This past Saturday night the Northern Nights hotel in Churchill burnt down to the ground amid high winds and frigid cold temperatures. Miraculously, all occupants were evacuated safely. The fire started around 9pm and within just a few hours the entire structure of linked buildings was destroyed. The attached house, recently converted to guest suites was spared somewhat by the flames but had to be leveled due to structural damage.
Gord and Lynn Martens, the proprietors of the hotel, had recently completed nearly three years of extensive renovations to all phases of the facility and were looking forward to their first profitable year since taking over the business. They worked tirelessly, turning a run -down hotel into a fine tuned, upgraded inn that even served delicious food. The trials they went through and time dedicated to reach that point will never be factored into any monetary reimbursement. We can only send our prayers and thoughts to them and hope they will find some peace in the coming months.
Two Natural Habitat groups were staying at the hotel and were scheduled to leave on Sunday. Guides Brad Josephs and Brent Houston were the group leaders. Local staff and residents assisted in moving all people to the town complex for the evening for shelter and comfort. Everyone was cared for in the true Churchill style of one big family.The rest of the world could surely learn from the caring and hospitality Churchillians display.
The charter flight to Winnipeg scheduled for the following afternoon was pushed to the morning so travelers could get to the Fort Garry hotel to relax and secure lost travel documents. Many people did lose all their personal belongings in the fire and will leave with a tainted memory of what should have been an amazing experience. We wish them all the best and hope they will be able take some good thoughts and memories home as well. Again, we all take some solace in nobody being hurt in this tragedy. If the blaze had started just two hours later it could have been a much different outcome. Everyone is blessed that this did not occur.
The hotel itself was always a quirky mix of buildings spliced together to form one cohesive structure. From the rustic lounge at one end, attached to the the restaurant and kitchen, attached to the original rooms that felt like train cars, attached to the lobby and office, attached to the two-story “newer” rooms with “thin” walls, attached to the house at the other end, the hotel somehow felt like it all belonged. It all worked..well mostly. The people who owned the hotel throughout the years seemed to take on these same characteristics in order to make the business work. They belonged there as well. From Katie and Brett to “Big” Andy to Gord and Lynn…they all brought a natural feel to the hotel. This place was the quintessence of Churchill in how everyone and everything needs to embody many forms and possess multiple skills to survive. The hotel is gone though the memories will endure always.
The Northern Nights will be missed dearly by all who knew its’ spirit …though the spirit of the North will surely live on forever. Bears. belugas and beers forever!
Heartbreaking for all concerned, owners, guests AND Nathab. As a Nathab traveler who stayed there in October, my heart goes out to the owners and to the town. And I feel a special sadness for those guests who lost everything and whose primary memories of their wonderful Nathab trip will now revolve around this fire instead of around their polar bear photos they likely lost.
What a terrible tragedy for the owners, who worked so hard, the visitors, who wanted to experience polar bears, and the town, that so kindly welcomes all visitors. Like Kate, I stayed there in October with a Natural Habitat group, and it was a completely lovely and positive experience. I, too, feel a great sadness for the visitors who lost everything, especially their polar bear photographs.
This is heartbreaking. We stayed there last year and this year on our trips to Churchill with Nathab. We enjoyed being on the end of town, and relaxing in the bar at the end of the night with guides and rover drivers. What a shame. I’m so happy that everyone got out safely.
We cherished our stay at Northern Nights –the camaraderie in the bar, the great owners and staff, our cozy room, guests roaming the halls in their pajamas! We are heartbroken that these wonderful people have lost their business and that we cannot send our friends there. THis is how we learned about it. I brought up the website to send friends there this fall.