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Sunday, 1 May 2011

Bradwell Hotel: Two-Storey Outhouse and All

The Bradwell Hotel, c. 1910.  Ben and Sarah Cook on right.  Western Development Museum photo, 6-E-4
In 1907, the colourful Ben Cook built the hotel in Bradwell – complete with a two-storey outhouse. The four-holer (two up, two down) was attached to the building by a catwalk. Cook likely built this unusual structure out of respect for his wife and the hotel guests who occupied the rooms on the second floor.  It saved them the inconvenience and possible embarrassment of going downstairs and walking through the saloon. The male patrons of the bar used the lower level of the two-storey outhouse.

The Bradwell Hotel's two-storey outhouse was likely similar to this one ("Big John") still attached to the Nevada City Hotel in Montana. Image source
Contrary to jokes about two-storey outhouses, the user of the lower level had nothing to fear if the upper level was in use at the same time. The upstairs facilities were offset from the ones below, situated a little further back so that the waste fell behind a false wall on the first floor. 

This unique structure proved popular with more than just the patrons of the Bradwell Hotel. For example, Sig Olson owned the general store next to the hotel. This store did not have an outhouse, so the clerks and others used Ben Cook’s two-storey facility. According to Bradwell’s local history book, Ben was not happy about this arrangement. He said that too many users would fill up the pits under the outhouse at a faster rate. “One day, young Dean Cook [Ben’s son] and a friend were playing in the men's side, when a clerk came into the ladies' side and the young boys made a noise as they were peeking,” Bill Martyn recalls in the town’s history book. “The female panicked, ran out with clothes in disarray hollering and trying to arrange them. I understand it was rather funny for the onlookers.” It wasn’t long before Sig Olson built an outhouse behind his store.

The Bradwell Hotel’s remarkable outhouse was demolished around 1950 by Wendelyn Heisler. He and his wife Theresa owned the hotel from 1948 until 1956.  As their son, Arnie observes in the Bradwell local history book (1986), his father destroyed a piece of history in the process of demolishing the outhouse. It might have become a tourist attraction like the one in Gays, Illinois (see video) or like “Big John” still attached to the Nevada City Hotel – now considered to be the most photographed building in Montana (shown above).

The Ben Cook Family

Ben Cook was born in Ontario in 1861, married Sarah Slack in 1897, and settled in Bradwell in 1906. They had an adopted son, Wilbur. During the Prohibition years (1915 to 1924), Ben made a nightly trip to meet the evening train where he paid the express charge on a brown package, no matter to whom it was addressed.  It was his way of beating Prohibition and having some liquor on hand for his hotel guests.

Ben and Sarah Cook on right, c. 1910. Detail from Western Development Museum photo, 6-E-4
In 1918, Sarah was called to the home of her brother, John Slack in Vanguard, to assist with the care of his family who were ill with the Spanish Flu. Despite her efforts, John and three of his children died. Sarah returned to Bradwell where she became ill, passing away in a Saskatoon hospital in 1919. Two years later, Ben married Beatrice Slack, John’s widow. She and her two surviving children Doris and Harry came to live in Bradwell.  In 1921, a son, Dean, was born to Ben and Beatrice. Dean was killed in a plane crash near Vanscoy in 1942 while training as a pilot for the war. Ben died in 1948.

The Bradwell Hotel in 2008. Joan Champ photo
© Joan Champ 2011

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  1. How great the story of ben is. I like hotels or places that have old history. You can know and learn a lot more about a town and its identity. Last year I travelled to Argentina and felt like try the rent of apartments in buenos aires . The one I was in was in such a historical building that I felt curious and started to find out about its origins. It turned out Eva Peron had lived there!
    isn´t that crazy?

  2. Thanks for reading my blog, Julie. I'm sure the apartment in Buenos Aires was much more architecturally appealing than these old Saskatchewan hotels! Nevertheless, these plain, even ugly buildings make me curious as well -- enough to research and write their stories. I'm so glad other people find them as interesting as I do.

  3. Wendlin and Theresia Heisler were my grandparents; my mother's parents. I recently acquired a small teapot from my mom that she tells is from the days of the Bradwell Hotel. I had high hopes that somewhere online I would be able to find a bit of history of the hotel; specifically the years my grandparents owned and ran it. My parents - Michael John (Jack) Kinahan and Leona Heisler were married on June 27, 1953 in Saskatoon and has their wedding reception and dance in the Bradwell Hotel. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last year. Mom talks of the time at that hotel often. Thank you for the information.

    1. I'm glad you were able to find some information about your family on my blog. I'm only sorry that it relates to the hotel's 2-storey outhouse! I found my information in Bradwell's local history book which is also available online via Our Roots. How nice that you have the teapot - a nice memento of the hotel.

  4. I spent my teen years in Bradwell . my friend and classmate Rhonda's Parents Ran the Hotel ... Bonnie and Tim Yates :) . Such memories!!!

  5. Ben Cook was my Great Great Grandfather !