Many Red Deerians stopped to watch the Black Knight Inn’s last stand on Tuesday as major demolition work began on the landmark hotel.
After 45 years, the structure from 1977 was taken apart bit by bit, as the long arm of an excavator picked away at the cement walls and aluminum cladding. Large pieces of various walls eventually fell crashing to the ground, raising clouds of dust.
The eight-storey inn was deemed unsalvageable by new buyers after an inspection found the building contained asbestos. The original owner, Ken Mandrusiak, had filed for bankruptcy in 2020, shortly after the pandemic started and most hotel business dried up.
Many area residents who watched the Black Knight crumble expressed nostalgic feelings. One man mentioned the hotel’s great steak sandwiches that were served at JB’s Lounge. Another wondered why the building couldn’t be saved.
Others were awe-struck by the scale of the demolition. “It is pretty incredible to be able to actually sit here and see and hear the noise it makes when it all falls down,” said Kelsey Scrim, who observed from her vehicle.
Scrim said the wrecking process was “fascinating” to see in person but had wistful feelings about the hotel’s demise. “I used to go there for buffet breakfast with my family…”
Another observer, Shannon Stone, who watched walls come down with her young daughter Ashlynn, called the Black Knight “a trademark of Red Deer.” Once it’s gone, Stone hoped for “new and better things.”
While many central Albertans had strong connections to the hotel that once held dinner theatres and sold events tickets for the Memorial Centre, the new owners saw no sense in renovating a large hotel — with 98-rooms, nine suites, an indoor pool, meeting rooms, restaurant and lounge — given its age and asbestos content.
Last fall, the investors auctioned off the Black Knight’s contents, including beds, chairs, televisions and kitchen equipment.
Some limited demolition work began last month. The major demo will be happening on Tuesday and Wednesday. A worker at the site expected the entire hotel to be flattened in two days.