Mrs. Gertrude Crosby, owner and founder of Deer Lodge at Lake Louise, came to Canada from England in the late 19th century as a very young child. After a career as a telegraphist with the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.), she married Lou Crosby of the Brewster Transport Company, and had a family of five children. Her “sixth” child was Deer Lodge, the hotel now known all over the world as the one just down the road from the Chateau Lake Louise.
During her years as a C.P.R. Telegraphist, Mrs. Crosby had spent the summer of 1910 at the Chateau. As tourism to the Lake Louise area grew, she noticed that there was a demand for more moderately priced accommodation and somewhere serving afternoon tea. The Chateau had an unchallenged monopoly in the location.
Twelve years went by before she and her husband Lou were able to do anything about this. In 1920, the Parks Department offered several lots for development along the road leading to Lake. The Crosby’s secured one and built a log Tea House, which they opened in the summer of 1923.
At one end of her cabin, Mrs. Crosby served tea, and at the other, she sold chocolate bars and camping goods. The log building served as the dining room for the hotel until 1982, and now serves as the Caribou Lounge.
Mrs. Crosby’s second at the Tea House was an eventful one. On the night of July 3, 1924, the old wooden portions of the Chateau, built in 1893 and 1900, caught fire and were completely destroyed. This calamity gave an unexpected boost to the store side of the business. As the Chateau was rebuilt into its present form the following winter, the demands of the workers, many of them Scandinavians, for Copenhagen snuff, overalls, boots, and socks made it worthwhile to keep the store open. Winter living was rugged. The only source of light came from coal oil lamps; and water was attained by melting snow.
They year of 1925 saw the birth of Deer Lodge as a hotel with 6 rooms. By 1928, it had grown to 29 rooms and could pride itself in the fact that it provided its guests with hot and cold water, and heat. The distinctive Deer Lodge tower, with the mail lobby beneath it was built in 1931 to link the hotel with the original log cabin, which became the dining room, and a store that was built on the other side of the log cabin. The original hotel was replaced with a three-story structure in 1939.
Surrounding the Lodge were four other businesses, the Inglenook Lodge (6 rooms), the Triangle Inn (9 rooms), and a YWCA Hostel (24 rooms), and a drug store. The store, built by the Brewster’s, was said to have supplied guests with under the counter liquor in the days of prohibition. During the thirties and forties the Crosby’s gradually acquired these businesses.
The “Round House” drug store was replaced by a service station and the building was used as a staff recreation center. It still can be seen at the entrance to Timberline Stables. In 1955, a new Inglenook replaced the service station and the original Inglenook. The Triangle Inn became the Crosby’s Totem Shop and staff quarters, and has since been demolished. The YWCA served as minimum priced rooms without bath ($2.50 to $10.00 per night) and was joined to Deer Lodge by a modern, three-story wing in 1964.
The old Y is now used as staff quarters.
Pioneering a business in the wildness presented many unusual challenges. The many occasions when black bears would raid the kitchen and store room; the time a black bear hibernated in the basement; the pine martin that sampled all of the pies in the bake shop, were all frustrating, however, amusing in retrospect.
Over the years, the guests included nobility, artists, and climbers. Deer Lodge was the home for two film star dogs engaged in shooting the movie “Son of Lassie”. During the war, the Lodge was kept open for one winter to house a military research team experimenting with equipment under cold winter conditions.
From a rustic Tea House in 1923, the Lodge grew into an organization employing more than 80 staff, feeding 1000 visitors a day and housing 200 guests a night. Like all family businesses, it employed the Crosby children, grand children, and relatives. For 61 years it remained a family affair.
Western Securities Limited, a property development and management company with head offices in Calgary, purchased Deer Lodge from the Crosby’s in 1982 and continued to run it as a summer operation for three more years. In the fall of 1983, Deer Lodge went through major renovations and it reopened February 14, 1985 to remain open year around.
Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts was conceived in the spring of 1985 to operate the mountain resorts owned by Western Securities Limited.
Deer Lodge has renovated and added telephones to 32 of it guest rooms and completed renovations to the Caribou Lounge in the spring of 1996. The remaining rooms of Deer Lodge retain their rustic décor and original charm, always welcoming their guests who wish to “get away from it all!”.