Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Hotels in Shellbrook

Shellbrook Hotel, c. 1912. Image source

On a crisp September day in 1912, a shooting party had just returned to Shellbrook. Mrs. J. B. Stirton, wife of the proprietor of the Stirton Hotel, had been out with the party. The group was taking their guns out of their car when a .22 calibre rifle accidentally discharged. Mrs. Stirton was shot through the heart and killed instantly. She had been standing on the running board of the automobile when the gun went off. Click here for story.

“The accident was witnessed by many persons on the street who had no idea of the seriousness of the affair until Mrs. Stirton fell into the arms of one of the attendants of the hotel who happened to be behind her,” the Shellbrook Chronicle reported on September 14th. “It has had a sad and painful effect upon everyone in town.” The Stirtons had four young children. The Stirton Hotel was located on Main Street and First Avenue, one block north of the railroad station in Shellbrook.

George Stalker
George Stalker and his partner Howard Hudson had nabbed the best location in town when they built the Shellbrook Hotel in 1909. It was located on the corner of Main Street and Railway Avenue, directly across from the train depot. Stalker assumed sole ownership of the hotel in 1915. Originally  from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Stalker came to Prince Albert in 1896 where he worked in for a time the harness-making business before getting into the hotel business. He and W. E. Gladstone took over the Queen’s Hotel in Prince Albert; he later acquired the Royal Hotel in that city. In 1905, Stalker partnered with Hudson, and spared no expense building the grand three-storey Kinistino Hotel. Later he acquired hotel in Shellbrook and eventually disposed of all his hotel interests except the Shellbrook Hotel. Stalker married Alice Oram in 1897 in Prince Albert. After Alice died, Stalker married Anna Stewart in 1913 and they had one daughter. 

Stalker served as the overseer of the village of Shellbrook since its incorporation in 1909. He died in 1931 at age 56, and his widow, Anne Stalker, continued to run the hotel until 1941 when she sold it to James Bowles of Netherhill, Saskatchewan. 

Shellbrook Hotel, c. 1920. Image source
In March of 1935, the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix reported that the “commodious” Shellbrook Hotel was well known for its general comforts and conveniences. ”The hotel is operated on the American plan [meaning that meals were included in the room rate] and has some 30 guest rooms, well-furnished and lighted, warm and scrupulously clean. … The meals and dining room service are all that could be desired. A specialty is the steam-heated bath. There are also sample rooms for commercials. Mrs. Stalker and assistants do everything to make the hotel ‘a real home away from home.’” Star-Phoenix, March 9, 1935, page 6.

Main Street, Shellbrook, c. 1945.  Hotel on right. Image source
Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King stayed at the Shellbrook Hotel during the May 1945 federal election campaign. King recounted his stay at the hotel in his diary:  “After dinner I went to my room and prepared the outline of a speech … It was like old times to look out of the window and to see motor cars ranged on both sides of the road on which the hall was situated. To hear a band strike up in the distance. I rested a few minutes on my back then went on to the hall, shaking hands with many people on the way.” Click here to read the diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King, May 21, 1945, Library and Archives Canada.   

Hon. Mackenzie King with children in Ottawa, 1942. Image source
Across the street from the Shellbrook Hotel, little Bobbie George, age 4 1/2, took in all the excitement with eyes agog. Bobbie, son of RCAF Sgt. Douglas George, wandered over just as King was turning to re-enter the hotel. “Hello,” said Bobbie with his big eyes. The Regina Leader-Post reported that the prime minister smiled down and asked: “Have we shaken hands?” Bobbie shook his head, and Mr. King shook his hand. “Now you turn around here and make a speech,” Mr. King said. Standing behind Bobbie, the prime minister took the little boy’s arms and waved them to the small crowd on the Shellbrook street corner, saying, “I want you all to go home and tell your parents to vote for Mackenzie King.” The Leader-Post concluded, “Bobbie made a record Monday afternoon for Canadian youngsters – he became the youngest campaigner for Prime Minister Mackenzie King.” Click for story

Shellbrook Hotel, c. 1965. Image source
Shellbrook Hotel, May 2011. Joan Champ photo

Lucien (Lou) and Donna Dupuis bought the Shellbrook Hotel from Floyd Folden in 1978. The following year, they added a steak pit, and then in 1980 they remodeled the guest rooms. The Dupuis undertook a major expansion and remodeling of interior in 1990. A 52- x 20-foot addition was constructed for a banquet room downstairs, a cocktail lounge on the main floor, and three more guest rooms. Dupuis told the Shellbrook Chronicle that the expansion and remodeling was a necessary investment in the hotel. “With the government pricing liquor out of sight, we just had to diversify with more room and in the food area,” Dupuis said. “When we first bought the hotel, a beer was 85 cents – now its $2.40.”

In 2015, the Lou and Donna Dupuis made more extensive changes to the exterior and interor of the Shellbrook Hotel. The building's brick exterior was covered with smooth, brown stucco, and the name of the hotel's restaurant was changed from Luigi's Steak Pit & Ribs to The Railhouse. It continues to offer traditional "bar fare," including steaks, sandwiches, and wings. 

Shellbrook Hotel, April 2006. Joan Champ photo
© Joan Champ 2011

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  1. My mother was born in the Shellbrook Hotel in July 11, 1912

    1. Wow! I have come across several stories of babies being born in Saskatchewan hotels. I'm thinking of writing a new blog post on this topic. Would you mind sharing the story of your mother's birth in the Shellbrook Hotel with me? If so, please email me at

      Thanks, Joan

  2. It's amazing how main street used to look like before, it looks like a completely different town!

  3. Dupuis is spelled -uis. I know this because Donna and Lou are my great aunt and uncle.

    1. Thanks for catching that spelling error. Its corrected now.

  4. My hometown is shellbrook and I remember being young and running around town,not knowing the history. But now being 20 it's a real eye opener to see how much history shellbrook really has. 100% impressed by this blog