Tag Archives: Rainbow Lodge

Rainbow Lodge’s Tough Transition

The story of Rainbow Lodge, founded by Myrtle and Alex Philip in 1914 and expertly managed for the next 34 years, is among our valley’s most celebrated stories. Less known however, is what became of Rainbow Lodge once the Philip’s decided to give up the tourist trade.

When Vancouver’s Alec and Audrey Greenwood first visited Alta Lake in 1947 the place clearly made an impression on them. Somehow in the process of expressing his enthusiasm for the lodge, the Philips hinted to Alec that they were thinking of selling into retirement. Similarly, Alec had already begun to think of leaving his stressful insurance salesman job in Vancouver. It seemed like a perfect fit.

Within a year the Greenwoods purchased Rainbow Lodge for $100,000 and along with their son Dennis became permanent residents of Alta Lake and the new operators of the iconic Rainbow Lodge.

The entrance to Rainbow Lodge during the Greenwood's tenure.

The entrance to Rainbow Lodge during the Greenwood’s tenure.

Unfortunately, the new tenants arrived during one of the worst spring floods ever. Water got to six inches deep on the kitchen floor and the entire dining room was flooded. Boardwalks outside were floating but would sink with a person’s weight. While they managed to outlast the flooding without any major damage, this certainly put a damper on their arrival.

The cold, wet spring carried into the summer. Guests cancelled by the dozens, and those that did come cut their vacations short. The fireplace had to be stoked twenty-four hours a day; it was the only heat in an un-insulated log building.

"Sit down to a familiar face." Corn Flakes and much more at the General Store under the Greenwood's watch.

“Sit down to a familiar face.” Corn Flakes and much more at the General Store under the Greenwood’s watch.

One day, smoke began to pour from under the floor. Thankfully quick thinking, and some aggressive axe work opened up the floor and fire hoses were used to extinguish the blaze before it spread. The fireplace was built on a one-foot concrete slab sitting on railway ties, which had caught fire. For the rest of the summer there was a twenty-four hour attendant monitoring the fireplace.

Despite these major difficulties the Greenwoods survived their first season relatively unscathed. That fall, with the help of local trapper Bill Bailiff, they had the lodge significantly remodeled. Bill had been a stonemason in England before he immigrated to Canada, and his fireplace was a masterpiece. It was built from river rock from Twenty-one Mile Creek just below Rainbow Falls and the mantelpiece was eight inches thick, cut from a single log from Alf Gebhart’s mill at the south end of Alta Lake. It really tied the room together.

The newly remodelled interior, complete with river-rock fireplace.

The newly remodelled interior, complete with river-rock fireplace.

The Greenwoods successfully ran Rainbow until 1970 when they sold the lodge and retired to Arizona. On September 15th, 1970, the Greenwoods held a closing bash for a select few long-time locals who he affectionately referred to as the “Rainbow Lodge Chapter of the Royal Ancient and Antediluvian Order of Froth Blowers.” Whether or not that was a reference to the biblical flood of 1948, it sounds like a good time.

Sadly, Rainbow Lodge was accidentally burned down in 1977. All that remains of the once-bustling resort are three original guest cabins near the entrance to Rainbow Park.

 

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The Mysterious Naismiths

File this under “people we wish we knew more about.”

We can’t even find Dr. Baldwin’s birth or death years, and he is referred to as both “A.G. Naismith” and “Baldwin Naismith.” Records indicate that his wife Grace Hilda passed away in Victoria at the age of 83 on August 9 1977, but we don’t know her maiden name or place of birth. Yet we have over a dozen photos of them, they owned a cabin in the valley, and they appear to have been close friends to Myrtle and Alex Philip for close to 50 years.

Grace and Dr. Baldwin Naismith, circa 1920.

Grace and Dr. Baldwin Naismith, circa 1920.


These tantalizingly incomplete stories can be amongst the most fascinating, and frustrating, subjects for historical researchers. Let’s review what we know…

Our earliest record comes indirectly through another Alta Lake pioneer Tom Neiland, who claimed to purchase land from Dr. Naismith on Alta Lake in 1921 in order to set up his own logging business. Then in 1927 Myrtle Philip sent a postcard to her sister Jean Tapley in Seattle, which included the line “Dr. & Mrs. Naismith are here – look fine – send love to you” so by this point they were well-known to the Philip/Tapley clan, but it is not known whether they had a cabin in the valley or were just regular visitors to Rainbow Lodge.

