Rear view of the Omineca Hotel (R), located near the present site of the Boer Mountain Cafe. (Lakes District Museum Society photos)

Short-lived Omineca Hotel a community focal point

The Omineca Hotel was Burns Lake’s first hostelry, and it had a short but storied history.

Located across Highway 16 from the Royal Bank and originally christened the Cheslatta, it was built by Barney Mulvany shortly after he first set his tents up on the present site of Burns Lake. Mulvany sold the structure to George McKenzie, who in turn sold it newcomer Andy Ruddy.

Ruddy, a well-known businessman, renamed the hotel the Omineca after his long-time friend and business partner, Omineca Ed Sullivan. He added a dance hall to the building, and installed the town’s first generating plant in 1923 specifically to provide the hotel with electricity.

The hotel was a focal point for civic affairs. Its ‘Snake Room’ hosted the annual trapper’s rendezvous in 1919, which was attended by fur buyers from as far away as New York. It is said that during the event, $50,000 worth of marten pelts hung from the room’s ceiling; trappers slept on the floor and passed around bottles of 350-proof rum.

When the Burns Lake Citizens Association formed in October 1921, the organization’s meetings were held in the Omineca Hotel. The building even served as an infirmary when the town’s first hospital reached capacity.

Ruddy sold the Omineca Hotel to Harry Little in 1928. It remained an integral part of Burns Lake’s downtown core until March 20, 1947, when it caught fire. The town’s fire brigade tried desperately to save the grand old structure, but their efforts were in vain. It burned to the ground.

© 2018 Michael Riis-Christianson and the Lakes District Museum Society

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