The Pacific Hotel, Columbia BC

By Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

The discovery of copper ore at Phoenix and Deadwood, arrival of the railroad and founding of smelting works brought a huge influx of miners, prospectors, farmers, labourers and entrepreneurs to the Boundary between 1895 and 1899. Businesses sprung up to serve the burgeoning industries and population, including hotels, saloons, restaurants and various shops. One such establishment was the Pacific Hotel, which served commercial, mining and railway men and other travellers for 19 years until its fortunes waned with changing times. This article takes a look at the once-iconic hotel, its proprietors and operation, and its untimely demise.    

“The Most Comfortable House in the Boundary…”

The Pacific Hotel was a business venture of John J. McIntosh (1866-?). McIntosh’s origins are obscure; he may have hailed from Ontario or the Maritimes. What is known is that he settled in the Town of Upper Grand Forks in 1896 and prospected, staked and developed a series of claims on Hardy Mountain.[1] Prompted by the imminent arrival of the CPR and the flood of travellers it would bring, McIntosh constructed a new hotel on the corner of Railway Street and Minto Avenue (today Donaldson Drive and 76th Avenue) in May 1898.[2] In June he received a hotel license[3] and in July opened its doors for business.[4]  

Original Pacific Hotel structure, Grand Forks Sun, August 15, 1905.

Christened the ‘Pacific’ after the railway, the new hotel was an impressive three-story 33’ x 60’ frame structure with wood foundation, full heating and electric system, clapboard siding and dormered mansard roof.[5] The main floor featured a large, first-class dining room with adjoining bar and rear kitchen. It had accommodations for 25 guests, with 10 spacious suites with hot and cold baths on the second floor, 12 smaller rooms on the third floor and sample rooms for commercial travellers.[6] Newly furnished and decorated throughout, it was billed the “Most Comfortable House in the Boundary.”[7]

Along with opening the hotel, McIntosh petitioned for the incorporation of Upper Grand Forks as the City of Columbia in April 1899[8] and was twice elected alderman in January 1900 and January 1902.[9] He was also active on the Columbia Liberal Association executive.[10] His involvement in local politics served him well, enabling him to secure the Pacific as a stop for all stage lines running into the Boundary in April 1899.[11] Then, in January 1900, McIntosh and councilmen successfully lobbied the CPR to build its station at Columbia instead of Grand Forks,[12] with all passenger traffic routed to the depot built opposite the Pacific. This assured the hotel a steady business, with weary train passengers arriving just steps away.

Insurance map showing Pacific Hotel across from C.P.R. Passenger Station in Columbia. Library & Archives Canada.

McIntosh leased the Pacific to a succession of proprietors who ran its day-to-day operations including: Columbia liquor merchant John C. Douglas from July to December 1898;[13] ex-Province Hotel managers Alexander W. Fraser of Grand Forks and Joseph E. Stark of Pullman, WA from February to April 1899;[14] ex-Arlington Hotel owner John Haverty of Trail from November 1901 to May 1902;[15] electrician Peter D. and Annie McDonald of Trail from June to September 1902, then (dining room) September 1902 to February 1903;[16] ex-Pacific chef William W. Shaw (dining room) from March to October 1903;[17] Mrs. W.E. Nichols and Miss Liddy L. Bailey of Summit City (suites) from September 1902 to September 1903;[18] Thomas and Harriet Walker of Midway from October 1903 to July 1904;[19] ex-VV&E conductor Charles V. Sloggy and ex-Victoria Hotel employee Thomas Donald, both of Grand Forks, from July to September 1904;[20] Sloggy again from September 1904 to May 1905;[21] and McDonald again from May to November 1905.[22] 

Throughout this period, the hotel did a splendid business in the west end of Grand Forks (as Columbia was known after its civic amalgamation with Grand Forks in 1903[23]), catering to thousands of commercial, mining and railway men and other CPR travellers to the Boundary. First-class suites were offered at $1.50 to $2 per day, while room and board was offered to long-term guests, often local workmen, at special rates of $7 to $10 per week.[24] In the sample rooms, travelling salesmen set out their merchandise for local merchants to view and inspect. The dining room and grill offered full-course cuisine and short orders at all hours, with special six o’clock chicken dinners held each Sunday, all prepared by the kitchen chef using the best to be found in the markets.[25] The main and assistant bartenders at the bar served up the choicest brands of wines, liquors and cigars to thirsty patrons.[26] Special events were also hosted, including business meetings, teas, dances and banquets. 

