As I drive down the big hill on my way into the bustling town of Cochrane, the view of the Rocky Mountains spanning the western horizon never fails to take my breath away. There’s a feeling about this place that keeps calling me back. And today I’m drawn to the Rockyview Hotel, a three-story wooden structure painted deep grey with red trim, standing out like an exclamation point on the town’s main street.
Built in 1904, it is one of Cochrane’s few remaining original buildings and just about the oldest operational hotel in western Canada. I should look so good at 116.
Changing with the times
As the years rolled by and the community grew up around her, she met many needs, converting one floor to the area’s only hospital one week a month, housing a livery stable (now the dance floor in the Texas Gate Bar), or showcasing travelling salesmen’s wares out of their rented rooms. Serving as the local watering hole, she put away her dance hall clothes and became a proper teahouse during the prohibition years. She also had the distinction, back in the 1950s, of being the first Alberta bar where men and women could co-mingle.
Owners Mark and Michelle Horton, veterans of the hospitality business, are taking excellent care of her. The fifteen lovingly-restored rooms above the Texas Gate Bar and Grill give visitors a true taste of how the West once was. Check out the ceilings of original pressed tin or criss-crossed wooden beams.
The café can seat 60 and the bar, 180. The folks in the kitchen prepare wonderful food for patrons of both. Meals are really reasonable priced – my steak sandwich lunch special was actually less expensive than a grilled ham and cheese! And it was delicious! The staff are long-term and mostly local and the service is excellent (visitor’s tip: weekend brunches are so worth the short drive from Calgary.
The bar is a popular spot for locals and visitors to watch sporting events or listen to live music while you dance the night away. Line dancing lessons are on the house. Or just come on down to fling a few arrows or shoot some pool…three tables and four dart boards await. In summer, lounge on the spacious patio with a cold beverage and watch the world go by or play a tune on the outdoor piano.
The hotel continues its legacy as a community hub, hosting fundraisers and special events and a good number of country-themed weddings throughout the year.
The way I see it, the old girl is going to be around for a while yet. And this old girl will be back real soon.
Visit Rockyview Hotel
Guest Journalist – Jane Usher
Images – Colin Way, Wouter Roosenboom