End of an era for Neepawa hotel industry



Picture of the Vivian Hotel from an ad of its grand opening from the January 26, 1962 Neepawa Press.

By Kate Jackman-Atkinson

Neepawa Banner/Neepawa Press

The Vivian family has long been tied with the hotel industry in Neepawa.  Spanning three different locations, for almost a century, a Vivian has owned one of the town’s hotels.

The family’s relationship with the town began in 1921, when Lewis Vivian purchased the King Edward Hotel.  Located at the north-west corner of Hamilton St. and Brown Ave., the hotel had been built as a temperance hotel in 1904 at a cost of $30,000.  

Lewis was born in Bellville, Ont., in 1875 and came to Winnipeg in the late 1890s with his brothers Albert and George to enter the hotel industry. Lewis and his family moved to Neepawa with the purchase of the King Edward and the family lived in the hotel. 

On March 6, 1927, the King Edward Hotel was destroyed by fire and Lewis’ family lost all of their personal belongings in the fire. 

The fire didn’t discourage Lewis and later in March 1927, he purchased the Dinwoody Block and renovated it to become the second King Edward Hotel. Located further west on Hamilton, the new hotel was beside the Roxy Theatre. In November 1927, a third storey was added to the building to increase the number of rooms.

The MTS building now sits at the former site of the old hotel, which wasn’t rebuilt.

In 1928, Lewis purchased the McClure Block, which was to the east of the new King Edward hotel. It included suites as well as a sample room for commercial travellers. That year, a beer parlour was added to the hotel.

In 1928, The King Edward Hotel purchased a bus in order to meet all trains arriving in Neepawa.

In 1945, the Lewis Vivian family retired from the hotel business, which was taken over by Lewis’ nephew, George Vivian. 

The son of George and Frances Vivian, George was born in Winnipeg.  In the 1920s, the younger George came to Neepawa to live with his aunt and uncle. His brother Lewis came to Neepawa in 1937. 

George and Lewis enlisted with the R.C.A.F. and following their discharge, George took over the King Edward Hotel from his uncle Lewis. His brother Lewis also worked at the hotel. 

In the 1950s, George purchased the Neepawa Hotel, located at 236 Hamilton St. with plans to build a new hotel at that site.

By 1961, the King Edward Hotel was condemned and George began the construction of a new hotel at the site of the old Neepawa Hotel, which had been demolished in 1958. The King Edward continued to operate until the new hotel, called the Vivian Motor Hotel, was opened in January 1962. The King Edward Hotel was demolished later that year.  

Close to 1,000 people attended the official opening of the new hotel on Jan. 30, 1962. The newly opened Vivian Hotel was state of the art, offering individual bathrooms and eventually, individual air conditioners. The hotel cost $200,000 to build and included 22 single bed rooms and two double-bed rooms. It was described by many as, “ultra modern” and “the finest of its kind this side of Winnipeg”.  

In addition to rooms, the hotel also included a beauty salon in the basement, a coffee bar, restaurant and beverage room. 

George’s son Gaynor grew up working in the hotel and in 1969, he graduated university and was back working in the family business. Gaynor bought the Neepawa hotel when his father died in 1974. 

In 2015, Gaynor sold the hotel to Drew and Jen Howard, closing the chapter on the family’s involvement in the Neepawa hotel industry.