Grace Naismith at Rainbow Lodge holding a wood carrier inscribed

Grace Naismith at Rainbow Lodge holding a wood carrier inscribed “To Myrtle / Many Happy Returns / from Grace” with a rendering of Rainbow Lodge (presumably, a birthday present). A smiling Myrtle looks on from the Rainbow Lodge porch, circa 1940s.

From several sources we do know that Dr. Naismith worked as a pathologist near Kamloops, some recollecting that he was a lung specialist at the now-defunct Tranquille tuberculosis sanatorium on the north side of Kamloops Lake. Jenny Jardine, Tom Neiland’s step-daughter, stated that the doctor “was an Ontario returned soldier and she was a war bride. They had a Chinese foster son.” When local pioneer Harry Horstman, who lived near to the Naismith’s cabin on Alpha Lake, became too infirm to carry on his bachelor lifestyle they arranged a new home for him at a care facility in Kamloops, where he passed away in 1946.

This photograph shows a house on a point at Alpha Lake during wintertime. The house is almost certainly that of Dr. & Grace Naismith. Annotations in pen on the reverse of the image read:

The Naismith’s cabin on Alpha Lake, on what is known today as Pine Point, circa 1930.

By 1930, if not earlier, the Naismith’s owned a cabin on the shores of Alpha Lake, where Pine Point Park is now located. Also beginning in the 1930s we have several photographs of Myrtle and Grace together at Rainbow Lodge, in sophisticated dress on the streets of Vancouver, or looking quite casual around Mahood Lake, east of Quesnel, where the Naismith’s had another cabin.

Myrtle Philip and Grace Naismith in street clothes in a sidewalk in Vancouver. Photographer's stamp on verso :

Myrtle Philip and Grace Naismith in street clothes in Vancouver. A Photographer’s stamp on the back of the print reads : “MOVIE SNAPS / 541 Granville Blvd / ‘Souvenir of Vancouver, B.C.'” According to web research, Movie Snaps was a Vancouver photography business specializing in street photography – where photographers solicited pedestrians offering to take their photos for a fee (like an urban version of what Coast Mountain Photography does on Whistler-Blackcomb).

As early as 1929, the Mahood Lake cabin became a regular fall retreat for the Philip’s, where they could unwind after the busy summer at Rainbow Lodge. In an upcoming blog post we’ll go into a bit more detail about the Philips’ frequent fall visits to the Cariboo.

Another glamorous

Another glamorous “street photography” capture of Grace and Myrtle, this one appearing to be taken during the 1960s.

For now, that is the extent of our knowledge. We will have to be content placing the Naismith’s in a long line of visitors to our valley who became dually charmed by the landscape and by the Philip’s gracious hospitality. Of course, if any readers out there can share more of this story, we’d love to hear it.

Just in case these glamorous city shots were giving you the wrong impression of Grace, we’ll leave you with this interesting little snippet from the August 3rd 1962 edition of the Prince George Citizen that suggests that Grace was equally comfortable in the bush as she was in the city.

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A Hobby of a Different Breed

It has long been known that Rainbow Lodge (Whistler’s first resort lodge) was a tourist destination based around fishing. What many people don’t know is that fishing wasn’t proprietor of Rainbow Lodge Myrtle Philip’s only hobby. She also enjoyed spending much of her leisure time with some tall, dark, and four-legged creatures.

Riding

Myrtle and two other women on horseback at Rainbow Lodge, ca. 1925. In the background, Alta Lake Post Office and Store can be seen.

Alex and Myrtle Philip first opened Rainbow Lodge in 1914. This was the same year the Great Pacific Railway (PGE) reached Alta Lake (now Whistler), making the valley much more accessible to the outside world. Tourism in the area took off and by the 1930s, Rainbow Lodge had expanded to include 45 outbuildings in addition to the lodge.

Prior to the development of the PGE, horses played an integral part in the two-day hike from Squamish to Alta Lake. From 1858 onward, explorers sent by British Columbia Governor, James Douglas, used sturdy pack horses to carry supplies along the Pemberton Trail for trappers and prospectors looking for their fortunes in the Coastal Mountains. Settlers in the Alta Lake area also made use of horsepower for the purpose of clearing land, hauling firewood and hay, and towing newly cut timber down the mountain trails, often for two or three miles at a time.

Myrtle-on-Horseback

Myrtle enjoyed taking her horses along various trails, particularly those that ran along Alta Creek (pictured here) and Green Lake.

