The Ogden Hotel, aka Alyth Lodge, now Victory Manor, celebrated its 100th year recently and with some recent renovations it will hopefully be around for a long, long time to come. Once lodging for visitors to the community it was also a watering hole for those working at the nearby railway shops. During World War One it was used as a military hospital and later still, during the depression and for many, many decades after, it housed the unemployed or those of limited income. Today it is a church run transitional housing facility for homeless men.
That’s quite a storied history.
Built in 1912 in the neighbourhood of Ogden, the hotel was located directly across the tracks from the huge CPR Alyth shops. This strategic location, beside the road out of the complex and next to the trolley line assured the hotel’s saloon a steady stream of thirsty customers. It was the only drinking establishment in the immediate area and I pretty sure at shift’s end, the beer flowed!
The original owner of the building was the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company, a local beer making firm. They saw a grand opportunity: Ogden, then a fast growing community, had no hotels or bars, and with the completion of the huge railway shops complex (second largest across the CPR system), if one was to be built it would be assured a huge customer base. They would have a virtual monopoly, since the next nearest watering hole or lodging was kilometres away in downtown Calgary. It was a gold mine waiting to be tapped (pardon the pun). And the result, CB&M got into the hotel business. Of course, it was the sale of beer which motivated their decision. Jumping into that business would give them a volume outlet selling their products only. A win/win for the brewery.
However, not long after opening two things happened. First, the war broke out in 1914 and with men signing up to fight in Europe, the volume of customers dropped. But that was not the biggest problem. Two years later prohibition was declared and without the sale of beer the hotel was doomed. They still had rooms to rent but it was that wonderful golden liquid that made the money. Given that bleak outlook, the brewery donated the building to the Red Cross who used it as a convalescence centre for soldiers returning from the war, a purpose it served from 1916 until at least 1919.
It’s not exactly clear what the building was used for in the 1920s and early 1930s. We do know it was never converted back into a hotel. Perhaps in that time it sat empty or was used for housing. In any case, further research is needed. Prohibition in Alberta, by the way, was repealed in 1924.
In the mid 1930s the city of Calgary purchased the building and used it for housing the unemployed. Even after the Great Depression (ha – great), it continued to serve in that capacity. In the late 1960s or early 1970s, exact date unknown, the building’s name was changed to Alyth Lodge (was it called only the Ogden Hotel up until then?) and it became a low cost apartment complex and would function as such for the next few decades. It’s not known if it was still a city property or if by then was privately owned or perhaps privately owned and subsidized somehow?
In 2007 the building became the Victory Manor, run by the Victory Outreach Foundation, a church benevolent group, and is a home for the homeless. At that time the old Ogden Hotel was renovated. Interesting for much of its existence, it’s been a shelter for the downtrodden.
The three story building is in a Classic Revival style, a common design philosophy from that era and is characterized by front columns, angled facades and verandas. This example is fairly simple in form, yet striking in its own right. The use of the brick gives these wonderful deep red colours. At one time the balconies in front had railings and were accessible from side doors, which still remain but must be locked up now.
At one time a Safeway grocery store used to sit across from the building. Later it was a bingo hall but retained that classic Safeway wood laminate arched beam roof. Remember those? It was torn down a decade or so ago and the site is now…you guessed it…condos.
In the 1990s I was driving truck and became quite familiar with the building seen in this report. I used to pass it on a daily basis and a co-worker lived there and after a hard day’s work the “gang” and I would occasionally go up to his pad for a bee…I mean milk and cookies and bible readings. At that time the place was a dive.
When built, there were over sixty rooms for visitors, a large bar (of course), a billiard hall, a bowling alley and a big dining room. It is one of only a handful of pre-World War One hotels remaining in Calgary. The future looks good though!
Ogden itself, outside of the shops complex, was a sleepy little backwater, well away from the city. The hotel was the centre of a small business area. Today a grocery and liquor store, gas station and a couple dive restaurants are located nearby but overall the place is pretty quiet traffic wise. A forgotten corner.
At one time a trolley line passed the hotel, bringing in workers from the city, but it closed in 1950. Buses still pass however. The Ogden shops were sold by the CPR in the early 2000s to a private company. They closed a few years back and the whole site is now being demolished. It’s understood that the CPR will later build an office complex here.
The shops were used to repair the company’s fleet of locomotives and passenger and freight cars. During World War Two it was used to produce naval guns. Depending on business levels, anywhere from several hundred to well over a thousand people worked here. Most were men, and what man doesn’t like beer after work? It was these hard working, hard drinking types that were the hotel’s customers in the early years. The shops came, the beer flowed and all was well. For a time anyway…
Also part of Ogden are the communities of Lynnwood, Millican Estates and the now empty Lynnview Ridge. The busy CPR mainline passes right behind the building.
An RC hobby store occupies part of the main floor and has for some time (I recall seeing it in the 1990s). At one time a lingerie store was also located on the main floor as well. I would love to tour the inside of the building now that it’s been fixed up.
This report was written on a Wednesday, which for Connie and I is date night, and has been for well over a dozen years. In an homage to the Ogden Hotel and the hard working CPR boys that once frequented it, I will enjoy a beer in their respective honour. It was a hoot photographing and writing about this century old historic structure.
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The notorious American Hotel.
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Genealogists don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
If you’d like to know more about what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: February, 2014.
Location: Calgary, AB.