Part 16 – [Geraldton : An Alternative History]

The Geraldton Hotel sometime after the town’s incorporation in September 1937. First Avenue North is graded, open ditch and parking ramps are gone, and wooden sidewalks and street lamps are installed, dating this image to circa 1938. The fire siren sits on the hotel roof. To the far R, a portion of the Gordon Block, housing the Royal Bank, is visible. All photos from Greenstone Historical Collection.


The town was incorporated, the OPP had one officer stationed
here. Constable Les Heeney was to keep law and order, a mammoth
task. He was barely acquainted with his responsibilities
when the second battle of the Geraldton Hotel seemed about to
begin. Constable Heeney dealt, very efficiently, with the matter[,]
and it has since been [referred] to as The Skirmish of the Geraldton

The husky miners were in town to cash their cheques and
attend the bar, which was the usual meeting place on pay nights.
The bar was filled to capacity[;] those unable to enter were lined
up outside the door waiting for someone to create a vacancy by
leavlng . Suddenly, wlthout warning, one man launched a blow at
another and the brawl was underway.

Mr. Draper, hotel owner, could well remember when his hotel
was left a shamble (sic) in 1934 after an earlier brawl. He enlisted
some stalwart citizens around the rotunda to help him protect
his property.

Constable Heeney had arrested the disturber and lugged him
from the bar, through the rotunda and up the stairs, to one of
the hotel rooms. He handcuffed the culprit to the bed and locked
the door.

Mr Draper, while Constable Heeney was occupied[,] had his
[vigilantes] form a posse on the stairs. The agitators were forming
up at the other end of the rotunda ready for an assault attack,
to rescue their buddy.

Constable Heeney, having secured his prisoner[,] threaded his
way through the vigilantes on the stairs, across the rotunda,
without hesitation to confront the ringleader. He walked into
the mob and grabbed the main [agitator], who he forced [upstairs]
through the assembled vigilantes . Since he had only one pair
of handcuffs, which were in use, he tied the prisoner to the bed
with the length of rope intended as a fire escape. That ended the
problem for the night.

The police ,who served the Geraldton in the early days of
the community[,] had a mammoth job to perform. The town had no
by-laws until after incorporation in 1937, yet it was a thriving
community from 1934. There was no lock up until 1938[,] so the
Geraldton Hotel housed many arrested people, in a rented room,
handcuffed or tied to the bed.

In the fall of 1938, the Ontario Provincial Police constructed this brick building on Main Street for its Geraldton detachment and jail. The vintage car suggests a date in the mid to late 1950’s.

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