Often in our rush to get from where we are to where we want to be, we forget these old cliches. Everything about modern transportation is designed to move us as fast as possible. We often forget the very act of traveling should be a big part of the experience.
What if we took it one step further? What if the means of travel WAS the experience? What would that look like? I suspect it would look like the Columbia River Highway.
Built between 1914 – 1916, the Columbia River Highway was designed from the very beginning to be a destination itself. In an era where the general public was just discovering automobile travel, it was a highway designed to showcase one of the most beautiful areas in America. One of the primary design goals was to disturb as little of the natural landscape as possible. The highway was meant to complement and highlight the landscape, not scar it.
Today, Interstate 84 handles the bulk of the traffic through the Columbia River Gorge. While they rush along to their destinations, we’re going to take our time and discover classic roadhouses, waterfalls, and a building once derided as nothing more than a “$100,000 outhouse”.
This is the conclusion of our Europe adventure series. We end with a two-for-one video posting. In the first one, we take the rental car and try and visit as many medieval castles in Luxembourg as we can in one day. In the second, I take a solo trip to the geographic centre of the country to find a virtual Geocache.
I really hope you have enjoyed this series. We’ll be back to more local content for the foreseeable future as our credit cards recover from this latest adventure!
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.
If you make the trip between Calgary and Lethbridge on any sort of regular basis, you likely have your favorite places to stop along the way. Whether it’s the 7-Eleven in Claresholm (the classic one, not the new one on the north end of town) or The Candy Store in Nanton, it seems everyone has their designated stop. Sure, you could easily make the run without pulling over for a break, but where’s the fun in that?
One of my favorite places is a little less well known than the examples I gave above, although I enjoy both of them too. No, my place is the small town of Stavely.
Stavely was named Alexander Staveley Hill (1825 – 1905). Hill was a British member of parliament and the first chairman of the New Oxley Ranche, which leased large amounts of land in the area between 1880 and 1900. Stavely became a town in 1912 and the spelling was slightly altered at that time, dropping the second ‘e’ in Hill’s name.*
I was passing through town today and I had the urge to put the drone up, something I haven’t done for several months. I had some issues with the drone’s gimbal so ended up not having much time to fly. The wind was also very strong so I decided to essentially do an “up and shoot” flight, versus any sort of cinematic maneuvers.
So, with that, I present some shots from Stavely which I have taken over the last few years. Maybe you will understand why I love this little town so much.
*Aubrey, M. K. (2006). Concise place names of Alberta. Calgary, AB: University of Calgary Press.