‘It was a business in progress’: remaining bar and hotel in Alberta’s coal ghost town for sale


Built during World War I, it survived the Great Depression, World War II and the closure of coal mines in the 1950s. Now the historic Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne, in southern Alberta, is for sale.

There are a century of memorabilia at this three-story wooden hotel, including photos of the community in its heyday, mining equipment, and three bullet holes – framed on a bar wall – dating back to the 1970s when a bartender thrilled with the trigger wanted to encourage some customers to pay their bill.

The hotel, about 9 miles southeast of Drumheller, Alta., Was built by the Rosedeer Coal Co. to house its workers and opened in 1913. The lounge was added a few years later so that employees paid in company certificates can buy a meal or a beer.

“It was originally built for coal miners when Wayne was starting to thrive with 2,500 residents in the early 1920s. There are only 29 residents left and it is one of the few structures left from this era. », Explains current owner Dave Arsenault, who must sell the hotel as part of a divorce settlement.

“It was a constant concern. There was more than one hotel here. There were 12 coal mines and it was a busy place. Of course, there is hardly anything left but there are a lot of pictures around. of what it was during the day.

“That’s really the charm of this place.”

The last operating mine in the area, Sovereign Coal, closed in 1957.

A University of Calgary history professor says many people don’t realize how big an impact the coal industry had in the early 20th century in Alberta.

Georg Colpitts says the Drumheller region was one of the province’s “first coal mining ground centers”. Many early explorers of Western Canada looked not only at agricultural potential, but also at the vast quantities of coal that could be used to support the British Empire.

“Wherever these individuals found large deposits of coal, it was factored into the thinking of London investors, in the colonial office. Coal was in the context of a lot of empire thinking.”

Colpitts said the area not only had coal deposits, but CN decided to develop a head end.

“These were the two magic combinations to tap Drumheller into the international demand and supply of coal. It became the cornerstone of this valley and continued to be so until the 1970s.”

The hotel is listed for $ 925,000. Arsenault says potential buyers have already generated some interest.

“It’s unfortunate because I think now is a great time for a nice bounce back in the hospitality game, but I guess it’s a selling feature too,” he says.

“As far as I’m concerned, we run our business as usual. We have booked weddings. We have groups coming in, lots of old recurring friends who have called and made reservations. The campsite is open this year. “

WayneStock, an annual three-day music festival with performances on three stages in and around the show, had a record attendance of around 2,000 in 2019, but has since been canceled due to the pandemic.

Some believe the hotel’s third floor, which is locked and used only for storage, is haunted. The hotel was featured in Season 3 of the Canadian ghost hunting television show, “The Other Side”.

It has also hit the big screen.

The 1983 film “Running Brave”, starring Robby Benson, was shot in part at the hotel as well as the 2000 western martial arts comedy “Shanghai Noon” which starred Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson and Lucy Liu.