A trade token from the Hotel Reco in Sandon sold recently on eBay for $610 Cdn.
While the token, “good for one cigar,” is hard to come by, the cachet associated with Sandon likely motivated the bidders to drive up the price more than its actual rarity.
There were actually four hotels named the Reco. The token is from either the second or the third.
We know little about the first one, which also operated in Sandon, and took its name from a prosperous mine in the region, originally called the Ruceau after its co-discoverer, mining expert Louis von Ruceau.
John Morgan Harris and Fred T. Kelly acquired the claim in 1892 and changed its name to Reco. It may or may not have been coincidental that rico means “wealthy” in Spanish.
The mine also loaned its name to Sandon’s original main street, Reco Avenue. The first Reco Hotel earned a few fleeting mentions in the local newspapers in 1897, but there was no indication who its proprietor was.
In early 1898, however, Harris and Kelly bought Black’s Hotel from Ira Black and changed its name to the Reco. The four-storey building had opened on New Year’s Day 1897 and was billed as “unquestionably the largest and best appointed” hotel in the Kootenay. While that claim is debatable, it did have 45 rooms.
The first Reco Hotel closed at about the same time the second one began operating. Did Harris and Kelly buy it and close so they could have exclusive use of the name?
The second Reco Hotel is seen between 1898 and 1900 in a detail from a Richard Trueman photo. (City of Vancouver Archives CVA 2-33)
The second Reco Hotel was short-lived as well: it was a casualty of the May 1900 fire that destroyed most of Sandon’s business district. But Harris converted one of the surviving buildings, a livery stable, into a new hotel.
“The new Reco is a far better hotel than the old one,” he insisted when it opened less than four months later. “It may not have accommodation for quite as many guests, but will certainly be more comfortable and convenient.”
It did, at least, survive much longer. When Sandon’s initial boom died down, Harris leased the business to a series of proprietors, although it was closed for several extended periods.
By the 1940s, it was the last hotel in Sandon, still operated by Harris and his wife Alma, who lived in the building and also ran a small store there during the Japanese-Canadian internment years.
Harris died in 1953. The following year Alma closed the hotel and in 1955 the building was badly undermined by a washout that also damaged many other surviving structures. After selling all the furnishings, Alma opted to tear the building down.
The fourth Hotel Reco was actually in Vancouver and its connection to Sandon, if any, is unknown. The four-storey building opened on Dec. 1, 1912. Its address was variously given as 311 East Pender and 445 Gore.
Vancouver Sun, Nov. 7, 1912
The building was designed by S.B. Birds for Lee Kee, a successful businessman who ran the Lee Yuen Company. The original proprietor was Margaret L. Kennedy, previously proprietor of the Russell Rooms on East Pender.
Over the years, the building was home to several businesses owned by Chinese Canadians and Japanese Canadians. The hotel continued to operate as the Reco until 1938, then became the Hotel East, and finally the East Hotel. It’s still there and it’s on the federal heritage register. Read all about it at the Changing Vancouver blog.