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City of Red Deer begins tearing down Buffalo Hotel, Café Club

A pair of downtown Red Deer landmarks will soon be no more.
The City of Red Deer began tearing down the Buffalo Hotel and Café Club in the city’s downtown on Saturday. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)

A pair of downtown Red Deer landmarks will soon be no more.

Construction crews began tearing down the Buffalo Hotel and Café Club buildings along Ross Street on Saturday.

In late 2022, the city purchased the sites of 5021 and 5023 Ross St. with the intent of redeveloping the area. The hotel and Café Club were including in the parcels of land.

“Unfortunately, these properties were in poor state of disrepair and evaluations found it would be cost-prohibitive to restore the buildings or repurpose the space. To maximize use of these and neighbouring properties, the buildings will be demolished, and properties primed for redevelopment,” the city’s website states.

Council approved budget for the purchase, demolition and activation of the site. Once the buildings have been demolished, the site can be combined with existing adjacent city-owned land at 5022 49 St. to offer downtown space for redevelopment.

“Despite their current state, the Buffalo Hotel and Club Café both played a significant role in our community’s history, and The City is committed to ensuring that history is preserved,” the city website adds.

Mark Collings, Central Alberta Historical Society president, said it was sad to see the buildings come down, but it wasn’t too surprising.

“It’s a dominant feature in the city because of the location, but the building itself isn’t viewed as having any real historical value,” Collings explained.

“There’s a criteria that goes along with preserving historical sites and historical buildings. One of them is the architectural style – is it representative of the era? Another is the use of the building – does it a significant part of the province’s history? None of these really apply to the Buffalo (Hotel).”

The hotel was first built in 1892. George Beatty purchased the then-Alberta Hotel in 1903 and added a three-storey brick addition to the east side of the hotel. Following Beatty’s death in 1907, the hotel was sold to C.J. Rutter, who then sold it to the Rancher’s Trust Company a few years later.

In 1920, the Alberta Hotel was purchased by the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company. In 1939, the company demolished the 1892 section of the hotel and added a three-storey addition to the 1903 section of the site. It was then renamed the Buffalo Hotel, after the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company’s logo.

Collings said he is hopeful the space created through this demolition will be used in a way to benefit the city’s downtown core.

“What’s going to replace (the buildings) is the big question here,” he said.

“Let this be a lightning rod for change in the downtown. This demonstrates what we need to do – we need to redevelop certain sections of the city and rejuvenate it. At the same time we need to make the downtown more of a living space.”

The Downtown Identity Plan Community Working Collaborative, which is a city committee that Collings sits on, has discussed possible uses for the space.

“We’ve talked about temporarily putting a skating rink in, but it would be defined by temporary raised gardens, that would grow food for the food bank. It could be a mixed-use space year-round, growing food in the summer and spring, and skating in there for the winter. That’s one thing that’s been put forward, but nothing has been done in terms of developing the idea into something tangible,” he said.

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The City of Red Deer began tearing down the Buffalo Hotel and Café Club in the city’s downtown on Saturday. (Photo by Lana Michelin/Advocate staff)

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