Quesnel city council approves two new heritage homes

Quesnel's Mitchell House and Quesnel Hotel receive heritage designation

Coun. John Brisco presents Mitchell House owner Julie-Anne Runge with the plaque for her building.

Two heritage properties were recognized by the City of Quesnel at Council, May 7.  Julie-Anne Runge, one of the owners of the Mitchell House, was in attendance to accept the plaque recognizing this heritage home, which now operates as a retail location occupied by Barkerville Fudge and the Bumblebee Boutique.  A second plaque will be installed on the Quesnel Hotel.

The site of the Quesnel Hotel has been occupied by a hotel since the 1860s. The first, built by Thomas Brown and Hugh Gillis, was called the Occidental Hotel.  In his history of Quesnel, Gordon Elliott described it as “the most renown house and bar on the road to the Cariboo.”  Edward Kepner purchased the property in 1907 and began a series of improvements.  In addition to the bedrooms, it contained a saloon, dining room, dance hall and display rooms, where traveling salesmen could set up their wares. It was a focal point of both the social and business life of the community.  In January 1916, a fire destroyed all the buildings on Front Street between Carson and Barlow Avenue, including the Occidental Hotel.  Kepner, who had invested heavily in the property, was devastated since he was uninsured.  William Thomas Ewing, who operated a number of businesses in Quesnel, including a butcher shop, purchased the lot from Kepner.  In 1921 he purchased the vacant Anglican Boarding School, moving it to Front Street the following year.  He renovated the building and opened the British American Hotel in 1925.  He died in August shortly after opening.

The Anglican Boarding School was built by the Norwood Brothers in 1914 on the 700 block of Kinchant Street.  It was supported by a Church of England mission to Quesnel and was intended to provide accommodation and education (including religious instruction) to children who lived on ranches too distant to make the daily trek to school in Quesnel. It operated for a brief period between 1914 and 1916, but was closed due to lack of financial support and demand for its services.  During the 1918 influenza epidemic, the building operated as emergency hospital accommodating 60 patients.

William Ewing’s widow, Charlotte, leased the British American Hotel to Grace Stanton and Dora Homan for five years until she sold the property to Percy Elsey.  The two women had worked for Ed Kepner at the Occidental Hotel since 1910.  After the fire, they purchased a house and ran a boarding house called Stan-Hom Lodge, using furnishings salvaged from the Occidental.  Initially, they filled a void until the two hotels which had been destroyed by the fire could be rebuilt.  After their stint running the British-American, they reopened Stan-Hom Lodge.

It was Percey Elsey who renamed the building the Quesnel Hotel.  He also hired John Lindbergh to construct the beer parlour on the south end of the building in 1933.  Shortly after, he sold the building to J.D. Pearson and Robert Laughton.  During the 1930s, with the increased business which resulted from the opening of the mines in Wells, both the beer parlour and restaurant were extended and the basement was renovated to provide accommodation at $.50 per night.  The building has undergone renovations and updates over the years, to meet the demands of contemporary travellers, but has preserved the  integrity of the original boarding school and a long history of hospitality at this location.

The Mitchell House is another early building which has been moved to its current location.

The house was constructed in 1907 by contractor Harry Joyce and was originally located on Front Street where the Safeway Parking lot is now.

It is unknown who lived here from 1907 to 1924, although it is likely that Joyce himself did, before moving into the house he constructed for his bride at 558 Front St. around 1911.  The house is named after Archibald Mitchell, and his wife Edna.  Archibald came from Scotland and was known by the nickname,“Scotty.”  He first worked for Johnston Brothers Motors and served overseas during the First World War.  Upon his return, he was employed by Public Works, later the Department of Highways, until he retired in 1958.  In 1924, he married Edna Wells, who was born and grew up in Quesnel.  They purchased the house when they married and raised two children here.  The house was relocated to Maclean St. in 1962 to make way for the development of the supermarket. Edna continued to reside here until 1980 and passed away at the age of 101.

The house is a fine example of the wood frame 1.5 story homes built in the early twentieth century.  It is both one of the earliest surviving homes in Quesnel and is associated with a recognized builder.

It has been successfully converted to commercial use, but retains many of its distinctive features such as the hooded dormer windows on the north and south side of the house, the large tri-partite window in the gable end, its enclosed, glazed front porch and the decorative trim at the corners of the building.

The City initiated the Heritage Plaque program in 2010 to recognize properties which are deserving of particular recognition due to their historical or architectural significance, their state of preservation and their contribution to the streetscape.

The properties are selected by members of the

citizen’s advisory committee who helped develop the Quesnel Heritage Register.

These two buildings join eight other properties already marked with bronze heritage plaques.

– submitted by Elizabeth Hunter,

Quesnel Museum and Archives manager.

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