Where is the Prince Edward now?

The Prince Edward Hotel at 100


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New visitors to Brandon’s modernist city hall may be pardoned a moment of cognitive dissonance when they first look up in the lobby.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/06/2012 (3919 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

New visitors to Brandon’s modernist city hall may be pardoned a moment of cognitive dissonance when they first look up in the lobby.

Above a sunken central area, which is mostly illuminated by natural light from the front glass wall, a ceiling full of hidden fluorescent lights ensures that no shadows remain.

But at each corner is a late addition. Four chandeliers hang from the ceiling, their teardrop crystals and ornate design harbouring a style that is a notch or 10 more classic than the rest of the building.

Those chandeliers are refugees from the Prince Edward Hotel.

The city took possession of the property in 1977 after a tax sale, and demolished it in early 1980. But before the building fell, they helped themselves to some of the nicer furnishings that had been left behind.

Only four chandeliers currently hang in city hall. There were originally at least 12 of that style in the hotel’s main dining room (along with another six of a different, smaller style) and the city apparently still has some of them packed away, deep in storage.

Coincidentally, current Brandon mayor Shari Decter Hirst has a hotel chandelier, too — in her bathroom.

When Decter Hirst and her husband bought the house, known as Moreland Manor, they found the chandeliers parcelled out through apartments that the house had been carved into.

“When (the former owner) had the house, she wound up at the auction getting several chandeliers,” Decter Hirst says.

But Decter Hirst and her husband had other ideas for the main rooms, so the chandeliers were shuffled to the bathroom. “And it looks great” she says.

Hers are not the same as the ones that hang in City Hall. “They’re the same size, but they’re a different style.”

Plenty of other Westman residents have bits and pieces squirreled away. Furniture, dishes and other miscellaneous items were auctioned off to pay the hotel’s owners’ bills, shortly after the doors shut for the last time, in 1975.

Even today, many people have chairs, or dressers — or in at least one case, former employee lockers — in their homes and garages. They continue to pop up in classified ads, where “from the Prince Edward Hotel” adds a cachet to the items that other used furniture wouldn’t have.

Another piece of the hotel found a new home at the office of P. Quintaine and Son, livestock dealers just northeast of Brandon.

Debbie Quintaine says she spotted a old, rusted-out hunk of metal in the back yard of C&E Locksmiths one day in the mid or late ’90s. With a little bit of dickering, for $200 she became the proud owner of the Prince Edward Hotel’s massive safe.

Debbie Quintaine poses with the former safe from the Prince Edward Hotel, which is now used to store routine business records for P. Quintaine and Son. (Grant Hamilton / Brandon Sun)

“If you’d seen the look on my husband’s face,” she laughs.

The Quintaines had to pour a special concrete pad to keep the heavy safe from sinking into the floor of their offices. It’s estimated to weigh between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds — literally, a ton.

She had the safe nearly completely restored, with a new paint job faithful to the original gleaming on the front, and now uses it as a waterproof, probably fireproof place to store business papers like month-end and year-end reports.

Aside from the pain, nearly everything on the safe is still original, even the combination dial.

So, does she know the combination?

No, although she says a locksmith could probably figure it out. But she’s not about to lock the doors just yet.

“I need the handles for it, first!”

Not everything was lovingly saved. A marble fireplace went missing from the hotel during its vacancy — apparently stolen.

Others creatively re-used pieces of the hotel they’d legitimately acquired.

During the demolition, Stephen Aker managed to obtain the solid oak steps from the Prince Edward Hotel. He spent the next few years carving them into artistic clocks — some 40 or 50 by the time he was written up in the paper — as well as a half dozen or so plant stands.

“It is reasonable to assume many people in southern Manitoba have pieces of the Prince Eddie ticking away on their mantles,” wrote Penny Hamm in a 1987 article that described Aker’s work.

Even today, Brandon residents may find themselves walking past old pieces of the hotel in places they never thought.

That’s because, during and after the hotels’ demolition, about 5,000 yards — 365 truck loads — of rubble were used used to riprap the banks of the Assiniboine River.

Concrete rubble, evidence of riprapping along the Assiniboine River near Kirkcaldy Drive. (Grant Hamilton / Brandon Sun)

Riprapping, which can help prevent erosion on the outside curves of the river, was of particular help along worn-down banks of the river near Curran Park — now called Turtle Crossing.

Debris from the Prince Edward Hotel was also used to beef up the north bank of the river just east of Knowlton Drive, along the south bank near the Riverbank Discovery Centre and along the east and south banks of the river along First Street.

Although the Assiniboine remains high this year, a careful look from the top of the dike along Kirkcaldy Drive will reveal jumbled, indistinct lumps of concrete layered along the bank.

But not all the rocks were unceremoniously dumped in the river. Some of the better pieces — large chunks of carved limestone from the foundation and cornice — were saved. And, in the late 1990s, the city turned some of the last large of those limestone pieces into a fountain, benches and an amphitheatre for Princess Park — across the street from the hotel’s former home.

It’s difficult to discern which piece came from exactly where on the hotel, but the base of the east side of the fountain appears to be a match for the frieze from above the Red Caboose’s door.

From a certain perspective, it’s perfectly placed. Anyone looking at that side of the fountain would be facing the lot where the hotel and train station once stood.

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