Ad for the Langham from The Ledge of August 5

Birth of the Langham

Charles J. Kapps built what is now Kaslo’s cultural hub in 1896-97. It was briefly a bank before becoming a rooming house.

Second in a series

Previously, we saw that tax records indicate Charles J. Kapps built the Langham, now Kaslo’s cultural hub, in 1896 or ’97, despite some claims to the contrary.

The German-born Kapps (nee Kapsch) came to Kaslo in 1893 at age 27. What drew him is unknown, but the area was in the midst of a mining boom. He established a soda water business on D Avenue — he owned Block 25, Lot 20, according to tax records — but it was washed away in the flood of 1894. According to a 1953 history of Kaslo, “Kapps’ Botting Works building gave way and rested against R.F. Green’s residence for a time, then was carried to the other side of the current.”

Kapps didn’t get a lot of attention in the newspapers, so he’s a bit enigmatic, but he did advertise: the earliest known ad for his Slocan Bottling Works is in the Kaslo Times of June 2, 1894 (seen at left).

The Slocan Prospector of June 6, 1895 also mentioned “Charles Kapps has just received $460 worth of empty bottles for use in his bottling business.”

But the first indication something was going on at the Langham property was in The Kootenaian of May 2, 1896: “Chas. Kapp [sic], proprietor of the Kaslo Bottling Works, one of the city’s growing industries, will begin, in the course of 60 days, the construction of a building 40 x 60 on the ground where he is now making excavations. The building will be of a solid and substantial character and will be occupied by Mr. Kapp [sic] with his bottling establishment.”

According to oral tradition, the bottling works was in a wing off the southeast end of the building that no longer exists. A photo taken in 1898 or earlier (detail below) shows a hodgepodge of connected buildings at the back.

The Kootenaian provided an update on September 19: “Charles Kapp [sic] is making progress with his large building works and expects to occupy the new quarters in a few weeks.”

And then on October 10: “On A Avenue, Chas. Kapp [sic] of the soda water works, has a large two story business block in a forward state …” The Langham is three stories, so again it’s unclear which building we’re talking about.

The next mention in the Nelson Tribune of January 30, 1897 noted “The opening of a branch of the Bank of British North America [in Kaslo] on Monday last was a surprise to most citizens … Temporary quarters have been secured in Kapp’s [sic] new building at the corner of A avenue and Fifth streets.”

G.B. Gerrard soon replaced H.G. Marquis as bank manager, and the operation  moved to new premises at the corner of Front and Fifth. (A plaque on the latter site, unveiled in 1967, erroneously claims the bank opened there in January 1897; that’s the date of its establishment in Kaslo.)

These developments coincided with a series of ads in the Tribune (such as the one at left) in which Kapps announced himself a manufacturer of and dealer in champagne ciders, Belfast ginger ale, and carbonated drinks of all kinds.

Until this point we still don’t really know whether Kapps’ building and the Langham are one and the same, but the British Columbia News of July 16, 1897 finally removes all doubt in a column entitled “Buildings Recently Completed”: “The Kapps building, corner of 5th Street and A Avenue, now known as The Langham, [is] a large finely furnished three-storey structure of high class lodgings conducted by Mrs. Warner and Miss Case.”

That’s the earliest mention of the Langham. Its namesake was presumably a hotel in London, one of the world’s largest and grandest, built in the 1860s and still in business.

A note the next day in the Sandon Paystreak informs us Miss Case was from Portland and Mrs. Warner from San Francisco, and that the Langham “is now one of the most comfortable and commodious residential quarters in town, having the benefits of all modern improvements in the way of electric lights, baths, etc.”

Partners fall out

It’s safe to say construction on the Langham began in 1896 but might not have been completed until the following year. While we don’t know its architect or contractor, we do know who originally painted its distinctive sign.

According to the book Pioneer Families of Kaslo, it was William John Green, eldest of the Green brothers who came from Peterborough, Ont. and made a name for themselves in local, provincial, and federal politics.

John was less prominent than siblings Sam and Robert, but his hand-painted signs also survive on some second-floor doors of city hall, built in 1898. His grandson Roy was mayor of Kaslo in the 1970s during part of the Langham’s restoration period.

The Langham advertised in local newspapers throughout 1897, with blurbs like this: “Are you looking for comfortable quarters to spend the winter in? If so, call at the Langham and ask for Miss Case. She has nice, clean, comfortable, well-heated and well-lighted rooms at reasonable rates. With free bath privileges, you can procure them singly or en suite and be sure they will be well cared for during your occupancy.”

However, Eleanor P. (Ella) Case and Sarah S. Warner had a falling out and Miss Case became the Langham’s sole proprietor. The Kootenaian of December 29, 1897 noted the former partners were in court before Justice McKiligan, although details of their dispute were not revealed.

Oddly, The Kootenaian of February 26, 1898 reported: “Mrs. E.P. Chase [sic] has been engaged by Mr. F. Schier to act as manager of the Langham Hotel.”

Who was Schier? It’s a mystery, although we can guess he may have leased the building from Kapps.

Ads for the Langham continued through April 1898. After that, it’s hard to keep track of what was going on. The civic directories are of limited help — the Langham lodging house was only listed once, in 1899. In the 1899-1900 directory, Ella Case is listed as residing at the Langham, but after that there’s no sign of the building or of her.

Next: The life and times of Charles Kapps

Previously: The Langham’s lost years

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