May 19th, 2019

Hitch’n Post Saloon falls this summer

By Gillian Slade on June 26, 2018.

The Hitch'n Post Saloon on South Railway Street is likely to be demolished in July or August. The Orphan Well Association will then address the leaking gas well on site. 

The Hitch’n Post Saloon will come crashing down within a couple months, the city says.

A call for demolition tenders of the building at 210 South Railway St., closed recently, and the actual demolition is likely to take place in July or August, says Grant MacKay, manager of land and business support with the development and infrastructure division.

After demolition, the site will be turned over to the Orphan Well Association to address the leaking gas well on site, said MacKay.

OWA has developed a soil gas management system comprised of very shallow extraction/vertical wells in the ground around the building. These are connected with slotted pipes to a vacuum unit that collects the gas and removes it out of the soil, so it doesn’t enter into any of the adjacent buildings and avoids a public safety risk.

An agreement between the Alberta Oil & Gas Orphan Well Abandonment and Reclamation Association and the city was revealed in February, paving the way for the demolition.

The gas well on site was likely drilled in the 1890s — though there are no records — to supply gas for a kitchen in a building on the site, the OWA has suggested.

What will fill the void on South Railway after the demolition is not yet clear.

“Realistically we need to wait and see exactly what utility rights of way will ultimately be required around the abandoned well, and any other restrictions that will need to be in place before we determine the actual eligible future uses of the site,” said MacKay. “Once we know that with some accuracy, we can then lay out a process to engage any interest that may exist for that particular property.”

The property was one of several in March of 2008 up for public auction due to tax arrears, but those were ultimately paid and the building did not change hands at that time, said MacKay. In 2016, the OWA purchased the property from the owner, who had owned it for sometime. On receipt of the purchase price, OWA turned over the title to the city.

“The Orphan Well Association paid for the acquisition cost but they are not entitled to own property through their mandates … that governs their association,” MacKay was quoted saying in February.

The city and OWA will equally split costs of addressing hazardous material abatement, demolition of the property, registration of a utility right-of-way and restrictive covenant on the property that would allow the city to pursue leasing opportunities with interested parties.

The city’s portion of the bill would be about $460,000.

The city does regular testing at adjacent buildings for public safety and calls the OWA if there are any issues with the unit. OWA will do repairs if and when required. Routine inspections are done annually. OWA will pay the applicable electrical bill for the vacuum unit.

The site has been home in the past to both the American Hotel, as well as the Ming Tree Cafe.

The American Hotel, constructed by J.C. Colter in the 1890s, was one of three “hostelries” catering to the needs of pioneer residents, according to a story in the News on June 29, 1949.

“Mr. Colter was the first one to use natural gas in Medicine Hat,” D.A. Colter, the owner’s daughter-in-law, said in a News story. “He used to pipe gas into the building by means of a watering hose. He used it for cooking.”

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