- Our Town
Gordon Bell dies at age 74
Gordon Bell, the dynamic and hard-driving man behind the Three Valley Gap Chateau is dead.
His daughter, Melody Keates said he and his wife, Ethel, had been driving back to Revelstoke Saturday after attending a convention in Ottawa when he collapsed during a stop at a store in Dryden, a town in northern Ontario.
“They took him to hospital right away but they couldn’t revive him,” she said.
“My sister flew out to be with Mom when we heard and she got there about 1:30 a.m.”
They were to return this week. A public memorial will be held at Three Valley Gap on Friday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m..
Bell was just 74 and had no history of heart problems.
He leaves behind his wife, four children — Melody, George, Carol and Rene — 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
He also leaves behind his highly successful hotel complex 28 kilometres west of Revelstoke, which was 50 years old in September 2006, and a reputation as a shrewd and resourceful businessman who succeeded without a dime of government funding.
Three Valley Gap Chateau is much more than a 200-room hotel. Over the years Bell, an avid collector, put together a Ghost Town of authentic heritage buildings he salvaged from dead or dying communities around B.C. and filled them with everything from furniture, tools and utensils to a fantastic car collection. He even built a railway turntable and roundhouse.
“To me, it was crazy that all of these buildings were just being left behind to rot,” he said in an interview last year. “When I saw all that stuff being destroyed that’s when I wanted to tie in the historic part of this area to our hotel.”
He even built his own hydro electric dam. Museums and cultural attractions shut down yearly, but Gordon Bell did the improbable – he made a commercial success of selling culture and educated thousands of visitors in the process.
It wasn’t easy.
“We were very poor, and it wasn’t until 1974 that we broke even,” Bell said during the anniversary celebration. “In the winter of ’69 all we had to eat was the eggs from our 20 chickens. The next year, a train wreck left us with animal feed so we bought pigs, thinking ‘great, we’ll have eggs and bacon this winter’ – but then the darn pigs ate the chickens!”
DAVID F. ROONEY