A Diamond in the Rough: Kaslo Hotel
Located on Kaslo’s main drag in a beautifully restored building is the place you’ll probably want to stay if you find yourself overnighting in the sleepy haunt of Kaslo, British Columbia. Originally built in 1896, Kaslo Hotel catered to the – then – thriving community of miners, gold diggers and loggers who frequented the town. Over a hundred years later, the hotel now stands as a monument to the best of times in Kaslo’s history, as well as some of the worst.
In the early 20th century there was a decline in the forestry and mining industries in the Kootenays, which meant the hotel saw fewer and fewer guests and was eventually put out of commission. After being bought out by the township it was used during World War II to accommodate Japanese-Canadian internees as they were relocated from other parts of British Columbia. According to Kaslo Hotel’s website:
At one point, about 200 individuals, including many children, were housed in the deteriorated structure. The hotel burned and was razed in 1950.
For anyone who doesn’t know about the internment of Japanese Canadians, it’s just one of the shameful chapters in Canada’s past. Following the attack by the Japanese on American naval and army facilities at Pearl Harbor during WWII, prominent members of British Columbia’s society called for the internment of ethnic Japanese living in Canada as they feared possible reprisals, sabotage and espionage. Though there was no proof to back up these claims, the federal government supported the internment order and “22,000 Japanese Canadians (14,000 of whom were born in Canada) were interned in the 1940s for political expediency.” Eight camps were established in the interior of British Columbia in Kaslo, New Denver, Roseberry, Tashme, Lemon Creek, Slocan City, Greenwood and Sandon.
Oh, Canada… *lowers eyes and shakes head*
Though they were never a threat to national security, internees resided in these camps for up to four years and were treated rather horribly following the war, when they were given the choice of either being deported or transferred to another part of the country. Thankfully public protests led to the repeal of this barbaric legislation and in April 1949, Japanese Canadians regained their right to live anywhere in Canada. As it goes though, when it comes to politics and righting past wrongs, it took the Canadian government almost 40 years (1988) to issue a formal apology and offer compensation ($12,000) to individuals who had been wronged.
Now while this rather grotesque aspect of my nation’s past can’t be undone, I respect the places, people and establishments that recognize such offences and attempt to honor individuals who had been wronged and take steps to make the future brighter…for everyone. This can be done through reparations, reaching out to once marginalized communities or making an attempt to educate others about historical events. Kaslo has several buildings that serve as markers that tourists can visit and pay homage to the plight of Japanese Canadians, and also get an idea of the discriminatory attitude held (sadly) by a fair number of Canadians at that time.
The Kaslo Hotel is a building that, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, was reconstructed in the late 1950s and was relaunched in 1958. It was known as the Mariner Hotel until the early 80s and in 2006 the hotel closed for renovation to reopen in early 2009 under its old moniker: Kaslo Hotel.
Thank heavens it did, because it’s a most fabulous place.
A true diamond in the rough, the Kaslo Hotel sits right on the edge of the Kootenay Lake and is nestled amongst the jutting and jagged Rockies that surround the charming village. It’s a beautifully renovated and grandiose affair that could easily hold its own next to any big city hotel, with the added bonus of an amazing outdoor environment, and fantastic customer service…the type of service – in fact – you wouldn’t expect (well I didn’t at least) to find in such a small, sleepy town.
The hotel has 11 rooms that boast private balconies alongside stunning lake and mountain views. There are also three condo-suites equipped with a full kitchen and that sleep up to eight guests. Their “regular sized” rooms are so large and well-kept that guests will automatically feel they are getting an exclusive, upscale experience with all of the perks, but at a fraction of the cost (a regular room was $166/night).
Given the price/quality and location this Intolerant only has good things to say about the hotel: the room was spacious and immaculate, the beds extremely comfortable and the design a mix of contemporary and rustic. Walking out onto the balcony we were greeted with a spectacular view of the lake and the mountains, bursts of sunlight playing off the lake the whole day through. There were also charming little touches throughout the room and the hotel. Things like a cute battery-operated table lamp, meant to provide light should a power outage occur. In addition, wifi is free (bonus!) and should you find yourself in need of an extra towel or reading material there’s two baskets of supplies located just outside the elevator on the second floor.
If you prefer not to venture out for food, there’s a pub/restaurant on the main floor of the hotel that’s open from noon until late evening. It has a cozy and homespun environment where you can grab a beer, a bite to eat or a warm herbal tea while as you sit by the fire and breathe in the fresh mountain air that sweeps across Kootenay Lake.
All things considered, Kaslo Hotel is a great place to while away a couple of evenings if you find yourself amongst the Purcell Mountains. The building’s rich history plus the quaint decor, fabulous customer service and super/natural views make it the type of gem you’d hope to find amidst the deeply flawed, rugged and wild terrain of British Columbia’s interior.
The type of gem that stands as a testament to how you can turn a dark past into a bright future.
430 Front Street
PO Box 340
Kaslo, British Columbia, Canada
Toll Free: 866-823-1433