A crowd of varying sizes watched as an excavator ripped through the Arlington Inn on Monday, pulling apart roof supports, knocking down walls and yanking out old tubs, a water heater and piping.
A pile of splintered wood, bricks and wiring grew throughout the day, as the jaws of the machine chewed their way through the north side of the building at 4905 51th Ave.
As the interior was exposed, curtains flapped in the breeze, towels still hung on towel racks and paintings rested on the walls, before falling into the debris pile.
Marj Curran remembered buying some of the items she saw falling into the heap, including one of the paintings on the walls.
Curran worked at the Arlington Inn for nearly 14 years, before going to work at the Rancher’s Valley Inn, across the street, a couple years ago.
She was one of the many people viewing the demolition on Monday.
“It was a good place to work,” Curran said. “A lot of the people here today were old-time staff and old-time customers.”
Curran said it’s a shame to see the building torn down. “It should have been turned into a senior place or something.”
She wonders where people will go to socialize, with the Arlington gone and the Rancher’s Valley Inn soon to shut down.
“City council should be tarred and feathered for their decision to do this,” Curran said.
The Pidherney’s Trucking demolition crew put up metal fencing around the site to keep the public at a safe distance. Workers took turns hosing down the inside of the building to keep the dust down.
Larry Lutz decided to take a look after hearing that Monday was the day the work would begin.
He remembers being a young man and his boss taking him down for a drink at the Arlington Inn, where they’d “have the odd sarsaparilla.”
“I would love to have seen it when it was first erected,” Lutz said. “It was supposed to be a fantastic piece of craftsmanship.”
The Arlington Inn was built 110 years ago.
But Lutz isn’t against the demolition. “It’s time I think. It’s seen better days,” he said.
Lutz was able to get a souvenir that one of the workers let him have, a brick from the building. On the top of the brick it read P&C RD. Lutz figured he’ll label it and give it to a friend, who is building a cabin, to insert into a wall. People wishing to purchase bricks for 10 cents a piece can contact 403-343-8000.
Many other people were creating mementoes at the site by taking photos or videotaping the tear-down.
Dale Nielsen was just watching, sitting on a seat he’d brought with him. He said he first walked into the Arlington Inn in 1957. He was working on the rigs, making $2.20 an hour. Beer was 10 cents a glass and he could buy 20 for $2.
“It’s pretty sad. There’s a lot of people my age — I’m 70 — who have a lot of memories in there,” Nielsen said.
He said the Arlington was a well-built building. “I don’t think it being a parking lot is going to make it better here.”
The City of Red Deer bought the hotel with plans to revitalize the downtown core. The cost of the demolition and building is $1.5 million.
The city received a petition to reconsider demolishing the building, but moved forward with plans to tear it down.