Edelweiss Swiss Village
Shortly after the first trains of the C.P.R. crossed the mountains on their long haul to the Pacific Coast, reports of jagged peaks and unclimbed summits began to bring mountaineers to this vast new challenging area.
Since trails were non-existent and accommodation meagre it was not log before hotels were constricted at Lake Louise, Field and Glacier.
Then the C.P.R. began to hire Swiss guides to lead their clients over newly made trails to many of the high summits. It was in 1899 that Edouard Feuz Sr. and Christian Hasler Sr. pioneering this service, to be followed by other guides, including their sons.
These men were stationed at the three hotels for the summer, but returned to Switzerland for the winter months.
Om 1909, however, the C.P.R. decided to provide the guides with “Swiss” type homes, to be made available to married men on a five-year contract. Golden was the place favoured by the guides and some land on a hillside and the flat below were purchased near the little settlement. Construction of six homes perched among the trees on the steep slope was begun and when they were almost finished in 1911 the guides inspected them before returning home.
Early in June 1912, they returned with their wives, or in one case with a bride-to-be. So the new season began with a wedding at the Columbia Hotel, which was a fine opportunity for an arrival party! The travellers had been treated well en route. All expenses were paid and the men were on half-pay from the time they left Switzerland. They were on “exhibition” in London, Liverpooll and Montreal as an advertisement for the railway, the Rockies and the expansion of the Canadian west.
The houses were ready, but there was no furniture. Hastily this omission was rectified by purchases from local business establishments. There was running water in every basement, gravity-fed from the springs which gush from the hillside; but the houses were not quite like those of their homeland, which do not have fireplaces and not so many balconies.
After two days, the guides had to be off on their jobs of mountaineering, leaving the wives to settle in their strange new surrounds and no doubt very homesick.
Mrs. Edouard Feuz was the only one who spoke any English, but fortunately they had some help. The caretaker, who lived on the flat below was expected to take them to town by horse and buggy to do their shopping, and he was to act as interpreter.
The arrival of the guides and their wives was news which brought a Toronto journalist, Mrs. Sprague, to interview the women. She asked to see their goats in the basement.
“Yes! All Swiss people keep goats in their basement!”
The many stairs the women did not mind, but in due course, they did mind pushing baby buggies up that hill, especially when mosquitoes swarmed around them.
During the next two years, the C.P.R. cleared the bottom land into ten acre lots, built houses and barns on them and hoped to establish a big Swiss colony – but guaranteed no employment, merely suggesting they could grow produce and sell it in town.
This was not an extensive market and the townspeople were already well supplied. So the Swiss colony did not boom, on fact it did not begin, for the guides made no move to entice their fellow-countrymen. Big signs were erected by the tracts reading “Edelweiss Swiss Village, Golden, B.C,” and trains slowed down to allow passengers to appreciate one of the “sights of their journey, the house on the hill, duly pointed out by the newsy.
In 1915, Edouard Feuz purchased 2.5 acres and lived with his family for many years in his delightful home by Hospital Creek now the site of the Brookside Motel.
From there it would not be far for the children to walk to school along the tracts, not an easy walk in the winter. Once, after an especially heavy snowfall, Walter and Edouard packed a trail to make it easier for the youngsters, but on turning around Edouard saw the children happily scattered in the deep snow and plowing a trail of their own. “Never again” he said, and from then on they had to battle their own way the two miles to the Lady Grey School.
Many years later Alfred Cooper bought the farmlands, pulled the houses and barns together and established Swiss Village Camp for the tourists. Mr. E. Hughes then acquired it and added to it every year as he had an excellent business, the first cabins in Golden, and for some time the only ones.
In 1959 Walter Feuz bought the remaining land and the houses on the hill soon after from the C.P.R. He modernised the homes and strategically cleared some of the trees so that the group of unusual homes could be seen more clearly.
In 2022 the houses are still on the hill overlooking the north of Golden but their future but we are holding out hope that someone will come along that recognizes the historic value of the property and wants to preserve the history of the guides who were the originators of adventure tourism in western Canada.
To learn more about the future of the Swiss Village in Golden check out this link https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/iconic–swiss-village–in-the-rocky-mountains-goes-on-sale/47236996