Saturday, 26 March 2011

Govan Hotel: A Refuge for Weary Travellers

"New up-to-date hotel, Govan, Sask.," c. 1908. Image source
Govan’s first hotel, the Silver Plate, was built by a Mr. Sherriff in 1908. The large, four-storey wood-frame building, painted light yellow with dark brown trim, could accommodate about 40 guests. According to a 1908 issue of the Govan Prairie News, it was a cost of $30,000 “under the most difficult conditions known to pioneer life.” 

Every penny’s worth of material was drayed [hauled by wagon] over raw prairie for over 20 miles, much of it during weather that would freeze the proverbial monkey. Mr. Kinneard, the contractor, and the proprietors deserve unstinted praise for the undaunted energy lent to the project; and many years after all are beneath the prairie sod, the building will stand as a fitting monument to prairie life in Last Mountain Valley.

The dining room could accommodate 100 guests, and was considered one of the most beautiful and spacious in the West at the time. “The halls, waiting rooms, and offices are airy and well furnished,” the 1908 Govan newspaper wrote. “The bar has but few equals, being massively constructed with mahogany effect, presided over by C. L. Dalton, who is adept at suiting every taste. All in all, the Silver Plate is a credit to the Hub, a decided acquisition to the town.”  

Silver Plate Hotel, 1909 Source
Silver Plate Hotel, 1909 Source

The top storey of the hotel, with its dormer windows, was never finished. For a few years it served as a dormitory for bachelor homesteaders who wanted to live in town for the winter, but couldn’t afford to pay for a proper room. Snow sifted onto their fourth floor beds during the fierce Saskatchewan winters, no doubt making the men long for the comforts of home. 

Guests from all across Canada stayed at the Silver Plate, as did hockey teams from Lanigan to Cupar. It had several amenities, including a tavern (of course), a barber shop, a pool room, and a bowling alley as well as a room for travelling salesmen to display their wares. The hotel dining room was extensively used for banquets and various celebrations.

The Silver Plate Hotel in Govan, c. 1925. Source
In 1957, the unused fourth floor was removed to save on fuel costs; a flat roof was constructed in its place. Three years later, in 1960, the Silver Plate was destroyed by fire under the ownership of Vance Pokletar. The "fitting monument to prairie life" did outlast its builders after all, but not by much. Shortly after the fire, Floyd Rattray and Peter Roland Jr. built a much more modest two-storey hotel on the site of the old Silver Plate, naming it the Govan Hotel. The wood-frame building had ten guest rooms upstairs, and a 78-seat beverage room and a 38-seat restaurant on the main floor. Peter and his brother Albert ran the hotel until 1966. After that, it changed hands numerous times. 

Restaurant at the Govan Hotel, c. 1990.
Jeremy Warren, reporter
In 2009, retired Calgary businessman Jack Landry and his wife Charlie, bought the Govan Hotel, changing its name to the Govan Inn & Bar. After extensive renovations, the hotel’s grand opening was held in mid-June 2010. Saskatoon StarPhoenix reporter Jeremy Warren was the first guest at the hotel and wrote about his experience in a story entitled “Nothing to dislike about Govan” (July 3, 2010). “I arrived Thursday night and, after I sunk some change into the bar's jukebox, the couple handed me the keys to room No. 1,” Warren wrote. Landry told the young reporter that across Saskatchewan many small-town hotels and bars were closing their doors. When the bar in a neighbouring town closed recently, Landry said it felt like the whole town had shut down. “Bars are usually the only social centre in a small town,” he said. 

Govan Inn & Restaurant, c. 2010. Image source
Govan Restaurant, c. 2010. Image source
Jack and Charlie Landry plan to restore the Govan bar to its former glory and social importance in the community. By the summer of 2010, the couple had redecorated the bar and renovated the guest rooms, complete with new beds. There was still work to do on the hotel’s exterior, however. “Outside, the trim is peeling and the inn's street-front siding has turned a dull peach, contrasting with yellow along the rest of the building,” Jeremy Warren noted. “A computer printout – ‘Govan Bar Now Open’ -- in a front-street window corner is the only hint that one can find a drink inside. It is open and it is home for Jack and Charlie.”

View video of Govan's main street, February 2009, including the hotel (20 seconds in): YouTube link

© Joan Champ 2011

View Larger Map


  1. Hi,

    My father was the station agent in Parkside when the hotel burned. Do you have any details on that hotel and the fire. Just found your blog,great details.

  2. Hi Gail,

    So far, I haven't found out much about the Parkside Hotel. There is a photo of the bar on my post, "SK's Hotel Bars Before Prohibition." As for the fire, I found this on Google News Archives:
    “Fire hits village,” Leader-Post Nov. 19, 1962, p. 24: “Fire destroyed a hardware store and a 23-room hotel … early Sunday. Six persons, owner Leo Hoscheit, his wife and three children and one tenant, were forced to flee from the hotel. … About 75 volunteer firefighters were hampered by a lack of water at the scene and could not control the blaze."

  3. Unfortunately the Govan Inn and Restaurant is now closed - due to the fact that the Landry's REFUSED to pay the prior owners, slandered the fellow business owners and opened and closed the hotel (and I use that term VERY loosely) as it fit THEIR schedule. They caused more trouble in my hometown than any previous owners have, and I grew up in Govan. It also took them well over 2 years to open the doors, instead of the 3 months the town was promised. These people are nothing but low-life pathetic liars and the town would be a much better place if they went back to where they came from.

  4. Good day! I could have sworn I've been to this web site before but after looking at a few of the posts I realized it's new
    to me. Regardless, I'm certainly pleased I found it and I'll be book-marking it
    and checking back often!
    My website - how to play piano

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. My Grandmother Mary Ann Sims owned the Silverplate around 1935