Pacific Hotel advertisement, Grand Forks Sun, July 24, 1903.

Three main competitors emerged in the west end at this time: the Queen’s Hotel (est. 1897), Columbia Hotel (est. 1899) and C.P.R. Hotel (est. 1902).[27] Others came and went, such as the Hotel Canada (est. 1898-1902), St. Johns Hotel (est. 1899-1901), Hotel Escalet (est. 1900-1901) and Golden Bar Hotel (est. 1900-1901).[28] However, none matched the Pacific in terms of quality, size nor proximity to railway stations. Indeed, proprietor C.V. Sloggy reported in 1904 that “every room in the house is filled nightly.”[29]

Meanwhile, John J. McIntosh continued to prospect, locating 56 square miles of coal claims near Morrissey in East Kootenay on behalf of a Grand Forks consortium in April 1903.[30] He spent most of the next year in Victoria, lobbying provincial authorities for licenses, and in Spokane, buying up adjacent claims from claimholders.[31] By May 1904, he helped form the Southeast Kootenay Coal & Coke Company[32] and moved to the Coast to promote the mine, returning to Grand Forks only occasionally.[33] Finally, in November 1905, he sold the Pacific to exclusively pursue coal development.[34] 

Front-page headline of Pacific Hotel sale. Grand Forks Sun, November 21, 1905.

“A Good Business to be Done…”

The buyer of the Hotel was Charles B. Peterson (1869-1943). Born in Sweden, Peterson immigrated to Canada in 1893, initially settling in West Kootenay before establishing a ranch at Princeton in 1898.[35] That year, he also built the Square Hotel on Bridge Street (now Market Avenue) in Grand Forks.[36] Then in 1903, he acquired the Owl Saloon and Clarendon Restaurant down the street with John Lind.[37] And in 1905, he built the Great Northern Hotel in Hedley with his brother John.[38] The Grand Forks interests were run by Lind and the Hedley business by his brother while Charles operated his ranch in the Similkameen.[39]

On purchasing the Pacific, Peterson hired Columbia Hotel owner Gus Eastman to manage it, whereupon Eastman closed down the Columbia and Peterson sold the Square to John Lind.[40] By April 1907, Eastman had departed and Peterson relocated from Princeton with his family to manage the hotel personally,[41] selling his Hedley interest to his brother.[42] (Incidentally and confusingly, Eastman bought the Queen’s Hotel with Charles ‘E.’ Peterson in 1910).

When the June 1911 census was taken, the family and staff at the Pacific Hotel were listed as follows: hotelkeeper Charles B. Peterson (41), wife Martha (29), sons Carl J. (11), Peter (7) and Valdemar (2), daughters Helen (9) and Lottie (8), waitress Annie Berquist (34), bartender William Doer (33) and cook Jim Sing (40).[43]  

From 1905 to 1913, the Pacific continued to do a solid business, much as it had before, serving the needs of weary, hungry and thirsty railway travellers and locals. Most patrons were fine, upstanding members of society, but as with many hotels and saloons, there were a few notorious exceptions.   

In August 1908, an elderly man arrived at the hotel and had two boxes carted to his room; that night he emptied their contents, 175 lbs. of opium, into gunnysacks, wheelbarrowed them half a mile west to the GNR Weston station and placed them aboard railcars bound for Washington; he then quietly departed the hotel, leaving only the empty boxes in his room to tell the tale.[44] Also, in November 1908, a young man forged the signature of the Granby Consolidated treasurer to a $58 bank cheque and cashed it with the Pacific night clerk; minutes later the clerk discovered the forgery and ran after him, netting the man in a dramatic capture.[45] Then, in September 1910, a boarder named Connors or O’Conner ransacked the rooms at the hotel, making off with a watch, safety razor and other small items before he was apprehended trying to dispose of them.[46]  This was not the first such incident, the Pacific having been ransacked in September 1902 by a young boarder named Delary, who made off with $130 while leaving a $60 board bill.[47]    

Pacific Hotel in 1912 with building addition and other improvements. Boundary Museum Society, 1987-024-001.

