COLUMN: The Maddens: West Kootenay’s first family of hoteliers

Although West Kootenay had many similarly-named hotels in its mining boom days, none was actually part of a chain.

Larry Madden has turned room key No. 5 from his family’s namesake Nelson hotel into a display piece.



First of two parts

Although West Kootenay had many similarly-named hotels in its mining boom days (such as the Leland, the Kootenay, and the Arlington) none was actually part of a chain.

The Madden family, however, ran hotels at various times in no fewer than a dozen local towns, although I don’t think it was a joint venture. Rather, a different sibling operated each hotel independently.

There were a lot of siblings. Thomas and Sarah Madden of Valcartier, Que. had 16 children — nine boys and seven girls — including two sets of twins.

At least seven brothers and one sister eventually made their way to West Kootenay and established hotels: Thomas in Nelson; Robert in Nakusp, Slocan, and Trout Lake City; Anthony in Slocan; Martin in Nakusp; Hugh in Nakusp; Burton, Rossland, and Trail; James in Ainsworth; and John in Bonanza City (present day Hills) and later Slocan. They were also said to have hotels in Robson, Arrowhead, Ferguson, and Silverton, although I haven’t been able to verify all of those.

Most but not all were called the Madden Hotel or Madden House. First and best known of these was the one in Nelson, established in 1890 at the southeast corner of Ward and Baker by Thomas and Hugh, and expanded in 1891.

A brick addition, designed by local architect Arthur E. Hodgins, was built in 1899-1900 and included a tower capped with a decorative rooster weathervane. The Tribune of Feb. 13, 1900 called it “one of the handsomest brick blocks in town.” Space was leased to other businesses, including a barber shop, dentist, lawyer, millinery, and three stores.

Thomas Madden died suddenly in 1912, age 53, leaving his wife Margaret and six children. The hotel was then leased to Mrs. E.C. Clarke, but upon Margaret’s death in 1940, her twin sons Jack and Jimmy took it over.

In July 1957, Jimmy announced the sale of the building and property to Woolworth’s, who intended to build a new department store on the site (the present Athens Centre).

The wrecking crew finally moved in in January 1959. It was one of the city’s most unfortunate heritage losses, but the building fought back, collapsing onto the street rather than in the direction intended.

The demolition came only a few weeks after Jimmy Madden died and less than two years after Jack passed away. Their sister Sadie, however, outlived them both by over 35 years and died in Nelson in 1993, age 98.

The Madden family still has a presence in the area: Jack’s sons Larry and Dave and their spouses co-own a property along Kootenay Lake near the entrance to Upper Longbeach Road. They come out from Calgary several times each year.

Larry recounts how a few years back their neighbor at the lake died in a car accident. His wife was digging through his tools in the garage and found the key to room No. 5 at the Madden Hotel. (Touchstones also has the hotel’s original key box.)

Larry put the key in a framed display along with pictures of the hotel and his father. “The neat thing about the hotel picture is Jack’s ’53 Buick is parked at the side on Ward St.,” he says. “We actually found the picture in the photo shop on Baker some years ago.”

I only know the exact fate of a few other Madden hotels: the one at Trout Lake, known as the Lakeview, burned in February 1922, still under Robert Madden’s proprietorship. The one at Nakusp, built in 1892 and originally called the Nakusp House before being renamed the Madden House and later the Grand, burned on Sept. 2, 1925. The Maddens had by then divested themselves of their interest.

The Two Friends Hotel in Slocan, operated by the Maddens from 1897 until sometime after 1910 was the last building to go, although it had long ceased operating when it burned on April 30, 1966. It was also the last of Slocan’s pioneer hotels.

Figuring out what became of the rest of the Madden empire will require more digging.

Next: The other Hume Hotel

 

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