|Fifty years after it rose on south side of 118th Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets, the Cromdale Hotel has fallen on hard times and could well be on its last legs. Late last month, Capital Health declared part of the hotel unfit for people to live in, ordered tenants to vacate and boarded up a wing of the building. |
A Capital Health spokesperson says they are working with the hotel's owners to resolve the problems. But some neighbours, long pushing for the hotel to be cleaned up or closed, hope the order is the beginning of the end for the northeast Edmonton landmark.
The Cromdale, derelict and dilapidated that it is now, holds fond memories for me. Located across the street from what was then the Cromdale Campus of Grant MacEwan Community College, it became a favoured watering hole for me and my fellow journalism students in the Class of 1980.
It was that way for the working class citizens that called the area home right from the hotels beginnings in the early 1950s. Don Johnson, Pat Gianonne and J.B. Starky were the owners and builders of the $450,000 hotel, which opened in October 1954.
The Edmonton Journal called the original three-storey brick and steel structure smart and reported it took the owners and contractor Andy Barrie six months to build it. The new hotel featured 44 guestrooms as well as a banquet room, mens and womens beverage rooms and a coffee shop. Each of the 44 rooms has a three-piece bathroom, a telephone, and a soft, luxurious wall-to-wall carpet, the paper reported in its November 3rd edition.
Television had just arrived in Edmonton in the form of CFRN and the article reported that television sets soon will be installed in the rooms. Although most of the guestrooms contained one double bed, some had twin beds. They all sported soft pastel decorations and each room is brightened by a large window.
The twin beverage rooms got the most early notice, with their luxurious drapes, foam rubber seats, rubber tile floors trimmed in Boltawall, a shiny mahogany finish, and large murals, designed by two University of Alberta students.
The article explained how Eunice Wetter and Mary Hallett, both originally from the Castor area, had studied painting and drawing at the U of As Fine Arts department. In the womens lounge, The Dancers, by Miss Hallett, serves to emphasize the rhythmic movement of such a scene, the story reported. Its companion panel The Midway, by Miss Wetter, has a rhythm that compliments that of The Dancers. Bright spots of color are placed together in a design that adds to the atmosphere of gaiety.
The story also reported that, in the mens lounge, six mural panels had been completed, symbolizing different sports. The Boxer, The Horse Race, two track and field panels, The Hockey Game and The Rugby Players used action and force to great effect.
The basement banquet room had seating for nearly 100 and was serviced a dumb waiter, which lowered food from the kitchen, the article said. A main floor coffee shop, with seating for 50 patrons, provided light snacks and full course meals, prepared by Frank Capello, who had been a cook in Edmonton for 40 years.
Early photographs show the Cromdale Hotel was a smart and snappy looking little building, faced with brick and adorned with stylish signs. The sign above the front entrance, with Cromdale written in script, had some of the flourish of the Moderne or art deco style, while a painted sign on the western flank of the uppermost wall declared Cromdale Hotel. That painted sign is still visible today.
The hotel quickly became a favourite of the beer quaffing crowd and was for a long while the sales champion for Alberta breweries. Business was so good that a hundred foot expansion on the western side, now covered with a sort of cheese grater front and the big letters that spell out CROMDALE, was completed in the 1960s.
Even a late 1980s fire at the adjacent Wee Book Inn at the corner of 118th Avenue and 82nd Street, couldnt destroy the Cromdale. It was, after all, made of brick and steel.
The sad downward spiral of the hotel is a case study in how the self-esteem of a neighbourhood can be so negatively affected by an ailing landmark building. The Parkdale-Cromdale Community League has fought long and hard to get the hotel cleaned up and now, at long last, their wish may be granted.
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