After four decades of sitting dormant, the iconic Shaunavon Grand Hotel is poised to reclaim its title as a cornerstone of the community’s history. 

Built in 1929 by contractor Carl Kjarsgaard of Moose Jaw, this architectural gem boasted a striking two-story brick and tile structure, featuring 38 rooms equipped with hot and cold water, steam heat, and lavatories. 

Now, hope flickers as the current owner Kent Karemaker, begins a restoration project to pay homage to the building’s past while embracing a vision for the future. 

“It was happenstance," he said when asked what propelled him to purchase the vacant hotel. "I'm from B.C., and I had a lot of struggles with mental health and decided that I really just needed to leave during the pandemic. Middle of nowhere Frontier was kind of a good idea to me. I purchased a very, very cheap house that I could try my hand at restoration. So, I restored my first house and then decided I wanted something more challenging. Not quite anticipating a hotel ...  but through looking for a house I came across this." 

grand hotel inside - kk

Karemaker's first step was installing a new roof – that, paired with a sturdy foundation, have ensured the building remains watertight. He plans to retain the lath and plaster walls through careful patching where needed, to honour the integrity of the building's original design.  

Replacing the heating system will be one hefty expense down the road. However, the immediate next step is plumbing throughout the entire building.  

The rest of the work is cosmetic; applying wallpaper, shining up original hardware, and filling up the rooms with antique furniture. 

grand hotel stairs - kk

In its early years, the Grand Hotel hosted several unfortunate incidents, including a dynamite blast, a fire and three tragic murders. It was then transitioned into an apartment block known as Beverly Court but ceased operation in the late 70s.  

“It was open one month before the before the Great Depression started, the stock market crashed in '29, the worst timing possible to open a hotel, probably," said Karemaker. "And so, because of that fact, it never really saw full use. It has all the original clawfoot bathtubs and wall sinks and radiators and everything."

grand hotel old paperwork

Beyond its function as a hotel, he foresees the Grand Hotel as a catalyst for drawing tourists to Shaunavon and breathing new life into the local tourism scene. Karemaker envisions the space as a potential filming location and as a pseudo venue for special events such as weddings and graduations.

"Tourism is one of those wonderful industries that benefits whole communities," he said. "If people are coming to this hotel, they're not just going to sit in the room, they're going to want to go out for dinners or to fill up their gas tanks, they're going to want to check out local stores. My hope is that ... we can all sort of work together to create a destination for tourism."

While his aspirations could take years to come to fruition, the project is a testament to the power of community, heritage, and a bygone era. Keep up with the progress of the Grand Hotel restoration through the Facebook page here.

grand hotel - gchccPhoto of the Grand Hotel in its prime, via the Shaunavon Grand Coteau Heritage and Cultural Centre