A Brief History of the Bluebird Motel in Claresholm, Alberta

If you travel Highway 2 between Calgary and Lethbridge, you undoubtedly have seen the Bluebird Motel. It is on the north end of Claresholm on the west side of the highway. The sign proudly proclaims “Old Fashioned Hospitality since 1947”.

Having a fascination with old hotels/motels, meant this place was on my “must visit” list for many years. Every time we would drive by on the highway, I would say to Emily, “I really want to stay there some day.”

Well, on a February weekend in 2020 we finally had our chance. Emily was working for a couple of days in nearby Nanton (another one of our favorite towns) and we decided this would provide the perfect excuse to stay at the Bluebird.

Upon checking in, I was pleased to see that the owners of the motel have embraced their history. Sitting on the table in our room was a six page document called “Early History of the Bluebird Motel”, which was prepared for HRHS (High River Historical Society?) in March of 2004. It provided a great timeline of how the motel came to be and formed the basis of another DanOCan.com YouTube video. The content of this article is also heavily based on the information contained in that document.

Video aside, I figured I would also do a bit more of an in-depth written blog on this one since it allows me to explore things in a little more detail. So, let’s start…

1937: Ferd and Lucy Seymour purchase eight acres from Dr. Tupper on the north end of Claresholm. The land contains a house which Dr. Tupper had moved from Willow Creek, a shed that extended to the noirth from the house to a large barn. The Seymours establish the Claresholm Dairy.

The house which I presume to be the original home of Ferd and Lucy Seymour. I have no evidence to support this so please feel free to correct me if I am wrong. Photo taken February 8, 2020.

Fall 1944: The Seymours sell the dairy business to Ken Donaldson but retain the land and buildings.

Spring 1946: Ferd Seymour purchases half interest in Qually Motor, a Chev dealership located on 49th Avenue in Claresholm.

Fall 1946: Lucy Seymour hires carpenter John Letcher to take down a barn and sheds on the property. The lumber and nails from these buildings is salvaged and used in the construction of the Bluebird Bungalows.

Spring 1947: Construction of Bluebird Bungalows begins. The Bluebird name is taken from the bluebirds who nested on the fenceline of the Seymour’s property, close to where modern day Unit 4 stands.

September 1947: Three duplex cabins are opened. Today these cabins are Units 1 and 2, Units 3 and 4, and Units 6 and 7. A small room is added on the south side of the first cabin and serves as a storage area and office. Rates started at $2 for a single, up to $5 for a three bed family room, roughly $24 – $62 in 2020 dollars.

As seen in 2020: The door on the left was the original office/storage area, the two doors to the right of centre are one of the original cabins constructed in 1947. (The office on the far right side of the image would not be constructed until the 1960s.)
Another one of the original cabins is shown here in 2020, housing Units 6 and 7.

1948: The livery barn attached to Qually Motors is demolished. Lumber from the barn is used in the construction of two more duplex cabins, which today house Units 9 and 10 and Units 12 and 14. (In keeping with a common North American tradition, the number 13 is omitted.)

Qually Motors, Claresholm (1929). Image is a composite of three photos contained in the Glenbow Archives. The barn in the centre of the photograph is the one I presume was removed in 1948 to expand the Bluebird.
This image from the Glenbow Archives is dated circa 1960. It shows the five cabins, the three on the left being the originals built in 1947 and the two on the right being the slightly later 1948 additions. At some point between opening and this photo being taken, the name was changed from Bluebird Bungalows to Bluebird Cabins.

1962: Ferd and Lucy move into a newly constructed house located directly behind the motel. A new office is constructed between the first two cabins.

The Seymours moved into this house attached to the motel on August 25, 1962.
The current office was constructed in 1962 in the space between the two southernmost original 1947 cabins.
Another view of the current office, as seen in 2020.

1963: Three new single units (Units 5, 8, and 11) are built in between the other cabins, uniting all thirteen units under one roof for the first time.

