Thursday, 3 March 2011

Dinsmore Hotel: A Floor-By-Floor Description

Dinsmore Hotel, n.d. From Dynamic Dinsmore, 1979

When the Canadian Northern Railway arrived at Dinsmore in 1913, it brought with it twelve railway cars of lumber for the construction of a hotel, built by T.W. McCrea & Delisle Bros. at a cost of about $25,000. John Amos Delisle, his wife Marguerite, and their six children (ages 2 to 15) were living in the Dinsmore hotel in 1916, according to the Canada Census of that year. The Saskatchewan town of Delisle was named after John, who served its first postmaster in 1905. Also residing at the hotel were three waitresses, two Chinese cooks, and several guests including a couple of salesmen.

Dinsmore, c. 1920 Source

Over the years – in 1916, 1931, 1935 and 1949 – many Dinsmore businesses were destroyed by fire. Amazingly, the Dinsmore Hotel survived these blazes, and it remains a community landmark to this day. The following, written by Bill Davidson for Dynamic Dinsmore (1979), is one of the most complete descriptions I have found on the structure and infrastructure of a small-town Saskatchewan hotel:
“The hotel was a well-built frame structure of 3 storeys on a full size basement, 41’ x 75’ and 35’ high, covered with cedar siding and a flat roof paper composition with a 1-3 slope. The original structure had a false front extending around 3 sides, open at the back (north side). It has always been painted cream with brown trim. Other buildings built at this time in connection with the hotel were a buggy shed, a stable with a loft, a chicken house which later became an ice house… ."

Tom and Hilda Davidson and family, c 1935
"The interior was lathed and plastered and calsimined most vivid colours [calsimine is a water-based paint containing zinc oxide, glue and colouring, used as a wash for walls and ceilings]. The trim and doors were fir and very darkly stained. The ground floor comprised of two small rooms for the proprietor’s dwelling, a pantry, large kitchen and large dining room, a very large rotunda with a horse shoe counter facing the stairway, and a huge sitting area. A portion of this was used as barber shop and a small room at the N.E. corner was a saloon, but used as a confectionery, lunch counter and store over the years. The first floor comprised of 14 bedrooms and the [third] floor 17 bedrooms. Total 31 rooms. The rooms weren’t all that large especially when two beds were put in some. Each floor has a very wide hallway 12 feet. The rooms were originally furnished with brass beds 48’ or 36’, a chair or two, a dresser or a combination dresser and wash stand, and one 60-watt light bulb in the center of each room, also a china pitcher, basin and thunder mug… . The original toilet system was built onto the N.W. corner of the hotel – a 12 x 12 addition comprising of two toilets on each guest floor and directly below sat the traditional known honey wagon – a 300 gallon tank on a horse-drawn wagon that had to be emptied regularly. There was a back stairway from top to bottom coming down into the kitchen. Also each room had a cotton rope coiled up beneath the window to be used in case of fire. … All the floors were fir, except the kitchen which was white hardwood and had to be scrubbed regularly. Eventually, some of the floors were covered with congoleum, linoleum, tile, etc."

Bill and Grace Davidson and family, c 1975
"The lighting system built into the hotel was an English Lister lighting plant 32-volt plus glass storage batteries. It was a gasoline engine in the basement with an outside exhaust, which had to be started each day at dawn and shut off at 11 p.m. when everyone was supposed to be in bed. If the plant wasn’t working properly the lights were very dim. When Dad took over [Tom Davidson in 1930], he doubled the number of storage batteries and installed a wind charger to keep them charged. This helped save the old plant. In 1948, Dad hooked up with Sask. Power, and after a lot of rewiring we could use an electric iron, bed lamps, hot water, heaters, refrigeration, air conditioning, etc. The heating system comprised of a sectional cast iron steam boiler, a one-pipe system piped throughout the building connecting to a cast iron steam radiator in each room, two in the larger rooms. It had to be hand-fired with coal and wood, so that was an annual job putting a car of wood and coal in the basement every fall. The boiler was in bad shape when Dad bought the hotel, so stoves were installed here and there to keep warm.”   

Bill and Grace Davidson took over the Dinsmore Hotel when Bill’s parents retired in 1953. They still owned the hotel when Bill wrote the above article in 1979.

Dinsmore Hotel, February 2006.  Joan Champ photo
© Joan Champ, 2011

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  1. Bill Davidson passed away in November, 2010. His wife Grace continues to live in Outlook. They retired and sold the hotel which Grace says is still a hotel but run-down. She says they used to get a lot of salesmen staying at the Dinsmore Hotel Monday-Friday but that business is gone because of the internet.

  2. The hotel is run by good people and doing fine.

  3. Thanks very interesting blog!