As a demolition crew pulls back layers of the old pub and hotel in New Hazelton, more memories emerge.
Mike Sawyer bought the building on the highway and the lot behind it recently and has big plans for the space.
He will be fully renovating the building, slightly redesigning it, putting in new windows and upgrading the plumbing and electrical.
Sawyer said the current plan is to put some form of retail space on the main floor and there is talk of making it a community-owned retail outlet.
The upper floor will be turned into office spaces as there are currently no professional office spaces available in the Hazeltons right now.
Sawyer says he also has conceptual approval from the District of New Hazelton to build a 16-unit low-income apartment building.
He said as demolition is happening and the boarded up building is seeing light, residents are taking note.
“That bar and hotel was a central focus in the town for many years. There are a lot of residents who have strong emotional memories, good or bad of the bar. A lot of people have been coming by and taking photographs and telling stories,” he said.
Ethel Christianson, who ran the hotel and bar from 1948 to 1972 isn’t bothered that it is being repurposed.
It was built in 1933 on 11th Avenue before it was moved to 10th Avenue in 1941.
There were only six hotel rooms on the second floor when Christianson and her husband took it over from her in-laws. It also did not have power or hot running water at the time. In 1952, the power came in and they expanded to have 16 hotel rooms and two bars.
She said there were four different owners after they sold it.
It has been sitting, boarded up for several years.
“Once I got out of it, I didn’t want anything more to do with it. My husband was beginning to become an alcoholic because he couldn’t stand it in there without drinking with the rest of them. Once I got him out of there, thank God, we were okay.”
Christianson said they got to travel all over the north, Europe and the U.S. once the business sold.
“Whatever the new owner does, I want them to make it. Whatever they change it into, I hope it turns out for them,” she said.
The demolition side of things has started and Sawyer is hoping everything will be done by late spring of next year.
“We plan to own and operate it once it’s finished. With respect to the low-income housing part of the project, we’d like to find a local non-profit group that focuses on social housing to partner with. Our preference is not to run it but if we can’t find that partner we would. We would also be open to selling that building to them.”
“My view is that Hazelton is going to come into much better times than they have over the last 15 years. We are trying to do something with the building that is good for the community. It was a bar and we could have turned it back into a bar but in our assessment having another bar in the community wasn’t beneficial. We are looking for ways to put a little breeze in the town sales, in terms of new development and economic opportunities.”
“Our primary goal is do something that doesn’t lose us money but helps the community.”