Building of many faces
The Langham is an intergral part of Kaslo's history
The Langham has been the home of the Kaslo Cultural Centre for more than 30 years. Home to art galleries, a theatre and the Japanese Canadian Museum, it is one of Kaslo's only 1800s-era buildings that has survived into modern times. But in its extensive history—it was constructed in 1896—it has played nearly as many roles as some of the actors on its theatre stage.
"It was built as a hotel," said Alice Windsor, the executive director of the Langham Cultural Society. "There was a wonderful ad in the paper that we have in the archives that says, 'The Langham—steam heat, electric lights, everything first class.' It was fully furnished rooms that were for rent."
Back then, the Langham also housed a large bar, a livery and a brewery, making it one of the first industries in Kaslo where something was being created. Through the years, it has also housed a bank and a bottling factory. However, as Kaslo and many of the surrounding communities—such as Sandon and New Denver—have their roots in silver mining, when the silver dwindled, so did the populations of these towns. By the time the Second World War erupted, Kaslo's population had plummeted to several hundred, and many buildings, including the Langham, stood empty.
The Langham was then used a centre for Japanese-Canadian internees.
"This was considered quite luxurious—some of the internees were in tents for the first years," said Windsor. "Initially, people were a bit skeptical because there was propaganda that said (the internees) were enemy aliens, but the people in Kaslo soon changed their minds and were quite unhappy when the government said that the Japanese had to go east over the Rockies or back to Japan after the war."
By the 1970s, the Langham had fallen into disrepair—but, by 1978, a group of dedicated residents had restored it to its original glory. The Langham Cultural Society was officially formed in 1975, and the Langham's function as the Kaslo Cultural Centre is the longest it has played a single role.