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Lost buildings: Silver Ledge Hotel

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Although I’m rarely on the cutting edge of technology, I was the first person I knew to own a digital camera, purchased directly from Kodak in February 2000. It was a DC280 Zoom and produced 2 Megapixel images, of which I could squeeze about 35 onto the 8 MB card that came with it.

The batteries required constant recharging, and since my computer lacked a USB port, it took half an hour or more to download a batch of pictures via serial port, even though the files weren’t very big. The camera also cost almost $1,500.

But it was glorious. Not having to develop a roll of film and be disappointed with a pile of blurry prints? Priceless.

I began taking pictures of old buildings in West Kootenay/Boundary. Eighteen years later, I’m surprised at how many of them no longer exist. I wasn’t photographing ones that I thought were endangered, yet so many fell victim to fire and the wrecking ball. Not all were especially noteworthy, but the simple fact they are no longer around makes the pictures historically interesting.

I’m going to post some of these photos, beginning with one of the most tragic losses: the Silver Ledge Hotel in Ainsworth Hot Springs, which burned in June 2010. The fire was likely deliberately set, and a man stood trial for arson, but was acquitted.

Where the Silver Ledge once stood, the Vancouver House was built in 1891, but it was destroyed five years later in a fire that consumed much of the town. It was rebuilt in 1896 by A.E. McKinnon as the McKinnon House and sold the following year to Grant King, for whom it was renamed. A new wing was added in 1912.

From 1932 to 1949 it was operated by Nelson contractor John Burns and known as the Silver Ledge Hotel. E.L. Zinc and Lead then leased it as a bunkhouse for about a year, after which it lay vacant until being purchased in 1964 by two Alberta families as a holiday retreat. In 1975-76, Lawrie Duff began an extensive renovation and opened the building in the summer as a museum.

I was only ever inside twice, including Aug. 15, 2001, when I took the photos seen below. I’m not sure how many of the artifacts, photos, and pieces of antique furniture were still in the building when it burned.

I backed these photos up onto an archaic Syquest disc — my hard drive only had 4 GB — but was unable to access them once the drive failed. Years later I sent the discs to someone in Connecticut, who transferred them onto CD. I was amazed at the images that re-emerged, including these ones. Lost photos of a lost building!

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