A Walk With Ernest

Two Cents Worth in the Nickel City*
A Walk With Ernest


Saturday, May 2nd, my beautiful girl and I went walking downtown.  It was in support of Promenade de Jane, Jane’s Walk.  When we heard of the exercise, we heartily agreed that it would not only be interesting and educational, but a good excuse to take in some fresh, Spring air.

From the website, janeswalk.com: “Jane’s Walk honours the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centered approach to planning. Jane’s Walk helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership.”


We enthusiastically showed up early and met our guide, Oryst Sawchuk, who occupies the Chair of the City of Greater Sudbury Municipal Heritage Committee.  There was one particular piece of history I was interested in, the Nickel Range Hotel.  Mr. Sawchuk pointed out the hotel’s one time location, just across the street from where we were meeting at the Market Square.  It is a parking lot now.

Ernest Hemingway, the American author, had visited Sudbury back in 1923 as a reporter for the Toronto Star, covering a newly discovered coal mine. While doing his research, Hemingway had stayed at the Nickel Range Hotel.  Oryst Sawchuk pointed out that at the time, the Nickel Range’s six stories were considered to be skyscraper height and the Nickel Range Hotel included the area’s first elevator.  The second floor of the hotel had an elegant ballroom and it was at this very site that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth stayed during their visit in 1939.

I strained my brain trying to imagine what it must have been like for Hemingway, who described the “red bricked buildings of Sudbury” after his visit. He had to have noticed the Sterling Standard Bank positioned next door to the hotel and might have even done business there.  The Grand Theatre was just down the street, perhaps he strolled by one evening, killing time as writers often do.  No doubt he passed the Balmoral Hotel on his way to the post office at the corner of Elm and Durham Street.  Maybe just before entering the huge structure, he noticed the Ste-Anne-des-Pins rectory.  I imagined Hemingway as impressed with the post office’s clock tower and architectural magnificence as I was Saturday looking at its picture on a dedication plaque, the site of yet another parking lot.  I found myself wondering why we allow those pieces of history to vanish while suffering the future’s progressive  regression.  Are we really better off without them?


Ernest Hemingway went back  to Toronto without a story, the coal mine turning out to be a scam.  Eventually, Ernest and Hadley Hemingway took their newborn son, John, and returned to Paris, France.  There, young Ernest became a published writer of short stories and poetry, struggling to find himself as the innovating author he eventually became.


I think Hemingway would be surprised at downtown Sudbury today.  Some of the red brick buildings are still standing, but their collective soul has departed.


Sadly for them, the bell tolled long ago…


*Author’s note:  This is the last article written for Two Cents Worth in the Nickel City, my unceremoniously rejected series suggested to the local newspaper from 2009.  For more information on Jane’s Walk visit www.janeswalk.net



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