Hours before a grassfire put residents of Carmangay on evacuation alert Sunday, the cherished Grange Hotel in the heart of the southern Alberta village burned to the ground.
The two fires are unrelated and the cause of the hotel fire is still under investigation.
Vulcan County Reeve Jason Schneider said crews worked all night to battle the hotel fire and keep it from spreading to other buildings before rushing across the county to fight the grassfire.
He said it’s hard to believe the hotel, which has stood on the main street since 1909, was now just a pile of ash.
“In every little small town, the hotel is kind of the hub of the community. I mean, it’s quite the landmark,” said Schneider.
“You know, if you live anywhere in southern Alberta, I’m sure you’ve been to The Grange at some point in time for some event. It’s also kind of the starting point for the the shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade.”
That parade lasts all of one block.
‘Just another empty block’
The hotel was built in time for the railways and, according to longtime resident and Carmangay Historical Society member Todd McFarland, was the scene of more than one brawl and more than one Hollywood scene.
“It’s just another irreplaceable part of Carmangay history and it’s sad to see it go, kind of a punch to the gut,” he said.
The hotel housed a tavern and many businesses over the years, said McFarland. He said several newspapers called it the finest hotel outside of Calgary at the time it was built.
Now, he says, it’s just “another empty block in rural Alberta.”
“We lost the Barons Hotel down the road nearly three years ago and the King Edward in Pincher Creek, it was lost. And it’s just these landmark fixtures that a lot of people in the city aren’t even aware of that had a lot of history — and interesting history at that,” said McFarland.