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Empress Hotel 1908-2010

posted by: The Royal Hotel Chilliwack on: July 21, 2019 07:16:00 PM

Empress Hotel -- (prior to 1927 renovations)
image credit: Chilliwack History Perspectives (Merlin Bunt)
When Chilliwack’s Empress Hotel opened in September, 1908 it boasted electric lighting that was generated onsite by a threshing machine engine. This was a full two years before BC Electric Railway brought electricity to our city. The Empress was also “the” place in Chilliwack for banquets, dances, celebrations, conventions and community meetings during the first half of the last century.

The three story hotel originally consisted of two wings, one facing Princess Avenue (formerly Hulder Street); the other fronting Young Street; complete with a verandah that ran the length of both wings, topped with a second story balcony. As with most hotels of that period, bathrooms were not found in guest rooms but were located in the hallways on each floor; however each room did come equipped with a radiator that provided steam heat for each guest’s comfort.

Chilliwack Progress, Jan.31, 1912

Lobby of the Empress - 1920's
image credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives

The hotel changed ownership many times over the years. From 1919 to 1926 Tom Berry, along with Tom Fennessey, owned the Empress Hotel. In 1926 Tom Berry sold his interest in the Empress and went on to purchase Chilliwack’s Royal Hotel. The Royal Hotel would remain in the Berry Family until 1995.

Chilliwack Progress, March 20, 1919

Big changes occurred to the Empress starting in 1926 when the hotel building was moved to the back of the Young Street property and in 1927 a massive renovation took place; totally transforming the look of the hotel.  Gone went the wood lap siding, second floor balcony, verandah, pillars and flat roof. An addition was constructed of brick; and the old portion of the Empress was transformed with an English Tudor style look, red brick and stucco exterior; complete with wood timbers and topped with a red tile roof. Gables were also added to the front. With the new addition the hotel now offered 70 guest rooms, 25 with their own bathroom, a luxury in 1927. Rugs, stuffed chairs, writing desks, dressing tables, trunk racks and long mirrors graced the newly decorated guest rooms while dainty chintz draperies covered the windows.

Empress Hotel in the 1930's
image credit: Chilliwack Museum & Archives

Chilliwack Progress, Oct. 6, 1927

Chilliwack Progress, April 19, 1928

Another metamorphosis occurred at the Empress in 1950 when a 6300 square foot addition was built that included a new banquet room, ballroom and beverage room (beer parlour).

Chilliwack Progress, July 12, 1950

In 1964 a coctail lounge was added to the hotel and in the decades following the Empress Hotel lost its lustre and fell into dis-repair. The grand hotel that was once the Empress was eventually demolished in 2010.

Fashion Show at the Empress
Chilliwack Progress, April 7, 1965

New development is happening on the site of the old Empress Hotel and will eventually be home to a residential complex; part of the redevelopment of Chilliwack’s Five Corners by Algra Brothers.
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