main floor also had two smaller dining-rooms for exclusive parties.

A Dutch fireplace, made of boulders taken from the Assiniboine River and chipped into shape, dominated the rotunda.

The 47-foot-long bar was called one of the finest in the province, and was managed by James Johnson, a pioneer bartender from the city’s early days.

“Old mission clocks keep tab on the fleeting hours and are placed handily throughout the house. The tile floors look clean and neat, while the entire spirit of the place is restful and luxurious.”

The  hotel contained 74 rooms, 38 of which were bedrooms.

When ascending the steps toward the hotel’s main entrance, visitors encountered a broad verandah complete with wicker tables and chairs.

“The free and easy atmosphere of the road house has not been sacrificed in making the interior beautiful but a maximum of elegance is attained, while the dominant note of the entire furnishing and decorative scheme is artistic in the extreme.”

Meanwhile, the Deer Lodge area was being opened up as a housing development. The Deer Lodge Subdivision contained 1,700 lots, 50-by-112 feet, except lots on Sharp Boulevard, which were 66 feet wide.

“This property, which is well known to almost every resident of Winnipeg, is the old Deer Lodge Farm on which the Deer Lodge Hotel is situated. It comprises 380 acres with a frontage of 1,577 feet on Portage Avenue, and runs north as far as Saskatchewan Avenue,” according to an October 28, 1911, Winnipeg Tribune article.

Immediately west of the property was Lord Strathcona (Donald Smith) Estate, known as Silver Heights and consisting of 1,100 acres, that the newspaper claimed would remain “for all time to come ... as a public park only.”

The owners of the subdivision, who claimed to be prominent businessmen, were to enforce “moderate building restrictions” to prevent the erection “of unsightly structures” that would mar the development and the “beauty of the district.”

By 1916, Mackenzie had decided the days of Deer Lodge being a hotel would come to an end.

The April 11, Free Press reported that the owner had decided to donate the building and grounds rent-free to the Dominion Hospital Commission to serve as a convalescent home for soldiers.

“The new convalescent home will be known as the ‘I.O.D.E (Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire) Mackenzie Home or Hospital,’ and the ladies who have been doing such invaluable work in caring for soldiers will be given full liberty to continue their endeavours. No home in Canada is as beautifully located and well built as the Mackenzie quarters at Deer Lodge, where it is expected that the returned soldiers will be re-educated in mechanics and office work as well as in horticulture, agriculture, poultry-raising (Chadwick was an award-winning poultry-raiser, while managing Deer Lodge, and the president of the Manitoba Poultry Association) and gardening. The soldiers will be encouraged to aid in making the new home more or less self-sustaining.”

Today, the former hotel is known as the Deer Lodge Centre. The centre transferred from a Veterans Affairs Canada hospital to a provincial facility in 1983. At the facility,140 personal care beds are maintained exclusively for veterans under the federal/provincial agreement. Since changing from an acute general hospital to a facility caring for adult patients with complex needs, it became the largest rehabilitation and long-term care facility in Manitoba, with a bed capacity of 429.

In 2002, the centre became an operating division of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

The hotel, built in 1907, was demolished years ago to make way for the expansion of the centre.