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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
February 1, 1971: Ferd and Lucy turn over operation of the motel to the next generation, Annette and Harold.
June 15, 1994: The Bluebird Motel is sold out of the family to Randy and Fern Kaniuk.
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.