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Ainsworth, 1915-16

Updated: Aug 9, 2021

This terrific, rare postcard of Ainsworth sold last month on eBay for $66 US. It was mailed from Ainsworth on July 28, 1916 to a Mrs. J.E. Kelty of 3011 Hillegass Ave, Berkeley, Calif.

The message on the back reads:

Dear Friend
Had a pleasant trip. Found Isabel and Harry well and M.B. the cunningest ever, like her mother something doing every minute. Afternoons and tea galore with Ainsworth social set. Yours lovingly May Mc.

The seller was in Washington, DC.

Here’s a closer look at some of the buildings depicted.

1) The Grant King Hotel, formerly the McKinnon House, built by Angus and Eleanor McKinnon after the great Ainsworth fire of April 26, 1896. They soon sold the hotel to Grant King, who named it after himself. After Grant’s death in 1910, his wife Sarah continued to run the hotel and Ainsworth’s post office out of the lobby. The portion seen on the left was the original building, and the portion on the right the expansion of 1914.

John Burns bought the hotel in 1932 and renamed it the Silver Ledge Inn. It last operated in 1949. In 1964, Lawrie Duff and Frank Nataros bought it and it became the Silver Ledge Museum, open during the summer until it burned down in 2010.

2) The former Ainsworth Trading Company, a general store built in 1896 and operated by Frank A. Heap. Still in business as of 1905, but not as of 1910. I don’t know what became of this building.

3) The Olson Hotel, formerly the Hotel Hot Springs, operated by Charlie and Annie Olson. This hotel replaced an earlier one they ran across the street that burned in the fire of 1896.

According to Ted Affleck in High Grade and Hot Springs: A History of the Ainsworth Camp, “Charles Olson’s hotel featured a bar backed by a magnificent mirror, and it was here that Ainsworth men seeking to ease their leisure hours with a drink or two would gather.”

Charlie died in 1926 but Annie kept the hotel going into the 1930s. The building was reportedly torn down in 1960.

4) The H. Giegerich store, now the J.B. Fletcher Museum & Gift Shop, is mostly hidden, with just a bit of the roof visible. It was built in 1896 to replace another store on the same site that burned in the fire of that year. It’s now Ainsworth’s most important heritage building and recently underwent a three-year restoration.

John Bradley (Pops) Fletcher came to work at the store in 1912 and bought it from Henry Giegerich in the 1920s, running it until 1973. It reopened as a museum in 1988 thanks to the efforts of his daughter, Mavis Stainer.

5) Government office and jail. This building, which dates to 1891, still stands as the community hall.

I wish we had a clearer view of what was going on in the background, around the hot springs. T.G. Procter and partners built a concrete pool in 1911, but their plans to develop Ainsworth as a resort were stillborn for unexplained reasons. By the following year, a corner of the pool had been blasted out to prevent anyone from drowning. It was not until 1930 that John Burns successfully capitalized on the hot springs as a commercial attraction.

This is the side of the Anglo-American Hotel, built in 1897 and managed first by Margaret McLellan, who also farmed with her husband at Pilot Bay, and then by Thomas Kelly.

However, in 1902, the hotel’s furniture and housewares were seized to satisfy a $1,137 court judgement brought against McLellan by Henry Giegerich. After that, there are few references to the building. In 1912, the Ladies Aid of the Presbyterian church planned to fix up a few rooms to hold “fortnightly socials.” By 1921, Henry Giegerich was using the hotel as a warehouse.

The building was still standing as of 1929, by which point it had been purchased by J.B. Fletcher, along with the Giegerich store, house, and stables. According to Fletcher’s grandson (see his comment at bottom), the hotel was torn down at an unknown date and the lumber repurposed to add two upstairs bedrooms to the Fletcher house (which is still standing, immediately north of the hot springs hotel). Windows were also used on the front and back porch of the house along with doors, while posts from the hotel porch were used when the store was renovated.

Margaret McLellan moved to East Kootenay with her husband Alfred to start a dairy at Morrissey. After Alfred died of a heart attack in 1905, Margaret returned to Pilot Bay where she operated the White House Hotel for a few months, then moved to Nelson and ran the Sunnyside Hotel (now the Dancing Bear Inn).

This is the Central Hotel, formerly the Madden House, built in 1897. The huge Windsor Hotel stood on this site until the fire of 1896. James Madden of the Kootenay hotelier family built the Madden House in partnership with a man named McGarvey. James and his wife Mary ran it until 1909, by which time it had been renamed the Central. Joe Dearin bought it in the latter year and made an important addition in 1913: he piped water from the hot springs into a basement pool.

As an ad related, “The Central has now a big plunge bath, with a shower bath attached, and the curative waters of the Ainsworth springs are sufficiently hot to boil the meanness out of almost anybody.”

Dearin leased the hotel to A. Breeze in 1917, the year prohibition was enacted in BC. The Central reportedly did a roaring trade as a speakeasy. It was also used for Catholic mass and during the Spanish flu epidemic as a makeshift hospital. Robert Thompson was the proprietor in 1920 and promised the hotel’s mineral baths were a “sure cure for rheumatism [and] metallic poisoning.”

