The Mennonite Heritage Village (MHV) collection of artifacts includes a matchbook from Steinbach’s former Tourist Hotel. Since the Rural Municipality (RM) of Hanover recently discovered it had never been a “dry” municipality after all, Karen Black from Country 107.7 FM asked me to bring the artifact to the station and talk about the Tourist Hotel. As we have so few items relating to the hotel in our collection, I was thrilled to accept several more artifacts from a donor last week such as a Tourist Hotel menu, drinking glass, and bottle opener. These artifacts encouraged me to write an article relating to a local business that not too long ago thrived in the heart of Steinbach.
The Tourist Hotel stood on Steinbach’s Main Street from 1928 to 1976. Folks who were working on the roads or utilities, or visiting the town would stay at the hotel. In 1930 it expanded to include a dining room and a “men-only” Beer Parlour. The parlour was not without controversy, however, and efforts were made to close it. In 1950 Steinbach voted for the prohibition of liquor sales. However, a separate vote of 398 to 214 allowed the Tourist Hotel beer parlour to stay open under a grandfather clause.
Steinbach was at odds with itself. Tensions surrounding “worldly” pursuits surfaced as Steinbach grew to house more progressive entertainments, such as the Playhouse Theatre. In 1946 the movie theatre owned by John Vogt Sr. opened on the corner of Main and Kroeker. According to Carol Vogt Funk, "At my grandpa's theatre, it was quite funny. Across the street, a man would sit and write down whoever was going into the theatre. It ended up that my Grandpa would let his clients come in the back door, so they were not noted to be there.” The theatre showed such films as “My Friend Flicka”. By 1957 the theatre had become the focus of such community opposition that it relocated to Ste. Anne.
Both the Tourist Hotel and the Playhouse theatre were owned by local Mennonites. The Tourist Hotel was the business venture of Peter B. Peters. Peters started out by opening the first barber shop/ice cream parlor in Steinbach. He also had a small knick-knack shop and sold everything from gramophones to ladies’ silk gloves. He kept the barber shop open late at night for the farmers, so that when they finished threshing they could get their haircut.
Peter and his wife Helen (Rempel) then opened the restaurant in 1916, and started the Tourist Hotel in 1928. Though Peter passed away in 1932, the family carried on the business. Mary Lou Driedger relates a childhood memory in her article “The Old School House” that, “I liked going over to my friend Penny Peters’ house to play after school because her family lived in the upper story of the Tourist Hotel which her parents operated and her Mom would bring us burgers and fries from the restaurant kitchen for supper.”
The Tourist Hotel remained a staple on Main Street until 1973 when a referendum was held. The Peters sought to expand and move to a new site. Permission for a new license was defeated, so the Tourist Hotel was demolished, and the Franz Motor Inn took its place at the edge of town in the RM of La Broquerie.