During this period, Peterson made a number of significant improvements to the hotel. In June 1907, he had the building raised to a higher grade and a stone foundation constructed under it.[48] Also, a handsome two-storey verandah was added to the front façade.[49] In March 1912, he began clearing ground for a new addition, with Lutley & Galipeau pouring a concrete foundation in April and day labour erecting a three-storey 30’ x 20’ adjoining structure in May.[50] This added ten more rooms, increasing hotel capacity to 35 guests. Finally, from May to October 1913, he hired J.F. Kraus to install a new hot water heating plant, the most modern in the city with radiators in every room, at a cost of $2700.[51] 

By now, the Pacific was one of only two hotels remaining in the west end, the C.P.R. Hotel having closed its doors in December 1912, while the Queen’s Hotel was closed in November 1912 when its owner, ex-Pacific Hotel proprietor P.D. MacDonald, built the new Hotel Colin a block west on Government Avenue opposite the GNR Weston station.[52] No doubt, these developments factored into Peterson’s decision to complete some of his later upgrades. 

However, even as these upgrades were underway, events were in play that would have devastating consequences for the Pacific. In June 1912, an agreement was reached between the city, CPR and KVR making Grand Forks a joint terminal and divisional point for each railway, with a joint passenger depot to be established at the KVR station on Third Street.[53] The joint station was not immediately opened, as the Board of Railway Commissioners took almost a year to consider it.[54] However, once approved in April 1913, the CPR routed all passenger traffic to its downtown station first, and only then back out to its west end depot.

With the launch of the new CPR station, the Pacific emptied of guests almost overnight, as most railway travellers now opted to disembark downtown. This left Peterson with dramatically reduced revenue to pay off his expensive upgrades. Over the next three years, he struggled to keep the hotel afloat. To help subsidize it, he opened an autobus service, shuttling passengers between city trains and hotels.[55] However, by late 1916, the Pacific was insolvent: Peterson discontinued business and did not renew its license; in January 1917 the hotel office equipment and furnishings were seized by creditors and sold by public auction.[56]

                                                   Figure 6: Pacific Hotel, circa 1912-1913, Boundary Museum Society.

Sold (And Resold) For Taxes

Charles B. Peterson and family continued to reside in the Pacific building for another nine months. In May 1917, he had an opportunity to sell the hotel building to the Doukhobor communal organization, the ‘Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood’, but evidently the deal fell through.[57]

In June 1917, Peterson tried leasing it to Sam Mathews and Frank Peterson of Hedley, whose Great Northern Hotel (renamed from the Hotel Colin in February 1913) was destroyed by fire;[58] however, their application to transfer their license to the Pacific failed when west end residents signed a mass petition against it.[59] It seems that a hotel and bar were no longer seen as welcome in the now largely residential neighbourhood. By September, the property was sold by the City of Grand Forks for delinquent taxes.[60] Thereafter, the Petersons returned to their ranch in Princeton.

The tax purchaser of the Pacific building in September 1917 was Dr. William O. Rose (1870-1936). Born in Prince Edward Island and a graduate of McGill in medicine, Rose settled in Nelson in 1899 as the city’s medical doctor and was active in civic affairs, serving as alderman and mayor before being elected to the British Columbia Legislature in 1916 and 1920.[61]

There is no indication that Dr. Rose actually occupied or used the Pacific building. Nonetheless, after two years of ownership, there were $1200 of taxes, water and light arrears owing against it, and it was once again sold for taxes, this time to the city, in September 1919.[62] In January 1920, Dr. Rose sought to redeem the property prior its registration with the city; however, he failed to pay the arrears within the time allotted by council.[63]

