Burns Lake’s oldest landmark, excluding the town’s crooked main street, might be the three-story building that stands on the south side of Highway 16 just east of First Ave.
The Tweedsmuir Hotel was built in 1950, just in time for the economic boom created by the Aluminum Company of Canada’s Kenney Dam project. J.S. (Jack) Brown Sr., secretary in the Tweedsmuir partnership and a well-known local businessman, was active in raising money for the endeavour and had a financial interest in it.
When it opened, the Tweedsmuir was the pride of the Lakes District and the largest structure in town. It boasted a modern restaurant, spacious lounge, and more than a dozen well-appointed rooms. (The owners added 18 rooms over the bar in 1953.) For a few years in the early ‘50s, the partnership of Gin Saul and Jim Locke – which also ran the Omineca Café – leased the Tweedsmuir’s dining room, and between the two businesses, employed approximately three dozen cooks, servers, and dishwashers.
Burns Lake’s first radio station, CFLD, also operated out of the hotel when it went on the air on Feb. 1, 1966, but later moved across the street to the second floor of the Evergreen Mall.
The Tweedsmuir has had its ups and downs over the years, at one point earning the nickname “the seedy Tweedy.” During the late 1950s, a distinguished visitor from England described it as “an ugly, square concrete block in the centre of the village, housing a hotel and beer parlour.” One old-timer swears that at about the same time, a sign in the establishment’s reception area read: “Check all weapons at the door.”
The Tweedsmuir enjoyed a renaissance of sorts in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when it was refitted and renamed the “Lakeland,” but closed again in the new millennium.
A company owned by the Skin Tyee Nation purchased the hotel in 2015, and the structure is currently under renovation. Long-time residents look forward to the grand re-opening, and the opportunity to eat a leisurely breakfast in Burns Lake’s oldest surviving hostelry.
© 2018 Michael Riis-Christianson and the Lakes District Museum Society