An old house finds a new home in the middle of a Banff hotel

For visitors to the Rocky Mountain town of Banff, a new hotel offers guest the option of an unusual view — a home built in 1913.

The Leacock House was removed and restored while the hotel was built, then moved into the courtyard

A room with a view

7 years ago
Duration 0:49
See the historic house in the middle of Banff's new Moose Hotel & Suites.

For visitors to the Rocky Mountain town of Banff, a new hotel offers guests the option of an unusual view: a home built in 1913.

The house is in the courtyard of the new Moose Hotel and Suites.

"A lot of people believe that we built the hotel around the house," said Shawn Birch, director of finance and projects and CFO for the hotel. "But unfortunately, that's not true."

'A lot involved': Shawn Birch

The house had to be moved to make way for the hotel construction. It was preserved and restored, then returned to the site using two cranes.

"There was a lot involved in moving this house, way more than we ever thought could ever be involved."

House with a history 

The house is believed to have been mail-ordered as a ready-to-build kit from the Eaton catalogue.

It's named after one of its first residents, Leonard Leacock, who was born in 1904 in England and raised in Banff. He was an outdoor enthusiast and skilled musician who taught at Mount Royal College. Leacock received the Order of Canada in 1985.

He died in 1992.

In the 1930s, the house was home to Jim and Carolina Serra and it remained in the Serra family for about 50 years. 

Granddaughter Anne Serra, who lives in New Zealand, contacted Birch when she was visiting Canada and shared her family's connection with the house.  

"She actually gave us a lot of great resources, she gave us a whole photo album of family pictures and stories and news articles," he said. 

"And it was interesting to see all that information … because it's all tied to the house."

Architect's vision saved the home

Despite its history, the Leacock House wasn't found important enough to receive a heritage designation. The plan was to demolish it, until the hotel's architect proposed a way to save the home.

"As we kind of thought about the idea, it really gained traction with us in terms of what it was accomplishing in terms of heritage value, what it would bring into the hotel as something unique and different," Birch said. "We found out who lived in the house and the stories it told."

"We just felt like we had to do it."

Inside still under construction

The house itself is now an attraction in Banff.

Birch's favourite story to tell involves how the house ended up on its final resting spot in the hotel's courtyard.

Once the house was dropped into the courtyard, the movers wanted their beams back. They bought blocks of ice from the grocery store and slid them under the house. After they removed the beams, it took about two hours for the ice to melt, leaving the house in its current spot.

Extension of hotel's lobby

The house is still under restoration and what the hotel will use it for is still up for debate.

"We're open for ideas. We haven't quite figured that out yet," he said. 

"We want to make it open and available to our guests, so for now it's an extension of our lobby."

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With photos and files from Evelyne Asselin