Snow slogging and photo blogging–in Moose Jaw!

Yes, today I took my Historic Walks of Regina and Moose Jaw travelling photography act on the road to Moose Jaw.

Moose Jaw has many fine old buildings. Look, there’s one now! Specifically, Central Collegiate:

Built in 1909-1910 and designed by John D. Atchison and Richard Bunyard, this was Moose Jaw’s first high school building. During the Second World War, the building housed a military corps and the grounds were used for drill practice.

There are also grand houses. This is probably the grandest:

This is Grayson House, built in 1911-1912 by William Grayson, who was then Moose Jaw’s largest land owner. It originally boasted 22 rooms and featured oak paneling, decorative glass, elaborate fireplaces and a fine foyer, and even a central vacuum system.

Grayson, who came to Moose Jaw in 1883, was the town’s first lawyer and its eighth mayor (in 1893), and for 25 years served as Chairman of the Public School Board.

Although it’s not as grand, my favorite house has to be this one, the “Wedding Cake” house, built in 1906. A second, matching house that used to stand next door burned down.

Of course, no visit to Moose Jaw would be complete without a walk down River Street:

Never heard of River Street? Let me enlighten you with a sidebar from the book:

This was once one of the most notorious streets in Canada. Numerous hotels were erected here due to the flood of immigrants in the early 20th century: by 1924, seven of Moose Jaw’s nine hotels were located on this street. In the mid-1920s the number of immigrants decreased, but the hotels carried on in full swing. This was the period when Moose jaw earned the nickname “Little Chicago.” One block north of the CPR station and turn left, and you’d think you were in New Orleans, is the way one old-time reporter put it. Supposedly every hotel had a floor that doubled as a brothel and there were gambling dens in the basements of many of the establishments.

“Anything you wanted, you could get–booze, drugs, dames, an all-night game–they were there for the asking,” is how Larsen and Libby put it in Moose Jaw: People, places, history.

But during the day, River Street, being in the middle of the business district, was almost respectable, boasting a hardware store, the best Chinese restaurants in town, a Greek restaurant, an ice cream parlour called the Princess, and a famous steak house at the Savoy Hotel.

In general, what happened on River Street at night stayed on River Street, and those that frequented it limited their rowdy behavior to those two blocks (with the strong encouragement of the police). Law-abiding upright citizens could, and did, simply avoid the area.

In the picture above, that’s the Brunswick Hotel in the foreground and the City Hotel in the background. John Henry Kern built the Brunswick Hotel in 1902-1903 to replace the existing hotel of the same name, located across the street. He also had an apartment constructed inside the hotel for his own use. The building was designed by Regina architect S.A. Clark; the brick was manufactured locally. The hotel was once reputed to be one of the finest hotels west of Winnipeg. The City of Moose Jaw was incorporated in the hotel on November 20, 1903.

The 60-room City Hotel, also once one of the poshest hotels in town, was erected in 1905 by the McRoberts brothers of Lafayette, Indiana. It’s made of “double space cement blocks,” produced by a machine sent to Moose Jaw expressly for that purpose. It cost $49,999 to build, and originally featured a long veranda.

All very interesting. But sometimes I find the back alleys as interesting as the street. Here’s the alley north of River Street, looking east (the first picture, which I’m titling “The Corridor of Power” because, see, it looks like a corridor and it’s made of power poles and there’s this expression…oh, forget it) and west (that Off Sale sign is on the rear of the Brunswick Hotel):

Finally, here’s the oldest building in Moose Jaw, the Chinese United Church:

In the summer of 1883, local Presbyterians erected the original structure, known as the “Little White Church,” at the corner of Fairford Street and 3rd Avenue North West. The next fall the church was moved into town, to Fairford and 1st Avenue North West. Four years later it moved again, this time to Main Street, and in 1901 it moved yet again, to the rear of the Main Street lot, where it continued in use while its successor was built.

In 1903 the Free Methodists bought the church and moved it to its present location. The Chinese United Church bought the building in 1954.

Tomorrow I do Regina’s Warehouse District, and them I’m all photographed out for a while, I think.

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1 comment

    • Anita Daher on March 8, 2007 at 12:07 pm
    • Reply

    Ohhhh….I LOVE the wedding cake house!

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