In 1901, there were 113 people living in Saskatoon. By 1906, the city's population had grown to 3,011. The city's physical development mirrored this tremendous rate of growth. The original westside downtown was located east of 1st Avenue on either side of 20th street and south to the river. By 1907-08 the focus of the downtown was edging northwards to 21st Street. James Flanagan recognized this trend and constructed his second hotel on the corner of 21st Street and 3rd Avenue in 1908.
James (Jimmy) Flanagan
Any review of the role the hotel has played in Saskatoon's history would be incomplete without recognizing the contribution of its original owner – James Flanagan.
James (Jimmy) Flanagan was born in Middlesex County, Ontario. In 1881, he moved to Manitoba where he was initially a traveling salesman and later worked as a farmhand for $1.50 per day. In August, 1902, he came to Saskatoon and became involved in the livery business. He was so successful that at one point he owned all the horses in the village. Flanagan sold the livery business in December of that year and began building the Western Hotel. Opened in the spring of 1903, the building cost $15,000 and brought Flanagan enough revenue to build an addition in 1904. He sold the Western for $85,000 in 1907 and began construction of the Flanagan Hotel. He wanted to name it the "City Hotel" but residents insisted that he name the structure after himself.
Jimmy Flanagan refused to hold any public office but he contributed to many endeavors to develop local government and took a great interest in athletics. He was a strong supporter of the Conservative Party and an admirer of Sir John A. MacDonald. The legendary qualities of Flanagan are found in the anecdotes which his contemporaries repeated with relish. One story tells how a hardware traveler complained at midnight that his room was too small. Flanagan offered to give him a large airy room — then escorted the traveler and his bags downstairs and out into the street.
Another anecdote tells how Flanagan received complaints that people walking in the corridors were making a lot of noise. A local furniture dealer quoted $600 for cork matting. Flanagan stated that he could put rubber heels on everyone in the hotel for less money – an early example of lateral thinking.
When Jimmy Flanagan died, his friends closed their businesses from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. in order to attend the largest funeral ever seen in Saskatoon. Flags were flown at half-mast on all the public buildings. St. Paul's Church was thronged with mourners, including the Mayor and City Council. Flanagan was buried in St. Paul's cemetery.
The Architect and Contractors
The Flanagan Hotel was designed by Walter W. LaChance, one of the first architects to locate in Saskatoon. LaChance designed some of the major early buildings in the city, including City Hospital, Firehall No. 1, J.F. Cairns' third store, Drinkle No. 1, the Baldwin Hotel, Oddfellows Temple and Victoria School. The Shannon Brothers were the contractors for the hotel. They had only recently arrived from Ireland and this was their first major undertaking. They were later to become major contractors in the city.
The original L-shaped building was made of solid brick and had two wings; one 115 ft. and one 130 ft. It was three storeys high and had a basement where ten travelers sample rooms were located. On the northeast corner was a turret or rotunda surrounded by a cupola.
The original design called for a bar within easy reach of 21st Street in the west wing and stairways running up towards the west and south. There was steam heating, the building was lighted by electricity and telephones were supplied by the Northern Telephone System. Every room had hot and cold water and several had their own bathrooms.
The hotel was not only equipped with every modern convenience but was also elaborately decorated and furnished. There was lavish use of marble, ornamental scrolls, crystal chandeliers, ornate moldings and friezes and intricate wrought-iron work. When the hotel opened on April 21st, 1908, the public took the opportunity to explore this symbol of Saskatoon's prosperity.
After Flanagan's death in 1909, the hotel was put up for sale by the executors, Father Vachon and Russell Wilson. Henry Haskamp bought the Flanagan in 1910 for an estimated $150,000.Haskamp had previously managed the Windsor Hotel in Humboldt and built the Manitou Hotel in Watrous in 1908. He was only 26 when he purchased the Flanagan. Harry J. Vossberg took over as General Manager in 1910, a position he held until 1945 when he sold his interest to Haskamp's son, Harry J. Haskamp.
Over the years, the Flanagan underwent many changes. In the 1920's a barbershop and a beauty parlor were opened in the hotel and remained there for many years. During the Depression, the dining room on 3rd Avenue side was closed and the area converted to rooms with bath. The lobby was rebuilt and the new corner office thus created was taken by Dr. Fred Salisbury, a dentist, who remained there until his death, thirty years later.
In 1935, the hotels were given permission to sell beer. This enabled them to spruce up the premises a little. An addition 26 ft long by 14 ft wide and one storey high was to be built to the hotel. This addition, plus alterations to the existing structure, was to create a beer parlour with serving rooms and washrooms facilities.
In 1940, the hotel was renamed the Senator, much to the disgust of the city's old-timers. In 1944, the cupola was removed. In 1948, Jack Lorman, contractor, constructed an extra suite on the ground floor at a cost of $1,000. Henry Haskamp died in November 1950 and ownership of the hotel passed to his son, Harry Haskamp and daughter, Mrs. W. B. Wickum. The next decade saw an intensive and extensive modernization of the old hotel:
- Drop ceilings with acoustical tiles were installed in 1953
- Main floor windows were filled in with glass blocks
- The lobby was altered
- New stairway and ballroom designed
- New automatic elevator was installed in 1958
- New addition constructed on the north side in 1959
- New north-side facade created east of the main entrance in 1959
In 1964, under the direction of architect C. J. Berry, the hotel's exterior was aggressively modernized, creating much of the facade we know today. Contractor W. Storey removed the top frieze on the east and north sides and filled in the second door from the lane on the east side and the angle niche in the corner of the building. The door to Dr. Salsibury's office in the tower was also filled in at the bottom and a matching window created in the top part. New panels were constructed to cover the existing glass blocks on the north side. The bottom part of the building was then covered in ceramic tile. A 28 ft. wooden screen was installed along the canopy.
In 1980, the beverage room was renovated at cost of $80,000. One large room was created by removing partitions, new front windows were installed and a new entrance created. There were some alterations in the basement in 1976 and in 1977 over a dozen bedrooms were upgraded and bathrooms installed.
In recent years, there has been a number of minor alterations and some upgrading work, including repairs caused by a small fire in room 106 on April 18th, 1987.
Although the exterior of the hotel has been altered by modernization, some of the original facade can be glimpsed underneath the paint and canopy.
The current owners, the Beavis family, have however been successful in recreating some of the original ambience of the hotel, in particular the dining room and lobby. The dining room's original high ceilings have been restored at the expense of a suspended ceiling. The lobby contains a magnificent staircase, original candlestick chandeliers and the gilded cornice molding and leaf-design frieze on the ceiling. The dining room ceiling is even more ornate with ribboned garlands and wreaths of rosettes surrounding crystal chandeliers. A Grecian frieze surrounds windows and doorways.