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Rat Portage
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Canadian Pacific Railway's Rat Portage station - Date unknown Photographer unknown.

In 1899, the Canadian Pacific Railway, responding to an increase in service demands, modernized its station at Rat Portage. (Now known as Kenora.)

Making the very most of its predecessor's unflattering location, the booming town's new facility was designed to welcome tourists, business moguls, and new citizens alike. For the construction of the station, the CPR employed William Garson, the same contractor who had completed the post office. The plan called for the use of local brick and regional stone in its construction, and though it was not overly grand in stature, the building's unique character, with its marvelously modelled roof and fastidiously maintained gardens, would leave a lasting impression on its many visitors.

Even before the first train arrived in 1882, Rat Portage played host to some of Western Canada's most successful mining and lumber magnates. Drawing major interest from across the country, the area's steady industrial development made essential a facility that could welcome a greater volume of business-minded guests. In the years surrounding the construction of the new station, Sir William Van Horne, president of the CPR, lauded the potential of tourism as a means of encouraging investment. In an interview he claimed that some of the largest ranches, busiest mills, and tallest buildings were the result of travellers seeing and seizing opportunities while passing from one destination to another. On tourists, he said "...they are never so tired, or so intent upon rest and recreation, that they fail to use their eyes to take in opportunities for profitable investment in industrial operations." Larger than its first iteration, the station's high Victorian style lent an air of gravitas and professionalism to a town desperately trying to impress.

In the early 1890s, the region was fast becoming known as a destination for travellers and weary vacationers, and the local newspaper repeatedly called on the CPR to invest in the growth of the community's tourism industry. The company may well have taken such demands into consideration, for only a few years later it decided to construct, as phrased by a contemporaneous article, one of the finest stations between Halifax and Victoria. Now not only an industrial, but also a recreational destination, Rat Portage needed a facility that could assure guests they were in a modern and affluent community. An early article from the Rat Portage Miner mentions the two kinds of visitors the town would host, campers, who fend for themselves, staying in tents for days on end, and tourists, who expect the very best in modern accommodations. The new station was built to handle both, containing a restaurant and waiting rooms.

The rarity of comparable buildings in Canada set the station apart as an uncommon example of the CPR working for the promotion and development of a community's investment opportunities. The railway's efforts in this regard put Rat Portage in much the same league as Lake Louise and Banff, the latter of which would have a station of similar style and purpose built in 1910. In supporting the Rat Portage tourism industry, the CPR created a need for its services through attractive weekend travel packages, which remained an important part of the community's economic activity for decades to come - 8 August 2013 - Marcus Jeffrey - "A New Station for Rat Portage" - Kenora Daily Miner and News.

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