Cranbrook’s heritage jewel — perhaps the region’s — is marking a special occasion this month: it’s 100th birthday. The historic Mount Baker Hotel has stood at the exact centre of Cranbrook life since its first grand opening on Oct. 31, 1923, just as the Jazz Age and the Roaring ‘20s were getting underway.
The Fenwick and Baker Pub, which occupies the ground floor of the hotel, marked the hotel’s 100th birthday with a Halloween party, inviting guests to step back into the 1920s for the occasion.
The story of the Mount Baker Hotel began with one of the most legendary hoteliers in southeast B.C.’s history.
The book Room At The Inn: Historic Hotels of British Columbia’s Southern Interior, by Glen Moffat tells the story well, along with contemporary news items from the Cranbrook Courier, supplied by the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives.
Theodore Iverson (“Teddy”) Clauson, born in Norway in 1883, arrived in the Cranbrook area in 1901. He was the proprietor of the Commercial Hotel in Yahk (1908), the Kitchener Hotel in Kitchener just east of Creston (1915-1916), and the Queen’s Hotel in Cranbrook from 1918 to 1919.
It was at the Queen’s where he was charged under B.C.’s prohibition act (short-lived as it was) in 1918, for having a bottle of whisky and an empty flask in an upstairs closet. He was sentenced to either 30 days in jail or a $50 fine, but Clauson appealed, and won.
By 1923, work was well underway on the Mount Baker Hotel in downtown Cranbrook. The hotel was built by Nils Hanson, using bricks from his own brick factory northeast of town. Carpenter J.H Collins provided the interior woodwork, and Fink Mercantile provided the furnishings.
In it’s Oct. 26, 1923, edition, the Cranbrook Courier reported on the hotel’s pending opening and the amenities it offered:
“Cranbrook’s newest hostelry, the Mount Baker Hotel will be formally opened by its proprietor, Mr. Teddy Clauson, on October 31, the eve of All Saints Day.
“This modern hotel deserves more than a passing word of praise,” the Courier continued. “It is thoroughly modern throughout, its 30 rooms being spacious and comfortably furnished. A most harmonious note has been struck in the finish of the building. Its woodwork is of B.C. fir of special selection; all the beauty of the grain of wood being emphasized by that natural finish which is always in keeping with good taste.”
The Courier was especially enamoured of the “bathing facilities, which Mr. Clauson has thoughtfully provided for the comfort of his guests. In addition to the many tubs, both private and common, shower baths of the very latest design must be seen to be fully appreciated. Expense, it would seem, was the least of Mr. Clauson’s considerations when he installed his plumbing fixtures.”
The splendid heating facilities also came in for praise: “The radiation installed is more than adequate to neutralize the most extreme cold Cranbrook is ever to experience.”
The spaciousness of the bedrooms, and the availability of hot and cold water, “continuously at the service of the occupant(s)” also set the Mount Baker Hotel at the very top of the hospitality industry in southeastern B.C.
In July, 1946, actor and singing star Bing Crosby checked into the hotel, accompanied by script writer Barney Dean and Hollywood advertising executive Vic Hunter. They were heading to Jasper National Park to shoot the movie The Emperor Waltz, starring Crosby and Joan Fontaine.
According to Room At The Inn: “The trio checked into the Mount Baker Hotel and, once settled in, walked to Pat’s Coffee Shop … For about 20 minutes, Bing Crosby was happy to sign autographs with his right hand while finishing up his meal with the left.”
Clauson owned and operated the 30-room hotel for 24 years, until March 1947, at which time Mr. and Mrs. W.M. Kenneman, of Lethbridge, Alberta, purchased it. The Kennemanns ran the hotel for another year and a half until selling to Mrs. J. Waswich in 1948, for $55,000.
Mr. and Mrs. Coleman Reid took over the hotel in 1959.
And in 1971, Ralph and Gina Trozzo purchased the Mount Baker. They completed their own renovations, such as adding another section, and owned the building until 2002. In 1984, Ray Dube opened a barbershop on the main floor, where he continues to cut hair to this day.
In the early 2000s, the Mount Baker Hotel went through another series of owners, and it might be said that it fell on harder times for a few years, no longer the gem of downtown and the geographical and cultural centre of the region.
Then, in the summer of 2018, Greg Eaton of Eaton Properties, took possession of the building and set to renovating the upstairs rooms on the second and third floors, suitable for both nightly and monthly rentals, with the long-term vision of creating a boutique-style hotel.
Step by step, the hotel was renovated, with each room undergoing extensive changes, and completely re-done all in an Art Deco style, as suits the hotel’s Jazz Age vintage. That the hotel was built with brick and fir has been echoed in the updates, Eaton said.
“We want to take this hotel back to what it was originally meant to be,” Eaton told the Townsman in 2021. “We want it to be memorable, to be an experience. Our target audience is the business traveller. It’s easily walkable; you don’t need a car to stay here. Each room is different and we hope that people who stay here will remember the uniqueness of each room.”
Many of the hallways feature murals and photos that were acquired from the Columbia Basin Trust Institute, showcasing the history of the city, from the railway to the hotel itself. Each bed is comfortable and covered in high-quality linens. Each of the now 28 rooms have wifi, cable and air conditioning and range from $99 to $200.
Those looking to stay can book through Airbnb or by calling the front desk.
Happy birthday to the historic Mount Baker Hotel!
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