It’s Up to You, OK: The Allan Hotel Fire
Rossland sure has had its share of hot spots in the past. One of them was the Allan Hotel, which stood where our Subway sandwich shop now stands. The Allan was built around the mid-1890s and until its complete destruction in 1978, it buzzed with a cafe, a beer parlour, and a supper club called the Loose Cabooze. At some point there was also a cabaret called Skiers’ Den, which was open from fall to spring. That spring, some serious rock and roll was happening at the Allan because there were two rock bands staying and performing there when the fire that eventually took down the building broke out at 1:00 AM on the 9th of April 1978.
By this time, Rossland residents and local firefighters might have felt deja vu in more ways than one. In July 1973, the Allan had experienced its first fire, which began in mid-afternoon in a kitchen and was caused by an overheated deep fryer that malfunctioned due to a faulty thermostat. There were no injuries to customers or staff and there was very little damage to the hotel itself. The fire was reported quickly, but though it produced more smoke than flame, it was a harbinger of things to come.
Additionally, about two years later, on December 6 1975, the White Wolf Inn, located where the Prestige is today, suffered a disastrous fire that not only reduced the building to rubble, but claimed the lives of two men. The fire was apparently caused by a cigarette that had ignited a mattress. A long time resident discovered the fire when he awoke to find his room filled with smoke, and the alarm was sounded at about 4:45 AM. Built in 1895, around the same time as the Allan, and originally called the Central Hotel (and then the Irvin Hotel when bought by the Irvin family in the 1920s) the White Wolf had about 17 people in residence the night it burned, 15 of whom made it out with only their night clothes. The mining school had just held its graduation ceremony the day before, and the two victims of this fire, both young men in their mid-20s, were mining school students. The damage was reported to be about $180,000.
It is an unfortunate irony that one of the two rock bands staying at the Allan the night of its demise was called Ember. They had played earlier in the day, and they were the ones, who sounded the alarm when they discovered smoke in a hallway on the first floor. There was a problem, however; even though the alarm Ember sounded was relayed through the Cominco fire department system, which in turn alerted the City of Trail, City of Rossland, and the Cominco fire department itself, the hotel alarm was drowned out by the sound of the other rock band, Raven, playing to 45 people in the Loose Cabooze. Bar staff smelled something burning, and that spurred on the evacuation.
At 2:30 AM, the roof and walls of the old Allan Hotel collapsed. Fire crews worked until dawn to put out the flames.
Members of Ember were able to rescue their band equipment, but Raven was not so lucky; they lost speakers and other equipment totalling between $4000-5000.
There were no casualties in this fire, and only a couple of minor injuries. Rick Fulber, the owner of the hotel, lost his livelihood and all his personal belongings. Though the hotel was insured, Fulber had spent a considerable sum on renovations and was hoping to have the building designated as a historic site.
Information on how much the damages were estimated to be were unable to be found; Fulber, with the renovations and the improvements he wanted to make on the building, had hoped the value of the Allan would be about $800,000 once everything had been completed. After the fire, however, he wasn’t able to release a dollar amount because he had to discuss his insurance policies with his accountant in Vancouver.
I think it’s fair to say that no dollar amount can possibly make up for the loss the of the Allan Hotel as a historical landmark. Remarkably, given its location, it survived two catastrophic Columbia Avenue fires in the 1920s that destroyed much of the downtown core. The burning of the Allan forever changed the countenance of our main street; Columbia Avenue would never be the same again.
After the White Wolf fire, the Allan Hotel was the last of 17 hotel buildings constructed in the 1890s still being used as a hotel. Today, the last remaining building of this original 17 still standing, though no longer used as a hotel, is the OK Store on the corner of Columbia and St. Paul, kitty corner to the Grind.