When guide and outfitter Fred Brewster constructed two rustic log buildings on the shores of picturesque Maligne Lake in 1927, it was the Golden Era of architecture in Canada's mountain national parks. And he aimed high.
Surrounded by rustic tents on the shores of the wildly picturesque lake, the Maligne Lake Chalet and Guest House stood tall and sturdy, raising the bar for tourist accommodation and only rivaling the Jasper Park Lodge for luxury.
Brewster's vision is now recognized historically by the Government of Canada.
In 2014, the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (NHSMB) added the Maligne Lake Chalet and Guest House to its illustrious list of significant buildings across the country.
On September 30 of this year, the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (NHSMB) and Parks Canada presented a plaque at the Maligne Lake Chalet to mark the recognition. At a public ceremony that included a free barbecue, Jasper locals joined representatives from Parks Canada, Brewster Travel Canada, the Bighorn Chiniki First Nations and the Brewster family to commemorate the occasion.
“In 1892, our company founders began guiding visitors in the Canadian Rockies and sincerely cherished the opportunity to share this place with travellers from around the world,” said David McKenna, President of Brewster Travel Canada. “Now, 125 years later, we continue to honour these traditions and take pride in our heritage.”
Fred Brewster (brother of Jim and Bill who founded the guiding outfitter in Banff that went on to become Brewster Travel Canada) built the chalet and guest house with the support of the Canadian National Railways - long the innovator in tourism infrastructure in the early days of Canada's national parks.
The buildings' rustic design features peeled logs, open-concept hip roofs, a split field-stone fireplace and exposed log detailing. In their heyday, they were once part of a larger complex that also included tents and sleeping cabins - and drew tourists searching for an authentic wilderness experience. The NHSMB selected the Chalet for the prominent role is played in the development of Jasper and to honour the vision of early outfitters and guides like Fred Brewster.
“I am pleased that the only remaining early 20th Century tourist chalet and guest house still in Jasper is now commemorated for its national historic significance," said the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for Parks Canada. "Besides the prominent role played by outfitters and guides, these buildings illustrate the importance of the railway in the development of the national parks in Canada, as well as the central place of Maligne Lake and trail riding within Jasper’s early history."
In Fred Brewster's day, the Chalet building was where guests dined and socialized. A million-dollar rehabilitation was completed in 2011, carefully restoring the building to its former glory and opening it to the public once again.
For guests looking for an authentic destination in a spectacular place, the draw of Maligne remains the same today as it did in Brewster's time.
"I encourage all Canadians to take this opportunity to learn more about the people, places and events that have shaped our rich culture and history – especially as we celebrate our 150th anniversary of Confederation,” McKenna said.