Over the next four years, the Pacific building largely stood vacant and unused.[64] In December 1921, an enquiry was made to lease it by Robert Grant of Vancouver, which council offered to rent for $50 a month, but no deal materialized.[65] Later that month, council moved to board up its windows.[66] In July 1922, the city took out a $1000 insurance policy on the building and heating plant.[67] Then, in October 1922, council received an offer to purchase it for $1000 or rent it for five years at $100 a year, however, nothing more came of it.[68]      

Tender for Sale and Removal

In April 1923, the city received an offer from local plumber J.H. Mathews to buy the Pacific’s heating plant for $325.[69] On considering the offer, council decided instead to sell the hotel, either intact or its heating system in place, by tender in May.[70] At least one offer was received, but was rejected by the city.[71]

Figure 7: Pacific Hotel Tender Notice, Grand Forks Sun, 1923.05.18.

In September 1923, council accepted the offer of Noble Binns, mayor of Trail, to purchase the heating plant for $500 for use in that city’s Knights of Pythias lodge.[72] A month later, in October, the offer of Wasyl W. Lazareff to purchase the building for $225 was accepted on condition that upon payment in full, it be removed within 60 days.[73] Outbuildings in connection with the hotel were sold separately.[74]

Lazareff was Secretary-Treasurer of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Ltd. branch office in Trail, and managed a fuel supply and construction business on its behalf in that city since 1914.[75] This was not the first time that Lazareff and the Community purchased and tore down a Boundary hotel for its salvage lumber, having done so twice in 1920 with the Granby Hotel and Deane Hotel of Phoenix.[76]

For the Community, the salvage of the Pacific Hotel was particularly lucrative. The building contained some 50,000 board feet of lumber, which the Community purchased for $4.50 per thousand board feet at a time when new lumber in the BC Interior was selling for $23 per thousand board feet.[77]

To this end, in March 1924, Lazareff paid the balance owing on the building to the city, assembled a crew of local Doukhobor workmen, and tore it down, salvaging the wood for profit.[78] By May the city board of works reported that the old Pacific hotel was removed and its site cleaned by the purchaser. In the months that followed, the wood was repurposed for a number of Doukhobor building projects in the Boundary.


From 1898 to 1917, the Pacific Hotel was a prominent fixture in West Grand Forks. Had the CPR kept the west end as its main passenger depot, it might have remained so for many decades to come. Instead, it met an ignominious end by 1923 with changing times and economic downturns. Yet despite its loss from a heritage and architectural perspective, the salvage and reuse of its building material provides an early example of local conservation and recycling. Indeed, there may be structures still standing today in Grand Forks built from the lumber of this once-proud hotel.

After Word

An earlier version of this article was published in the Grand Forks Gazette, June 2, 9 and 16, 2021. The article has also been accepted for publication in the Spring 2024 issue of the Boundary Historical Society Report.

End Notes

[1] These included the Jubilee, Lizzie, Louisa, Sultana, Maple Leaf and Pass Creek claims: The Advance, 1896.06.01 and 1897.03.29; Boundary Creek Times, 1897.03.27, 1899.06.10 and 1899.06.24; Grand Forks Miner, 1897.03.27, 1897.03.17, 1898.05.21 and 1898.12.24; Cascade Record, 1899.04.22.

[2] Grand Forks Miner, 1898.05.21; The Advance, 1898.06.06; The Review, 1899.04.01; Fire Insurance Plan – Grand Forks, including Columbia, British Columbia, June 1912 (Chas E. Goad Co).

[3] The Advance, 1898.06.20; The Grand Forks Miner, 1898.06.19.

[4] Supra, note 2.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Photo, Grand Forks Sun, 05.08.15; Hotels and Boarding Houses on the Line of the Canadian Pacific Railway (Canadian Pacific Railway Co., 1912) at 2.

[7] The Review, 1899.04.01.

[8] British Columbia Gazette, Vol. 39, No. 12, 1899.03.23 at 439; Columbia Review, 1899.04.08; British Columbia Order-in-Council No. 0273 dated 1899.05.01.

