Creative Solutions to Whistler Living: The People Who Lived in Walls

Living in Whistler has always come with unique challenges, whether its’s a lack of housing, money, employment or easily accessible transit (walking three days from Squamish with a packhorse at the beginning of the 20th century was not for the fainthearted).  Despite these challenges, however, thousands of people have chosen to call this valley home.

Though many stories of unorthodox living arrangements have become well known (think Toad Hall or Lot 4 in the mid-to-late ’90s), there is one story that surprisingly few people have heard: the people who lived in wall.  (Please note that the Whistler Museum neither condones nor encourages such practices as follow.)

Adapting accommodations to fit your own needs is common practice - the Jardine-Neiland family built additions to the original cabin of Ol' Mac.

Adapting accommodations to fit your own needs is common practice – the Jardine-Neiland family built additions to the original cabin of Ol’ Mac in the 1920s.

It happened in the early 1990s, in an unnamed Whistler hotel, in the four feet of space between the fifth and sixth guest floors.  A small service hatch in the stairwell meant to provide access to the plumbing and electrical wiring in the space instead provided two very determined young men access to a crawlspace-like room kept warm and cozy by the hot water pipes.

As the entry was located in a little-used firewall stairwell the staff at the hotel had no knowledge of their new residents.  The pair lived somewhat comfortable, if a little bent over, until a search for a water leak led maintenance workers to discover their living quarters.  This discovery explained some odd footage on a recently installed security camera that caught one of these unsuspected tenants stealing the cushions off of a couch in a hallway.

In the 1970s accommodations could be found in Whistler by building your own or taking over an abandoned cabin.

In the 1970s accommodations could be found in Whistler by building your own or taking over an abandoned cabin.

Unfortunately for the young men living in the wall, their identities were easily discovered from the Hard Rock Café pay stubs that had been left sitting in the open.  It was soon revealed that they had been making full use of hotel amenities; they slept on clean sheets taken from housekeeping carts, ate in the staff cafeteria where they were such a common sight that it had been assumed that they were hotel employees, and showered in the hotel health club where a monthly payment provided access to the pool and gym for far less than the cost of rent.

Needless to say, once discovered the two were quickly evicted from the premises and forced to find lodging elsewhere.

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