The Fort Motel in Fort MacLeod Alberta does it old school, offering up vintage motor court style accommodations for road weary travelers. Old-fashioned and dated or wonderfully kitschy, quirky and charming, the choice is yours, it’s a style of motel that’s fast disappearing. We look at this business, first via an old postcard showing it in perhaps the late 1950s or thereabouts, and again in 2015.
Fort MacLeod, is a modest size community (population around 3000) in Southern Alberta, just west of the city of Lethbridge. It has a long and storied history, dating back to the 1870s. Known as MacLeod in the early days it was originally a police outpost, with the town eventually growing around it. It has a very historic downtown core, with lots of vintage sandstone buildings dating back to the 1890s and early 1900s. It’s a history buff’s dream which we have never really explored to any great degree.
Perhaps that should change?
The Fort Motel dates from the post Wold War Two period (exact date unknown – town records say circa 1950). It follows a pretty typical pattern for the time, cabins with a large central parking lot, the latter reflecting the burgeoning car-centric culture found in the post war period.
Today, these types of motels tend to cater to budget minded individuals. A lot have been closed in recent years. We stay at similar places all the time and are quite happy to do so (they’re rarely dives as might be thought) For us, they’re cheap, basic accommodations with personality. Most seem to have kitchen units.
There has been a fair bit of change since the first photo was captured, The original sign is gone which is too bad since it was quite nice. Love that phone booth! Some cabins seen in the old photo contained two units, as evidenced by the double doors seen, but have since been converted to singles. Over all though, the place looks much today as it did back then.
As was typical for the time, the sign is lit by neon. TVs were a luxury feature, believe it or not. The lodging was AAA aka American Auto Association approved and clearly demonstrates the level of influence our southern neighbours had on Canadian culture in general. The national flag seen is the pre-1965 version.
The then photo was sourced by this author and is a scan of an old postcard. Motels used to freely distribute these, with of course the establishment featured front and centre, as a cheap form of adverting. There is no date on it, but given the car seen, which seems to have 1950s lines, the latter part of that decade seems like a pretty good bet.
The card was made by Grant-Mann Lithographers of Vancouver BC and was part of their “Traveltime” series. This firm seems to have been active from the 1950s to at least the latter part of the 1970s. Based on examples of their work found online, they were a fairly prolific producer of travel and tourism themed postcards.
The back of the card lists the Fort Motel’s phone number as 273. Nice and short.
Our readers are encouraged to send us old photos or post cards (scans are fine) showing street scenes or old buildings, for inclusion in a trademark BIGDoer.com then and now. We’ll revisit the location seen (so one condition, the subject today must still exist in some form), shoot a similarly composed image and then write about the whole experience for posting here. Pictures must be yours, say coming in from a family collection or something similar, or be in the public domain. Most postcards are.
If you wish more information on what you’ve seen here, by all means contact us!
Date: November, 2015.
Location: Fort MacLeod, AB.
Article references: Fort MacLeod town records.