[9] British Columbia Gazette, Vol. 40, No.42, 1900.01.25 at 196 and Vol. 42, No. 5, 1902.01.30 at 162; Grand Forks Sun, 1902.01.13; Vancouver Daily World, 1902.01.14; The Grand Forks Miner, 1900.05.19.

[10] Grand Forks Sun, 1920.01.02.

[11] Supra, note 7.

[12] Boundary Creek Times, 1899.12.16; Phoenix Pioneer, 1900.01.06 and 1900.03.17; Cascade Record, 1900.01.06.

[13] Grand Forks Sun, 1905.03.24.

[14] Columbia Review, 1899.03.11, 1899.03.18 and 1899.04.01.

[15] Evening World, 1901.11.20; Grand Forks Sun, 1902.01.21 to 1902.04.17.

[16] Grand Forks Sun, 1902.06.03, 1902.09.01 and 1903.02.27.

[17] Grand Forks Sun, 1903.02.27 and 1903.03.06.

[18] Grand Forks Sun, 1902.09.01 to 1903.09.29 and 1903.10.06.

[19] Grand Forks Sun, 1903-10-16, 1903.03.11 and 1904.07.08.

[20] Grand Forks Sun, 1904.07.08 to 1904.09.13; Grand Forks Gazette, 1963.03.07 and 1964.07.08.

[21] Grand Forks Sun, 1904.09.13 to 1905.05.16.

[22] Grand Forks Sun, 1905.05.16 to 1905.11.21.

[23] Grand Forks And Columbia Amalgamation Act, 1902 (British Columbia).

[24] Grand Forks Sun, 1902.09.01 to 1903.09.29; Hotels and Boarding Houses on the Line of the Canadian Pacific Railway (Canadian Pacific Railway Co., 1912) at 2.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Columbia Review, 1899.03.11, 1899.03.18 and 1899.04.01; Grand Forks Sun, 1902.01.21 to 1905.11.21.

[27] Boundary Creek Times, 1897.11.20 and 1897.12.18; The Williams’ Official British Columbia Directory (R.T. Williams, 1899); Henderson’s British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory (L.G. Henderson), 1899-1900, 1900-1901, 1901, 1902, 1903, 1904. 

[28] Ibid.

[29] Grand Forks Sun, 1904.08.19 and 1904.09.13.

[30] Grand Forks Sun, 1903.04.21 and 1903.04.28.

[31] Grand Forks Sun, 1903.07.14, 1903.12.22 and 1904.01.05; Spokane Press, 1904.07.16.

[32] Grand Forks Sun, 1904.03.02, 1904.05.17 and 1904.08.09.

[33] Grand Forks Sun, 1904.10.19, 1905.03.28, 1905.05.02, 1905.06.16 and 1905.06.20.

[34] The $5,000.00 realty deal was put through by Grand Forks real estate dealer, Neil McCallum with Charles B. Peterson taking possession on December 1, 1905. Upon receiving full payment, McIntosh transferred the liquor license to Peterson on June 15, 1906: Grand Forks Sun, 1905.11.21, 1905.12.05 and 1906.06.15; Grand Forks Gazette, 1906.06.16.

[35] The Province, 1943.08.04.

[36] Grand Forks Miner, 1898.11.12.

[37] Grand Forks Sun, 1903.12.11 and 1904.01.15.

[38] Hedley Gazette, 1905.06.01.

[39] Grand Forks Sun, 1902.10.10, 1902.10.21, 1902.12.02, 1903.04.17 and 1905.08.22; Similkameen Star, 1903.09.26.

[40] Supra, note 34.

[41] Grand Forks Sun, 1907.04.26.

[42] Hedley Gazette, 1907.08.08 and 1907.09.19.

[43] 1911 Canada Census, District No. 9 (Kootenay), Sub-District No. 32 (Grand Forks), page 6.

[44] Grand Forks Sun, 1908.08.07.

[45] Grand Forks Sun, 1908.11.20.

[46] Grand Forks Sun, 1910.07.10; Grand Forks Gazette, 1910.07.19.

[47] Grand Forks Sun, 1902.07.29.

