Sunday, 20 February 2011

Gasthaus Neudorf: "A Place to Frolic"

Neudorf Hotel on right, c. 1930.  From Doug McHardy
I have been to the Gasthaus Neudorf near the Qu'Appelle Valley twice now -- once on a rainy day in the spring of 2006, and once in mid-winter when I stayed overnight in one of the newly renovated guest rooms -- complete with its own bathroom (a rarity in old hotels)!  During my stay, there happened to be a dinner show featuring a magician from Nova Scotia.  I was the only non-local in the audience, so the good people of Neudorf naturally suspected that I was a "plant" for the magician's act!

Fritz Engelland and his cousin John Paysen, recent arrivals from Germany, saw a business opportunity when the Canadian Pacific Railway chose the town of Neudorf as the location for a divisional point in 1904. The building of the rail yards, roundhouse, shops, station, and water tower sparked the growth of the town. In 1906, Engelland and Paysen purchased two lots on the corner of Railway Avenue and Main Street and built a hotel.  

From Neudorf Memories of Pioneer Roots
Perhaps the two partners flipped a coin over which one of them the hotel was to be named after, and John Paysen won. After the Paysen Hotel opened in 1907, Engelland, his wife Augusta, and their four children lived in the hotel, as did his bachelor partner, Paysen, and all the hotel staff. The staff included chambermaids, dining room staff, and the cook – all from Austria, a “pool table man” from Wales, and the hotel barber from England. Living in such close proximity eventually led to a romance between Paysen and one of the maids, Barbara Ulmer.  By 1911, the two were married with two children and farming in the Moose Jaw district.  

Paysen Hotel dining room, c. 1910.  From Neudorf Memories of Pioneer Roots (1980)
In 1909, the hotel’s name changed to King George Hotel; that name stuck until 1929. The hotel featured a dining room, a pool hall, a theatre, a dance floor, and a barber shop. The theatre was likely on the third floor, where, it was reported, there was a large painting of a gruesome battle. In the spring of 1911, the Neudorf hotel was purchased by business partners, Michael Bateman and Henry Shatsky, who came to Canada from Russia in 1880. Like the previous owners, Bateman and Shatsky lived at the hotel with their wives and young children. The census for 1911 shows that there were fourteen guests (mainly CPR workers) and seven staff members – two teenage chamber maids, a “dining room girl” age 19, a 16-year-old kitchen maid, a 45-year-old Chinese cook who had been in the country since 1876, and Joseph, the 24-year-old hotel porter from Switzerland. 

Prohibition came into effect in Saskatchewan on July 1, 1915, closing down the bars, and with them, many rural hotels.  While the Neudorf hotel remained open, there was a noticeable downturn in business; by the time Prohibition ended in 1924, the third floor of the hotel had been closed off. During the 1920s, the hotel was owned and operated by Percy Bradley and his wife Tillie, who was renowned for the meals she cooked for hotel boarders – still mainly railroad workers. Owners came and went over the years, and at some point the name was changed to the Leland Hotel.

Neudorf Hotel under renovation, June 2006. Joan Champ photo

Out of the Ashes

Janet and Bernard Caulien
in their work clothes, June 2006.
Joan Champ photo

In the 1990s, the hotel became known for some unique food served in the bar: pickled chicken gizzards.  In 1998, the hotel’s name changed to the Gizzard Inn to reflect this culinary novelty. The hotel was given a more cosmopolitan moniker in 2002 when Bernard and Janice Caulien became the owners. Their goal was to turn the old hotel into a European style “guest house” (Gasthaus), or country inn, so they called it Gasthaus Neudorf.   

The Cauliens realized that the hotel could not make a go of it just by serving as a “filling station” - Bernard's playful reference to the bar. What was required was a restaurant which served good food, as well as modern, comfortable guest rooms. The couple began the work of renovating the Neudorf hotel, when disaster struck.  In 2004, a fire started in a stove in the Caulien’s living quarters destroying part of the Gasthaus Neudorf.  Bernard and Janice were devastated, but they didn’t give up. They tore down the damaged part of the hotel and took up the work of renovating the remaining parts of the building. By 2007, three guest rooms were ready. The Gasthaus Neudorf was advertised as "a place to rest, a place to dine, a place to frolic," with international home cooked meals, and “the biggest selection of local and import beer, wine and spirits east of Regina.”  

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Stairs being refinished in the foyer, June 2006.  Joan Champ photo

Guest room, June 2006.  Joan Champ photo

Beverage room, June 2006.  Joan Champ photo
© Joan Champ, 2011


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