When the Great Northern Railway’s Louis Hill came to Waterton Lakes and built the majestic Prince of Wales Hotel, in 1928, he was betting that friends and compatriots would see it as an escape from the austerity of Prohibition - era America. He was correct, and the enterprise was immediately popular.
For himself, however, the flamboyant tycoon built a handsome residence just down the hill in the nearby town site, away from the social and commercial bustle. He named his home Carthew Lodge. Here it was quiet, restful, secluded. Large balconies gave him baronial views across Waterton Lake and up into the surrounding Rocky Mountains. Mr. Hill could escape his responsibilities and professional pressures and read, entertain close friends or contemplate his next enterprise.
Though he never used the home for his permanent residence (perhaps because of the Great Depression), Hill did use the house with passionate regularity, for it was here, it is said, that he kept his mistress.
Shortly after Hill’s death in 1948, Louis Hill’s dream home was sold to Hugh Black (of St. Mary’s) and Earl and Bessie Hacking, who renamed it Northland Lodge.
In the 1930’s the home was lived in by Grace and Ted Udell, who managed and worked at the Prince of Wales Hotel, they raised 5 children in the house until Louis Hill’s death. The old timers “in the know” swear that one of the children is Louis Hill’s child which would explain why Grace and her children continued to live here rent free until his death.
Edna Jensen Leavitt began greeting guests in the 50’s when Waterton was mostly known for its “dandy dances” at the dancehall downtown. People would come from miles around to hear bands like Mark Kenney and his Western Gentlemen, The Lovin’ Spoonful. Old timers remember when men would pay a dime a dance “and they always paid for the dance for the ladies.” When the dance was over they would rope everyone out and start the process of paying for the next dance again. “It was great fun” they all say with a smile. Edna and her husband ran the hotel at Lake Linnet in 1911.
Bessie was a well loved gracious hostess. She was interested in everyone’s stories and loved visiting with guests for hours around the great fire that she would build in the fireplace. She was an adorable and spirited woman who played tennis and ice skated well into her 70’s. Many guests remember her fondly and still return to speak of her love of The Northland and her kindnesses to them.
After Bessie’s death, her daughter, Joan Tangren took over. Joanie was mild mannered, kind and gracious, she was also an amazing cook and loved to feed everyone who entered the house. Her first comment as you walked in the door was “Can I get you something to eat!” In May 1989 the lodge suffered a devastating fire. Bessie had never believed in fire insurance for “this dumb old building” which meant there were no funds to help rebuild. Taking on the challenge Joan and her brothers George and Don dedicated the time and money to see that the lodge was rebuilt; The Northland Lodge began again receiving guests in August of that same year.
Stacy Tangren Bates inherited the management of the lodge after the passing of her mother, Joanie. She carries on the honed tradition of hanging the sheets out on the line and ironing them with lavender. She has an eye for finding period pieces, adding flower boxes and many touches that have improved the lodge greatly over the years. She loves the lodge, as the generations of women before her, and insists that it is run with an ethic of hard work, cleanliness and care that has become its trademark.
“The Uncles” (Don and George Hacking ) Bessie and Earls son’s, come every year to open and close the lodge and do much needed repairs and improvements. They have great stories of days when the lodge welcomed celebrities like Bing Crosby and Phil Harris in the 50’s or when Grandma Leavitt chased 2 bears out of the kitchen with a chair. She had a guest that had trained bears in the traveling circus and told her how it’s done; it obviously worked for her as she lived to a ripe old age.
Jeanne Aldrich - manager, laundry woman, muffin maker and - story teller. I was 14 years old when “Aunt Bessie” asked me to help her at the lodge. She was such a great lady and I loved her stories and watching her gingerly throw great huge logs on the blazing fire. We would then sit as she hand patched little patches on sheets, towels and wash clothes, always with flair. She had a sweet laugh and had a never ending vat of stories. She loved to play Rook and then would say, “Let’s go play tennis.” I was 21 and pretty good but she beat me fair and square when she was almost 70 with her killer spin and wonderful spirit. I have been helping with The Northland Lodge for 46 years and somehow the finest folks keep finding their way to our doors.