[48] Grand Forks Sun, 1907.06.28.

[49] Photo,Boundary Museum Society. [Item Number]

[50] Grand Forks Sun, 1912.03.08, 1912.04.12 and 1912.05.24; Grand Forks Gazette, 1952.05.08 and 1962.04.19; Grand Forks Fire Insurance Plan, June 1912, supra, note 2; Grand Forks Gazette, 1912.04.20, 1912.05.25, 1912.06.29.

[51] Grand Forks Sun, 1913.04.04, 1913.10.10 and 1913.10.17.

[52] Grand Forks Sun, 1907.04.12, 1907.11.15 and 1908.06.12. The C.P.R. Hotel does not appear in local newspaper advertisements and civic directories after December 1912.

[53] Grand Forks Sun, 1912.06.21.

[54] Grand Forks Sun, 1913.04.11.

[55] Grand Forks Sun, 1916.04.14.

[56] Grand Forks Sun, 1917.01.19 and 1917.01.26; Grand Forks Gazette, 1917.01.20.

[57] Greenwood Ledge, 1917.05.10. It is unclear whether the Doukhobors were interested in the hotel for its salvage value or perhaps as a warehouse building; the Christian Community already had a warehouse down the street from the Pacific and a second one near the GNR Weston station, two blocks away.

[58] Grand Forks Sun, 1912.11.29, 1913.02.14 and 1917.05.18.

[59] Grand Forks Sun, 1917.06.15; Grand Forks Gazette, 1917.06.06, 1917.06.08, 1917.06.22, 1917.06.29 and 1917.07.13.

[60] Grand Forks Sun, 1917.06.15, 1917.08.03, 1917.09.28 and 1918.02.22.

[61] Victoria Times Colonist, 1936.03.05; Nelson Daily News, 1936.03.05.

[62] Grand Forks Sun, 1919.10.03; Boundary Community Archives, City of Grand Forks Council Minutes, 1920.01.19; Grand Forks Gazette, 1920.01.16, 1920.01.24.

[63] Ibid.

[64] The only recorded use of the building from 1919 to 1923 was to feed Cascade Electric Power Company work crews in November 1919: Grand Forks Sun, 1919.11.28.

[65] Grand Forks Sun, 1921.12.02; Grand Forks Gazette, 1921.12.02, 1921.12.16.

[66] Boundary Community Archives, City of Grand Forks Council Minutes, 1921.12.29; Grand Forks Gazette, 1921.12.30.

[67] Grand Forks Sun, 1922.07.28.

[68] Boundary Community Archives, City of Grand Forks Council Minutes, 1922.10.09.

[69] Grand Forks Sun, 1923.04.13.

[70] Grand Forks Sun, 1923.05.18 and 1923.05.25; Boundary Community Archives, City of Grand Forks Council Minutes, 1923.05.14; Grand Forks Gazette, 1923.05.18 and 1923.05.23.

[71] Grand Forks Gazette, 1923.05.18.

[72] Grand Forks Sun, 1923.09.28; Grand Forks Gazette, 1923.09.28,1963.10.03 and 1968.09.25.

[73] Grand Forks Sun, 1923.10.12, 1923.10.26 and 1924.03.14.

[74] Grand Forks Gazette, 1923.12.14.

[75] The Mail Herald, November 25, 1914; Simon Fraser University, Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor, Minutes of the Meeting of the Directors of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, Limited, 1917.09.08, 1920.04.10 and 1921.03.01.

[76] Greenwood Ledge, 1920.07.29.

[77] Assuming the industry average of 6.3 board feet of structural framing materials in every square foot, then with 7,740 square feet, the Pacific Hotel held 48,762 board feet of lumber. In 1923, the average price of lumber per thousand board feet in the BC Interior was $23: G.H. Hak, On the Fringes: Capital and Labour in the Forest Economies of the Port Alberni and Prince George Districts, British Columbia, 1910-1939 (Ph.D. Thesis) (Simon Fraser University, 1986) at 30.

[78] Grand Forks Sun, 1924.03.14 and 1924.05.30.