This image taken in 2020 shows Unit 8. You can clearly see how it fills in the space that existing between the two cabins to the left and right.

September 1967: The Seymours purchase five duplex units from the Grand-o-Vue Motel which was located at 42nd Avenue and Macleod Trail in Calgary. The buildings are moved to Claresholm and are rented out for the first time in October of that same year. The Bluebird now has 23 units which is the configuration it has maintained since.

Calgary Herald, July 15, 1950. The photo shows the Grand-o-Vue Motel upon its opening. Presumably some of the cabins shown would be the ones make the move to Claresholm in 1967.
Seen here in 2020, these two cabins (Units 21/22 and 23/24) were among the five moved to the Bluebird Motel from Calgary in September of 1967.

February 1, 1971: Ferd and Lucy turn over operation of the motel to the next generation, Annette and Harold.

We purchased this postcard from the motel during our stay. This image seems to have been taken after the driveway was paved in 1974 but before the metal roof was installed in 1988. Given the lack of mature trees compared to today as well as the giant TV antenna just to the right of centre, it would likely be earlier in that range rather than later. Also note the name Bluebird Motel has now replaced Bluebird Cabins, In addition, on the far right you can see one of the duplex units moved in from the Grand-o-view Motel in Calgary in 1967.

June 15, 1994: The Bluebird Motel is sold out of the family to Randy and Fern Kaniuk.

Amazing customer service. While I was out taking photos and video, the staff came around and shoveled out a path through the snow to my vehicle. The people running the motel are top-notch all around.

There are a couple of people I would like to thank. After our stay at the Bluebird, I put out the call on Twitter to two of the best local historians around: Harry Sanders and Alan Zakrison. In no time at all, they had tracked down information about the Grand-o-Vue Motel which really helped complete this story. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Harry before, but have never had the opportunity to meet Alan yet. Thanks, guys, for helping me out.

Disclaimer: No compensation nor consideration was given by anyone connected to the Bluebird Motel in exchange for this article. This was put together purely for my own enjoyment.

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11 Responses to A Brief History of the Bluebird Motel in Claresholm, Alberta

  1. Denise Spencer says:

    Harold Seymour, son of Ferd lives in the property just west of the hotel. He is a wealth of information and can help with the history. He was on the museum board for a number of years and keeps a lot of records at home.

    Liked by 1 person

    • danocan says:

      That’s great, thanks for sharing that. As you could tell from my awkward wording of “the next generation”, it wasn’t 100% clear from the document in the motel room the exact relationship between Ferd/Lucy and Harold/Annette. Based on context I sort of assumed Harold was a son but I wasn’t sure so I tried to avoid putting something in my write-up that wasn’t factually true.

      Like

      • HRHSeymour says:

        HRHS he is getting a little Historical, how ever he can be found on the west side of the driveway. It would appear you stayed in the Gene Autry room #19. On the south side of the log barn you can see where it was attached to the old wood barn that became the original motel units. If you are this way again, drove bye.

        Liked by 1 person

      • danocan says:

        Hello! I certainly will do that. Yes, we were in the Gene Autry room. I would love to get a closer look at that barn and see where it was attached. As you may have gathered, I am absolutely fascinated with bits of local history like this.

        Like

  2. Denise Spencer says:

    Harold Seymour, son of Ferd lives in the property just west of the hotel. He is a wealth of information and can help with the history. He was on the museum board for a number of years and keeps a lot of records at home.

    Like

  3. Sue Goodwin says:

    HRHS is likely Harold Seymour as those are his initials and he is very proud of both the hotel and the community. Harold and Annette are so great with history on the community and of course can fill in blanks on the hotel as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amy says:

    What a gem, I love how clean it looks. Nice work by the chain of owners, on upkeep.

    Like

  5. Kate Heptonstall says:

    My mom (Winnie Grummett) worked there for a few years and really enjoyed it and missed it when she became ill and retired.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Niz Enock says:

    I wish to find a job in this place and I hope I can do my best like others their did❤️

    Like

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