Fire destroyed the Imperial Hotel, a century-old community landmark in the hamlet of Mirror, on Sunday night.
Shortly after 8:30 p.m., a structure fire was reported to Mirror volunteer fire department and an immediate call for mutual aid went out to firefighters in Alix, Clive and the City of Lacombe.
“They rolled up to a fully involved three-storey structure,” said Lacombe County fire chief Todd Gustafson on Tuesday.
He said fire burned the building to the ground.
“I basically have a hole in the ground where the basement was and the remainder of the building is piled to the east of that hole in the ground. It was a complete and total loss.”
The hotel has been closed for a couple of years and was vacant at the time of the fire.
He said about 50 firefighters at the scene concentrated on preventing the fire from spreading to other nearby shops and an apartment complex.
“The winds were coming fairly strongly from the east which was carrying the embers over to the other structures.”
The fire was under control just before midnight and crews remained on scene until 4:30 a.m. They returned at about 7:30 a.m. on Monday to extinguish any hot spots. An investigation into the cause of the fire continues.
Gustafson estimated the value of the building at $150,000.
Built in 1912, the Imperial Hotel, was once a hub for community activity. As a railway centre for the area, rail staff often stayed at the hotel.
Red Deer historian Michael Dawe said anyone who grew up in the area knows the Imperial.
“It was a major landmark in the heart of Mirror, literally going back to the start of the community. When you got off the train, one of the things you saw was the Imperial,” Dawe said.
“At one time the Imperial had a really nice dining room to it. It was a fairly good size and known for the quality of its food. It was a place where people would gather and visit, not just get a good meal.”
He said the hotel’s name reflected the time it was built in a community named after the London Daily Mirror newspaper as part of a real estate promotion.
The community was expected to be an important rail centre in a growing province, but it never came to be, he said.
“Within a couple years of it being founded, the First World War broke out, the big boom collapsed. For the next generation, Alberta pretty much struggled financially. The population remained pretty stagnant. There just wasn’t that huge wave of optimism and good times that we enjoyed before the war.”
Dawe said the Imperial has met the same fate as a lot of early, significant hotels built in communities like Sylvan Lake and Benalto.
“They are disappearing. These buildings were wood frame, susceptible to fire and decline and decay as the years go by and there wasn’t the money in the community anymore to keep them in really good repair and up to date. Some of them fell on really hard times before they were destroyed by fire or were torn down.
“At one time when you got off the train in Red Deer, there was a semi circle of hotels with the Windsor, and the Phelan, and the Valley, and the Arlington and the Buffalo. There are no active hotels left down there.”