On March 17, 1898, the Hume Hotel opened with a grand celebration
“In this hotel Nelson possesses at once a structure of architectural beauty and imposing appearance, and a public Inn …which is equaled by few of the cities of British Columbia and certainly not in the interior.”
—The Tribune, March 12, 1898
Work on the Hume Hotel began on Saturday, June 12, 1897
The hotel was designed by Alexander Charles Ewart
Who carefully considered all the architectural details, from piazza views to bay windows to inset balconies. With much thought also given to ornate detailing and state-of-the-art amenities like electric lights and steam radiators, all for a total cost of $60,000, the hotel was indeed a marvel to behold.
After nine years of successful operation, on March 11, 1907, J. Fred sold the Hume Hotel to Wilmer C. Wells, a political man who served as commissioner of lands and works for two terms under Premiers James Dunsmuir and E.G. Prior respectively. Wells brought in his two sons, George and James, to run the hotel, and fully intended to construct additions in response to the growing demand in Nelson for first-class accommodations. Wells, Hume Hotel circa 1925however, never did fulfill his commitment, and on October 14, 1912 he sold the hotel to George Benwell, an hotelier of considerable repute, for a sum of $85,000.
“Between Winnipeg on the east, and Vancouver on the west, no such building exists.”
—The Tribune, March 12, 1898
A renovation, inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1929.
A state of deterioration, 1979.
By 1979, the Hume Hotel was in a serious state of deterioration. Benwell had sold the hotel in the 1940s, and after a series of owners failed to keep up the standards established by Hume and Benwell, the Hume Hotel was nearly condemned. Bills were left unpaid, the power was disconnected, and it sat empty for several months. Ernie Rushworth, who at that time carried the first mortgage on the property, called on Dave Martin, who had helped Rushworth successfully revitalize a run-down hotel in the Yukon . He asked Dave if he would be interested in the purchasing the Hume.
After careful consideration, the purchase was completed and an exhaustive heritage restoration project began. Nelson was undergoing a similar initiative in the same period so the timing was excellent. In December of 1980, the Hume Hotel was reborn as the Heritage Inn, and once-again became a proud symbol for the people of Nelson.
The restoration project took one million dollars to complete, twice the original budget, and was carefully undertaken by designer David Thompson. The massive renovations were wrought with pitfalls—the interior was completely gutted and the hotel’s electrical and plumbing systems redone. A number of hidden treasures were revealed during this time, many of which have been carefully restored and are now part of the Heritage Inn ambiance.
The opening ceremony, 1980.
In the Library Lounge, for example, you can see the original old brick fireplace, which had been hidden from view by a plaster wall. Adding to the success of the project, many local residents provided antiques, photos and artifacts to decorate the interior, and local trades Original milk jug found during renovations people recreated many of the original embellishments, sometimes working from old photographs.
The opening ceremony, on December 8, 1980 was an auspicious occasion, with many local dignitaries in attendance. The highlight of the night was the presence of three generations of Hume descendants: Freeda Hume Bolton (the 80 year old daughter of J. Fred and Lydia), her daughter Dawn, and her grandson Jay Fred Bolton. Freeda presided over the ribbon cutting ceremony and ‘knighted’ Dave Martin Sir Lancelot.
“I am bursting with pride at being here…to see my father’s name perpetuated and my parents’ pictures hanging in the Heritage Inn – a perfect name for the ending of an old and the beginning of a new tradition.”
—Freeda Hume Bolton, Hume Hotel, December 8, 1980
Tradition of hospitality, 2005.
In 2005, major changes to the hotel’s exterior façade were completed which included an outdoor patio for the General Store Restaurant as well as the hotel’s signature rooftop ‘crown’. For twenty-five years as the Heritage Inn, the Martins continued the tradition of hospitality excellence started in 1898 by J. Fred and Lydia Hume. At the completion of the exterior renovation, the hotel went back to its roots to be renamed as the original proprietor once titled it, the Hume Hotel, paying homage to a local legend and a storied history on the corner of Vernon and Ward Street. Members of the Hume family were again on-hand for the festive grand re-opening as they were exactly twenty-five years ago.
With careful attention to detail and first-class service, guests are treated to an experience that is at once reminiscent of a grand Victorian era long since past and indicative of a new Nelson tradition that will live on for years to come. The Hume Hotel continues to be the Grand Old Dame of Nelson.