Myrtle Philip was a devoted horseback rider, and she took great pride in her horses and stables. Horses provided recreational enjoyment for the newly discovered summer tourist trade in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, and Myrtle assisted in the development of horseback riding as a tourist option, implementing regular early morning breakfast treks on horseback to Green River for the guests of Rainbow Lodge. Midnight rides, makeshift racetracks, and gentle walks through the valley trails were all enjoyed by visitors to Alta Lake. The Rainbow Lodge workhorse, Bob, would even tow skiers and skaters behind him across the frozen lake in the wintertime.

“I think, really, that riding was one of the most popular things at Rainbow Lodge and it is regrettable that at this point, there is so little of it done”, Myrtle affirms in an interview done in 1971. For those that remember Rainbow Lodge, snapshots of horses grazing and morning trail rides make up a large part of these memories.

Bob

Frank Tapley with two children on the back of Bob,
the Rainbow Lodge workhorse, 1924.

While horseback riding is still available to summer visitors to the vicinity today, particularly in the Pemberton area, mountain biking has become the main outdoor activity of choice in the summer months and many buildings that previously served as stables are now replaced by bike rental and repair shops. Several companies offer scenic trail rides through areas such as the Lilloeet River and Callaghan Creek, as well as day trips to Birkenhead and Tenquille Lake. Though horseback riding will likely never be as popular as skiing and mountain biking in Whistler, it remains a hobby, passion, and sometimes even career for those who love it.

Skijoring

Skijoring (being towed on skis behind a horse or dogs) was a popular winter activity for the guests of Rainbow Lodge in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Ice harvest on Alta Lake

Usually, we don’t think about ice very often, unless there’s none in the freezer. The cold, slippery truth is that our local ice deserves more consideration than that. Wrap up warm, and we’ll take you back to the times when the ice harvest was a hard, but fun, event in our valley.

Cutting ice was a big event at Alta Lake. The Photograph shows Sewall Tapley (Myrtle Philip’s father) in foreground and Rainbow Lodge guests. Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1920s

Cutting ice was a big event at Alta Lake. The Photograph shows Sewall Tapley (Myrtle Philip’s father) in foreground together with Rainbow Lodge guests. Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1920s

Since amenities were few before the 1960s, ice was one of the only ways to keep things cool and food from spoiling. Ice blocks were cut out of the frozen Alta Lake during February, when the ice was thickest. In the 1920s, it would take Myrtle and Alex Philip, the owners of Rainbow Lodge (Whistler’s first resort lodge), about two weeks to get enough ice to last the summer. The ice cutting was very hard work – as one can imagine due to fact that our early settlers had no modern tools. “They cut the ice with an ice saw… like a big crosscut saw” noted Myrtle on the back of her photos. Blocks were cut out of the chilled Alta Lake, loaded onto a sled, and pulled to an ice house where the blocks were kept to provide refrigeration through the summer months.

A chore for every winter until Hydro came in: Alex Philip with an ice saw cutting blocks of ice out of Alta Lake. They were stored in sawdust in an ice house for summer use. Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1920s

A chore for every winter until Hydro came in: Alex Philip with an ice saw cutting blocks of ice out of Alta Lake. They were stored in sawdust in an ice house for summer use. Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1920s

A couple of small ice houses dotted the valley’s landscape at this time. Ice houses were double-walled, tightly insulated structures packed with sawdust, capable of keeping large amounts of ice through the warm months. At first, Myrtle and Alex built their ice house near Rainbow Lodge. It was later moved closer to Alta Lake to cut down on the distance that the ice needed to be hauled.

The early Rainbow Lodge with the ice house close by. It was later moved closer to Alta Lake to cut down on the distance that the ice needed to be hauled, Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1919

The early Rainbow Lodge with the ice house close by. It was later moved closer to Alta Lake to cut down on the distance that the ice needed to be hauled, Whistler Museum, Philip collection, 1919

Of course, the hard work had to be duly celebrated. In her book Whistler Reflections, Florence Petersen, founder of the Whistler Museum, remembers that after the ice-cutting work Alta Lake locals like Alex Philip would gather at the cabin of Bill MacDermott, an American who settled on the south end of Alta Lake in 1919: “His jugs of homebrew would be brought out from under the floorboards to help celebrate.”

The Post Office Post

This morning I woke up to beautiful, massive snowflakes falling over Whistler, and a substantial layer of powder already formed on the ground. It’s days like these that entice me to look through our archive for some old photographs of deep snow. Our collections are full of such pictures, and today I found a few especially endearing ones of Whistler’s first post office (covered in snow, of course).

Post office and store at Rainbow Lodge, 1914 or 1915. Verso reads "First winter, 1914-1915." Philip Collection.

