Saturday, 14 May 2011

Black Gold in Coleville

The Coleville Hotel in 2007. Joan Champ photo
In 1951, the year that oil was discovered by the Royalite Oil Company near Coleville, the sleepy farming hamlet had a population of about 80 people. Over the next five years, the population of Coleville grew by leaps and bounds. A refinery was built,  284 heavy crude oil wells were drilled in the area, and oil people moved into town. “Coleville’s boom has none of the earmarks of a temporary boost,” Munro Murray wrote in his August 7, 1954 feature on Coleville for the Star-Phoenix. “The new population are people who are building substantial homes and taking a real and intimate in the community life of the village.” 

In 1953, Bill Crawford formed a public company called the Coleville Development Company Ltd. with the sole purpose of building a hotel. Originally called the Prince Charles Hotel, the two-storey hotel had 21 rooms, a café and a beer parlour. The building was only partially completed when, in the spring of 1954, construction ceased due to lack of funds. Promoters of the company, Laird and Rumball of Regina, placed an advertisement in the Star-Phoenix in August offering shares in the Prince Charles hotel at $100 per share. In the meantime, part of the hotel structure was used as offices for the Royalite Oil Company.

Crawford ended up buying most of the shares in the hotel at a reduced price. He refinanced and completed the hotel in 1956. A café and bar have operated in the hotel since it opened. Other businesses in the hotel have included a liquor board store, an arcade, a hair dressing salon, and a movie rental store.

Today, Coleville is an agricultural and oil community with a population of about 300.

The Coleville Hotel in 2007.  Joan Champ photo
© Joan Champ 2011

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