Though Dearin still owned the building, the final proprietor was Hugh Jones, who reportedly ran a “soft drink place” in the hotel. Early on the morning of Sept. 26, 1921, Jones and some visitors from Slocan City were soaking in the hotel’s baths when fire broke out. They barely kept ahead of the flames but emerged unhurt.

A bucket brigade of about 35 men and women managed to save the town from another catastrophe, but the Central Hotel was destroyed, collapsing toward the lake. Damaged but saved were the old Anglo-American Hotel (badly scorched, windows broken), the J. Henry store (on fire several times, windows broken), a building belonging to J.W. Smith that was about five years old and used as a government office (hit with flying pieces of burning tar roofing), and the Giegerich store (windows cracked, paint peeled).

The building at left was reportedly the first frame house in Ainsworth, built in 1891 for local mining recorder, gold commissioner, and police constable Harry Anderson.

This house was among the few survivors of the fire of 1896 thanks to the “heroic” effort of the local fire brigade. According to the Nelson Miner, Capt. T. Lendrum “gave orders from the ridge pole of the house in a loud and emphatic voice, emphasizing his orders with a few flowery adjectives.”

A second storey was added the house in the early 1940s and it became a boarding house known first as the Welcome Inn, then Hecker’s Rooms and Units. With further additions, it became the Mermaid Lodge in 1975.

Coincidentally, another rare Ainsworth postcard, taken around the same time as the previous one and by the same photographer, also sold last month on eBay. This one, showing the Highland mine, went for $116 US. The seller was in Elma, Wash.

The postcard was postmarked 1915, sent to Mrs. Ed Olson of 1112 Canyon Ave. in Wallace, Idaho with a message that read:

Dear Mrs Olson
Your card rec and glad to hear Mrs. Thatcher was better. Dave is working at the No. 1, has a good job, likes it fine. B-Bell [Bluebell mine] may start soon and may not. Mr. Fowler is in New York now. Suppose you are busy getting ready to plant flowers. Every one is here. Hope you are both fine. I have a cold. Dan sends regards. By by Mrs. O. Write soon.
McSellar [?]

I don’t know who the photographer was, but he or she is easily identified by their white captions and habit of writing lower case E’s in upper case. Other examples of their work can be found of Silverton, Procter, and Robson.

The Highland mine photo seen here appears on page 1 of High Grade and Hot Springs, as does another image by the same photographer of the No. 1 mine (p. 9) and one of the Highland mill (p. 14).

This is a different mystery photographer than the one I’ve discussed in a previous post, although both wrote captions in white and both operated in smaller towns in the Kootenays.

Updated Aug. 8, 2021 to add Mark Stainer’s comments on the fate of the Anglo-American Hotel.

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Judy Hawes
Judy Hawes
Nov 19, 2022

Is it possible that the signature on the 1915 Highland Mine postcard is not McSellar, but McLellan? There have been McLellans in and around Ainsworth over the years since the 1890s. William Alfred McLellan and his wife Margaret had a son who was named Donald but known as Dan, born February 22, 1890; in November 1910 Dan married Maude Sherraden. John McLellan and his wife Mary Jane (nee Lingard) had a son Dave, born April 28, 1893, who married Irmgard Dedolph on September 7, 1923. Judy Hawes

Greg Nesteroff
Greg Nesteroff
Nov 22, 2022
Replying to

Oh, very likely! Here is what the signature looks like.


Ann Van Dielen
Ann Van Dielen
Mar 07, 2022

Love you stories!


My family had that hotel for a bit ( 1960~). I remember hot the springs. I think we had a speedboat called a "valero" there also. The biggest thing I remember is that lake if bloody COLD.


My McLellan forefathers migrated from Nova Scotia to Pilot Bay where two of my Great Aunts were born in 1897 (twins) then the family moved to Ainsworth where two more of my Great Aunts were born 1899 and 1902 before moving to Kaslo. I am trying to find an Alfred McLellan M. to Margaret McLellan lived in Pilot Bay and Ainsworth same time as my G.Grand parents John and Mary Jane McLellan, I believe they were cousins...

Alfred is William Alfred McLellan M. to Margaret Ellen Stewart both of Nova Scotia...

John MacPherson
John MacPherson
Mar 07, 2022
Replying to

Margaret Ellen Stewart married Alfred McLellan February 06, 1886, Newport, Hants, Nova Scotia, Canada... Moved to Pilot Bay with the family of my GGrandfather John McLellan from Nova Scotia... Moved to Ainsworth around 1897 where Great Aunts Jessie Martin McLellan and Mary Jane McLellan were born before moving to Kaslo..

Alfred and Margaret moved to Morrisey BC where Alfred died in June 01, 1905, Margaret moved backed to Pilot Bay for a short time before moving to Nelson, where she passed February 28, 1946...


Hi Greg

My name is Mark Stainer, Mavis was my mom. The Anglo American was purchased by my grandfather along with the store and our family home in Ainsworth. As the story goes the store, hotel, house and stables were all bought as part of a package. I don’t know when my grandfather tore it down but apparently he used the lumber to add two bedrooms to the upstairs of the Fletcher house. Other parts were also repurposed, windows were used on the front and back porch of the house, doors were used in different parts of the house, posts from the porch of the hotel were used in the original store renovation.

Hope this is helpful.


Greg Nesteroff
Greg Nesteroff
Aug 09, 2021
Replying to

Fantastic! Thanks Mark. I will add this.

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