Post office and store at Rainbow Lodge, 1914 or 1915. Verso reads “First winter, 1914-1915.” Philip Collection.

Before the PGE Railway ran to Whistler (then Alta Lake) in 1914, mail was sent and delivered by people passing through the valley to and from Vancouver – a less than reliable system. The completion of the railway made way for many conveniences such as mail delivery. In anticipation for the PGE Railway, Myrtle and Alex Philip (proprietors of Rainbow Lodge, Whistler’s very first resort lodge) included a post office in a small alcove in the lodge, and the office was later moved to their newly built general store. Myrtle became Alta Lake’s first postmaster in 1915, and she would often wake up before dawn to collect the mail packet from the train.

Myrtle Philip and her dog standing outside the post office, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

Myrtle Philip and her dog standing outside the post office, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

Although the progress of the PGE allowed for a more reliable mail delivery service, there was still one major issue; the first post office address was Summit Lake, B.C., which was often confused with another Summit Lake in the province. Thus, mail was frequently sent to the wrong destination. This conflict immediately prompted a name change to “Alta Lake, B.C.,” which made delivering and receiving mail a little more consistent.

Post office with Christmas tree, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

Post office with Christmas tree, ca. 1930. Philip Collection.

In the beginning, mail came in on all trains, four times per week. On Monday and Thursday the mail came direct from Vancouver. On Wednesday and Saturday it came from Vancouver via Ashcroft and Lillooet and was usually a lighter load. The PGE had a mail car with a mail attendant on the train. Everyone in town gathered at Rainbow on mail days to collect their mail, pick up their newspapers, and of course, socialize.

Myrtle Philip remained postmaster for almost 40 years. In 1948, after Alec and Audrey Greenwood purchased Rainbow Lodge, the position fell to Audrey.

Discovering Alex Philip (Part Two)

As briefly mentioned in our article “The Crimson Paradise Turkey” in The Question (coming out Tuesday Aug. 26th), depending on whose perspective you get, the ‘facts’ of history may be different. Below is a quote from an interview completed by Sally Mitchell with Pat and Lou Woods from 1989, in which they discuss how a donation from Myrtle really got the museum going.

Sally: She left us the entire contents of her house.

Lou: Oh she did, eh’?

S: That’s how it first got started, the museum. So we were a little, almost biased to begin with because we had all her things, and we didn’t have anything from anybody else.

L: Oh I see.

S: That’s why it’s so important that we get out and talk to other families.

L: Well in every human community for heaven sakes there’s pros and cons on everything.

S: Oh yeah.

L: It doesn’t matter what the issue is or what the point is, there’s always different angles.

S: As long as you get all those different angles, then you don’t get stuck.

L: Then you get, kind of, nubs coming in there. There’s touching lines, right? Yeah, then you say, “Oh that could have been fact.”

I bring this up because since I began working at the museum in June, I have been told of what kind of person Alex Philip was, and it has not painted the best picture of his character. However, while doing research, I have read many positive remarks about Alex (Alec to most people in the early days). This is not to say that young Alec and old Alex had the same personality, or that the traits that made him a likeable proprietor of Rainbow Lodge, and author, did not betray him later in life.

Alex Philip and his dog, ca. 1915. Philip Collection.

Alex Philip and his dog, ca. 1915. Philip Collection.

In the interview quoted above, Pat Woods discusses Alec a few times, stating, “He was a hell of a nice old guy.” Pat worked for Alec and Myrtle for a short period of time when he was around 13, bringing firewood into the cabins of Rainbow Lodge. In the interview clip below he tells a story about one time when he forgot to bring the wood into the hall.

Pat: I remember one time I forgot to put the wood in. They had a big fireplace in the… dining room. Then they’d move the tables to dance at night. And sometimes it’d get cold. My job was to pile the wood by that fireplace. I went to work the day. I don’t know what happened. They were delivering milk. And cut into some beer… The next morning packing wood into these cabins…(Run into Alec?)…I think there was a few people around. He said, “Pat, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you. I guess I’ll give you one more chance.” …He said can you imagine in front of 100 guests here’s Mr. Philip, the proprietor, with his while flannels and white shoes, silk shirt, packing wood into the dining room?” I said “Oh my God.” He said “Cause that’s what I did.” And then he started to laugh. And I says “You did it yourself?” “Well I found someone to help me.” That was his humour ‘eh. But I remembered not to do it again.

It seems that the Woods family had a close connection with Alec. Fred Woods, Pat Woods’ father, also had many positive things to say about Alec. In an interview conducted by Tim Cornish with Fred Woods in 1982, Fred states that “Alec was a very strange man, tall, but a very good-natured man, very kind. Although, he was considerate, mind you he never threw his money away. Just pleasant.”

