Nelson library brings history to life with storytelling event

The character of Gretchen Hatt Gibson is played by storyteller Susan LeFebour. - Susan LeFebour photo
The character of Gretchen Hatt Gibson is played by storyteller Susan LeFebour.
— image credit: Susan LeFebour photo

Stand on any spot in Nelson, and you can feel history.

The Nelson Public Library celebrates the history of its location during February with a photographic and artifact display (courtesy Touchstones Nelson) and a special storytelling event celebrating the Hotel Phair, a grand institution that once stood under their feet.

On Sunday, February 24 at 2 p.m., the Nelson Library hosts Afternoon Tea at the Hotel Phair. Gretchen Hatt Gibson, daughter of proprietor Edwin Phair, will address a 1928 meeting of the Ladies Literary Society — and you can be there! The character of Gibson is played by storyteller Susan LeFebour.

Local historian Pat Rogers wrote the story of the Phair for a Kootenay Storytelling Festival performance by LeFebour, in which 122 years disappears in a heartbeat:

“In October 1891 the Phair opened her doors, and oh, she was grand. There were 35 rooms, steam heat, hot and cold water, electric bells, flush closets, baths, a bar, parlours, billiard tables and dining facilities. The honeymoon suite could not be rivaled anywhere in the Interior….”

Eventually the Hotel Phair became the Strathcona Hotel, where she remained as a grand old hotel until a spectacular fire in 1955 took her down. The new building would house the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — and much later, in 1990s, the Nelson City Police on the top floors, and at street level — the Library.

The event and display is in recognition of BC Heritage Week. Admission is by donation.

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