New life for an old hotel: Ladysmith’s historic Temperance undergoes a major renovation

It was once home to non-alcoholic coal miners and served as an isolation hospital during the Spanish flu epidemic more than a century ago.

It was once home to non-alcoholic coal miners and served as an isolation hospital during the Spanish flu epidemic more than a century ago.

Now the 121-year-old Temperance Hotel in Ladysmith is getting a new lease of life as a rental apartment with Airbnb-style vacation suites.

The historic hotel on the city’s main street is undergoing renovation, rewiring and plumbing, its foundations lifted and rebuilt, as part of a full restoration.

New owners Stefan Queitsch and Denise Bergquist, who bought the property a year ago, have rolled up their sleeves and done much of the work themselves, with structural help from Kaercher Projects and Construction of Victoria.

They want to bring Temperance into the modern era as suites for rent, some of which are Airbnb-style for the city’s growing tourism sector and for visiting sailors.

Ironically, one option for the downstairs of the Temperance is a new brewery, but the new owners are exploring all options for commercial tenants.

Queitsch, a plumber who owns Scorpion Mechanical, and Bergquist, who works with Island Health, aren’t afraid of hard work.

They worked evenings and weekends at the hotel – and it was no easy task.

“We were knocking down the ceilings – the rat droppings were as thick as the insulation,” Bergquist said. “As we deepen [into the reno], we find all kinds of new problems.

The last renovation of the building dates back to the early 1950s.

Since its construction in 1900, the Temperance has been continuously occupied, as a hotel, rooming house – some say the hell – as a local branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, and more recently as apartments for people to low income.

Various business customers have come and gone, from ice cream parlors to doctors’ offices, but it has been in disrepair for decades. Lately it has attracted drug addicts and criminal activity.

“He’s had a bad reputation over the years… we want to give him new life, some personality,” Bergquist said. “We pass people around every day to thank us. We want to give the building 100 years older.

The modest two-story wood-frame building in the Ladysmith Shopping Center is recognized by the federal and local governments as a heritage property, and the owners plan to retain its exterior appearance. They found one of the hotel’s original colors – a shade of blue – under several coats of paint, and the exterior color will be reproduced. The original sign will be repainted on the outside.

They also match the original windows, but leave much of the exterior exactly as it was by heritage standards.

The couple hope to open with eight new suites in the spring.

The Temperance Hotel has played an important role in the history of the region. Built near Wellington during the heyday of Baron Robert Dunsmuir’s coal empire, the building was cut into sections as Dunsmuir extended the coal seam, then loaded onto flat cars and moved by rail. as far as Ladysmith as the city grew.

Like most mining communities, early Ladysmith had a large population of single men, often passing through. The hotels served as lodgings and their lounges and restaurant on the ground floor often served as social centers.

In that sense, the Temperance was a rarity, as the only local hotel that didn’t serve alcohol. It is an enduring symbol of the temperance movement, considered one of the most important social movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Quentin Goodbody, president of the Ladysmith Historical Society, said the Temperance Hotel stood out as a non-alcoholic establishment. “The demonic drink was often a hardship on families because a paycheck could go down a father’s esophagus” instead of putting food on the table, he said.

The hotel was built and operated by the Uren family. According to the historical society, Ms. Uren “was not that tall, but she was a real fireball” and only accepted minors as boarders “because they bathed every day”.

“The actual coal miners were the cleanest people she had ever known,” according to comments filed with the historical society. “They were swimming every day. And they never entered the building with dirty clothes. Always washed and dressed.

The second floor had individual bedrooms, while the lower floor contained the living quarters of the Uren family, a dining room, and another space for street vendors to display their wares. A laundry for minors was at the back of the building.

The hotel played a central role during the Great Strike of 1912-1914, as it hosted single men brought in by Dunsmuir as scabs. As such, it became a focal point for the frustrations of strikers during the riots of 1913, and the target of one of two bombs set on the night of August 12.

The strikers ultimately failed in their efforts to obtain better wages, working conditions and union recognition, and returned to work.

During the 1918-19 flu epidemic, with Ladysmith Hospital’s wards overflowing, the Temperance spread mattresses on the floor for sick patients. At least 24 people in Ladysmith have died from the Spanish flu.

Goodbody said several other hotels moved to Ladysmith from Wellington around 1900 – the current Ladysmith Inn and Sportsman Pub on First Avenue (formerly known as the New Western Hotel); the Jones Hotel on Gatacre Street; and the Bayview Apartments (formerly known as the Extension Hotel and the Globe Hotel) now on the Trans-Canada Highway.

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