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Bowden Hotel property's future in limbo

Mayor says RCMP and Red Deer County officials are investigating the New Year's Day blaze that destroyed the landmark
MVT Bowden Hotel Ruins steps
The front of the once proud Bowden Hotel is in ruins after the historic structure was bulldozed following the fire on Jan. 1. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

BOWDEN — Town council is in limbo when it comes to the Bowden Hotel property while it awaits the outcome of investigations into a fire that destroyed the building, mayor Robb Stuart says. 

The hotel, which stood for decades at the corner of Highway 2A and 20th Avenue, caught fire on New Year’s Day, just after midnight.  

Fire crews from Olds, Innisfail and Red Deer County fought the fire for about 15 hours, but were unable to save it. 

The building, originally built in 1904, suffered a fire in 1925 and was rebuilt. It reopened in 1930 but had been vacant since about 2015. 

During an interview with The Albertan, Stuart said RCMP and Red Deer County officials are still investigating the blaze. 

Chief administrative officer Greg Skotheim said during council’s Jan. 10 meeting that he is obtaining a quote for demolition of the remaining rubble of the hotel from one firm. He then intends to obtain quotes from other interested firms. 

He suggested the municipality may need to make allowance for Bowden Hotel-related costs as it hammers out its 2022 budget in the coming weeks and months, in case it does have to incur certain costs. 

“It’s going be a hazard. It’s maybe something that we talk about at budget and we decide where we’re going to go," Skotheim said.  

“Maybe we do clean it up and then apply to the government for funding.” 

Some councillors wondered whether the demolition quotes would include the restaurant building located just east of the hotel site. 

Stuart said that’s a possibility, but it’s pretty complicated, because town officials don’t know exactly who owned the hotel and thus who had title to it and whether that title extends to the restaurant. 

He said council has been trying for 10 or 12 years to find out who owns the hotel property. 

“So until we know that, we can get all the quotes we want, but nothing’s going to happen until we know exactly what we’re doing,” he said. 

“I met with the province back when the NDP was running it. They took their lien off of it. But since then, nothing’s been done. We’re still trying to track out who owns it. We know CRA, Canada Revenue, has a lien on it.” 

"I hope you all know that we had a fire,” Skotheim said as he introduced the topic during the Jan. 10 meeting, sparking loud laughter. 

“I saw that,” Coun. Sandy Gamble said, spurring more laughter. 

Gamble said she felt badly for all those fighting the fire because it was extremely cold that night and the following day. 

Skotheim agreed. 

Town of Bowden officials have written a letter of thanks to all those involved with fighting the fire, including Menno Sietzema, a town public works supervisor, “just thanking them for a tremendous job," he said.

“Everything was safe and it worked out well,” he added. 

Skotheim said a fence erected around the site to keep people safe appears to be doing its job although some people are still looking for mementos of the building. 

“I think sadly we’re doing all the right things at this point. That’s all we can do,” Coun. Wayne Milaney said.