Alex Philip on his boat, 1956. Philip Collection.

Later in this interview when asked to say more about Alec, Fred states:

“He was the one that attracted the tourists, because Alec’s got more stories than Carter’s got pills. And he was a clean living man. He enjoyed a drink, but that was all, he never got intoxicated or nothing, he was a pleasant man. There was an awful lot of B.C. telephone girls that would go up there on their’ holidays. It was close to home and quite reasonable in those days. And of course Alec would get them in a bunch and tell them stories; he could make stories up in his mind. They were all stories that the girls liked. That’s how Rainbow started.”

Throughout my research it has become clear that Alec was indeed a very well liked by other men. It seems from the archives, that those who knew him in the days of Rainbow Lodge knew Alex as a kind host, entertainer, storyteller, and the life of the party. However, there are many sides to every story.

Discovering Alex Philip (Part One)

As a person coming from an Anthropological background, I am drawn to the narratives surrounding ones life. Outside of this I am also very interested in Canadian fiction; therefore, I was fascinated to hear that Alex Philip was not just the co-founder of Whistler’s first resort, Rainbow Lodge, but was also an author (for more information on Alex’s books, visit our previous blog post here). This intrigued me to dig further into the life of Alex Philip, as being both pioneer and author seems like an odd combination of attributes. As J. Butterfield said in his column “The Common Round” in the Daily Province, Vancouver “…when you found a man who ran a tough restaurant all day and sat up to write poetry at night, you simply had to take notice.”

Alex Philip on the boardwalk in front of Rainbow Lodge, ca. 1920. Philip Collection.

Alex Philip on the boardwalk in front of Rainbow Lodge, ca. 1920. Philip Collection.

While doing this research I have read and heard many stories about the kind of man Alex was, but I will keep this blog post to two news articles talking about Alex’s public life. The first is an announcement of his leaving Bangor, Maine in 1906 for Vancouver. The second is an article announcing his return to Bangor for the first time in 50 years.

In the 1906 article, published by the Bangor Daily News, the author refers to Alex Philip as Alec, as that is how he was known during the five years he worked as a night man at Frey’s Central street restaurant. A patron of Frey’s, who happened to be a journalist with the Bangor Daily News, published this article as a farewell present to Alec. It is a very flattering portrayal of Alec, stating, “He was the acknowledged super-superba, past-master, expert extraordinary lunch-bar man of Bangor. He was in a class all by himself. He got all the votes.” The article goes on to say, “Nothing phased Alex. He made no mistakes, no false motions and never lost his grip on the situation…Maine never sent out a brighter, cleaner more honest young man, who can be depended upon to make good wherever he goes–the kind which makes friends and keeps them.”

Alex Philip and friends in Maine. The annotation on the reverse reads "Alex Philip in his 20s, Bluehill Maine, 2nd from left, about 1906." Philip Collection.

Alex Philip and friends in Maine. The annotation on the reverse reads “Alex Philip in his 20s, Bluehill Maine, 2nd from left, about 1906.” Philip Collection.

Flash forward 50 years to the Bangor Daily News article dated August 30th, 1956, on Alex’s return to Bangor for the first time since he departed for British Columbia. In this article we learn that Alex carried the 1906 article with him for the 50 years and the clipping was one of his prized possessions. He even used the 1906 article to help him get a job at the Horseshoe Café in 1907. “He still carried the NEWS clipping, yellowed and tattered after a half-century of travelling. He hadn’t discovered gold, he said, but, proudly explained how that same newspaper article had been his ticket to a successful career as a resort owner and author.”

Alex Philip, Blue Hill native, popular Bangor counterman and successful British Columbia resort owner, is shown looking over a Bangor Daily News clipping which detailed his departure from Bangor in 1906.  Mr. Philips returned to visit Bangor in August 1956. BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO BY SPIKE WEBB

Alex Philip, Blue Hill native, popular Bangor counterman and successful British Columbia resort owner, is shown looking over a Bangor Daily News clipping which detailed his departure from Bangor in 1906. Mr. Philips returned to visit Bangor in August 1956. BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO BY SPIKE WEBB

It was in the Horseshoe Café that Alex met trapper John Millar, who described Alta Lake (at the time called Summit Lake) to Alex, convincing him and his wife Myrtle to travel north and see the area. This trip inspired both Alex and Myrtle, and soon after this first trip they settled in the Alta Lake area to begin construction on Rainbow Lodge.