Hotel to Park to Mall
By Barb Sheppard
In 1911 the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway hired Mr. Francis Rattenbury to design a chain of grand hotels from Winnipeg to Prince Rupert similar to the C.P.R. hotels. The planned hotel for Prince Rupert took two years from some scribbles on Union Club notepaper to the elaborate finished drawings. In August, 1913, Mr. Louis Swarz, representing Mr. Rattenbury, arrived in Prince Rupert with the plans for the two million dollar hotel. It would be nearly double the size of the Empress Hotel in Victoria, with fifteen storeys in height with two wings having twelve storeys. It was to be situated on Second Ave. between 4th & 5th streets. Excavation for the site was started at this time.
When the G.T.P. went bankrupt in 1914, Mr. Rattenbury packed everything away in the attic of his Victoria home.
They were discovered there, now a private school, in 1985, in almost perfect condition. They have been in the school’s archives since then and the Archivist, Keith Walker, has been in contact with our archives as he would like to see the Prince Rupert hotel plans in Prince Rupert. He thought the cost would be about $10,000 but when he had appraisals done on the plans the cost was between $50,000 and $75,000. We are still hoping to acquire them for the original cost but haven’t heard any more to this date.
During the Depression in the 1930’s, the Canadian National Railway had a make work program that saw the building of the C.N. Park on the site between 3rd Street and 6th Street with the fountain and pond being on the hotel excavation site as seen in the photograph.
The park was beautiful with gardens, lawns, walkways, trees and a green house, but in the early 1970’s it was getting harder for the C.N.R. to keep up with the maintenance and in January, 1973, the City of Prince Rupert offered to buy the Park for a nominal fee.
The C.N.R. advised the City of Prince Rupert that they would be willing to sell the C.N. property by outright sale or a land exchange on an equitable basis but would not consider prices lower than the current market value. In February, 1973 Council received a joint request from Canadian National Railway and the Rupert Square Shopping Centre Limited for a release of the City’s nominal right to purchase the C.N. property. Although the exact sale prince of the C.N. property was not disclosed, it was thought that the final negotiated price would approach $300,000.
There were several meetings, petitions and letters in favour of keeping the C.N. Park but the construction of the Rupert Square Mall was started in the fall of 1973 and opened on August 14, 1975. The ribbon was cut by Miss Prince Rupert Debbie Stephens and Mayor Peter Lester.
What has CN done for this town lately, other then contributed to the decimation of its city parks?