Squeaking doors and creaking floors abound throughout the Raymore Hotel. As if the hotel is trying to share its own story, trying to tell of the people who have walked through and the things it has seen. However, since hotels can’t actually speak, someone else had to tell its story.
“When you own a hotel, you have to have a sense of humor, a thick skin and compassion,” said former Raymore Hotel owner Eva Dionne.
The hotel was built in 1911 by Archibald G. MacLean when the town was founded and has miraculously been running ever since.
Out of the 108 years it has been operating, there have been only 11 different owners. It was once described as “the best hotel between Winnipeg and Saskatoon” in an early 1900’s Saskatoon newspaper. However, the hotel isn’t as prosperous as it once was. In 1956, a disastrous fire destroyed the third floor, leaving only the six rooms on the second floor.
Despite this, Dionne remembered the hotel still doing quite well. But being hotel owners in a small town like Raymore meant Dionne and her husband Brian did so much more than just renting rooms.
“Lots of the things we did were not expected, but you just did them,” said Dionne, “You have to have empathy.”
It was her husband who had compassion for everyone, Eva recalling one time they cared for a sick woman coming off the train.
“We would go down, make sure the vehicle was good and warm, picked up the lady and brought her to the hotel,” said Dionne.
A sense of humour was also necessary. As Dionne shared stories of the many unusual guests she has had come through the hotels doors she recalled one customer even tucked two chickens into his jacket and brought them into the bar.
“Under his jacket he had two bantam chickens,” said Dionne. “I am giving John [the bartender] heck, ‘you better catch those damn things, we don’t want them crapping all over the hotel!’
“The customers were laughing, so we finally threw the chickens and the customer out.”
She laughed about these stories as she reminisced of the days while owning the hotel with her husband. She played many roles within the community as she was a high school teacher, ran the hotel and was even a bouncer at the bar on weekends.
“You do have to be politer when you are at school than when you are disciplining people in the bar,” said Dionne, with a laugh.
The hotel and bar were her and her family’s home for 33 years. But, once her husband passed away last year, she felt like she could not run the hotel without him.
“We came home from the hospital and sold the hotel,” said Dionne.
It was sold immediately to Bo Feng and Li Wang, a couple who moved to Raymore from China two years ago.
“They wanted a change of environment,” said their son, Calvin Feng.
His parents decided to buy the building with no prior experience running a hotel, Calvin is taking a break from University to help out his parents. The small Saskatchewan town is definitely a change of pace from where they lived in China, but he said that they really enjoy it there.
Calvin said the bar is the most popular part of the hotel. Dionne agreed that even when her and her husband owned the building it was the place to be.
“On the weekends, if you weren’t in there by 7, you weren’t getting a seat,” said Dionne.
The two story hotel is now busiest during harvest and hunting seasons. Hotels in Regina, which is 100 kilometers south, are over $100 a night while a double bed is $80 a night at the Raymore Hotel and a single is only $68.
Due to renovations, the rooms don’t look like they have been around for over a hundred years. However, despite modernization, the unique history of the building – and the town – has not been lost.