Before 1912 the corner of Cornwall and Dewdney was occupied by a Chinese Laundry. We don’t know how big it was and how much of the space that is now the Strathdee building was used for the laundry. It was destroyed by the great cyclone of 1912, which was, in fact, a tornado. Dozens were trapped in the rubble of the buildings that were torn apart by the tornado. The Ackerman building across the street was only partly damaged, as you can see in the pictures on our west wall. In true Regina tradition, hundreds came to the warehouse area to free those trapped. British actor William Henry Pratt was appearing in a play in Regina at the time of the storm. In the aftermath, he volunteered as a rescue worker. Years later, he would move to Hollywood and change his name to Boris Karloff. In the 1960s, Karloff appeared on the talk and game show Front Page Challenge where he was featured not because of his notoriety in horror films, but because of his involvement in the Regina Cyclone of 1912.
The man who is responsible for the creation of the Strathdee building was named Stewart. He planned the biggest and handsomest warehouse building in Regina. It was to be the Cadillac among warehouses, and it still is. It was built in 1913 and 1914 and opened in the spring of 1914. He brought young James Strathdee from Winnipeg to manage it.
Railway cars would be unloaded at the rear, on tracks that ran next to the building. An army of workers moved goods to the six large floors for storage (before the days of palate jacks.) Owners of the many small country stores came to the area under the tin ceiling to look over the goods for sale; cloth, flower, dried beans, etc., and make their orders which were hauled away in trucks from loading docks on the east side of the building.
James and his wife lived in the Cathedral area and was a member of Regina’s “elite”, as the manager of the Stewart-Strathdee building. As business expanded a new Scot, named Campbell, was brought from Winnipeg to be assistant manager. It was now the Stewart-Strathdee-Campbell building.
In the early 1930’s, James Strathdee was returning from Calgary by motor vehicle. Somewhere near Swift Current he was involved in a major auto accident. He sustained serious injuries, including head injuries. He recovered, but he was never himself. Because of his diminished capacity, he began to loose authority to his assistant, Campbell. He became more and more depressed. He was found one October morning in the late 1930’s lying on the tracks across the street with his head nearly blown off and a shotgun lay nearby.
The police called it suicide, but many questions remain unanswered. Why did he choose such an unlikely place and time to do himself in?
Campbell took over. Eventually the patterns of distribution changed and the role of the great warehouse declined. It became an Eaton’s warehouse. Then part of the building was used for offices and storage by the Saskatchewan Liquor Board. Then it became Regina Modern Furniture, and then the Strathdee Mall and the Bushwakker Brewpub. Now it is a mixture of residential condominiums, offices, shops and The Bushwakker.
In recent years people working in the building have begun reporting strange events, At night people claim that they have seen a man with a full beard and 1930’s clothing. He is usually seen “out of the corner of the eye”, late at night. Others claim to experience a sudden chilling draught. One of the most definitive stories is told by Wes. He had his own bakery on the second floor upstairs. He has since worked at the Bushwakker and at the Free House. He says that one night at 3:00 AM a man with a beard and a brown plaid shirt walked past him. He saw the man not directly in front of him, but not “out of the corner of his eye.” Wes put down his work and turned to have a better look, but no one was there.
Those who claim to have seen the apparition assume that it is James Strathdee. They have come to refer to the ghost as “Jim”.
One person who refused to accept the possibility that there really is a Jim wandering the building at night was an antique dealer on the third floor named Dave. Dave was working late one night. He finished, turned out the lights, and went to the stairwell. The third floor shops are made secure by closing and locking a big wrought-iron gate. Dave locked the gate and turned off the last light. He then noticed that he had missed a small three-position light that he could still see glowing faintly at the far end of the floor. He said out loud to no one in particular “Darn! Hey Jim, can you turn out that light for me?” Before he could turn to leave the light went from low to medium. He froze. It then went to high, and then off!
One of our line cooks claims to have seen Jim in the Bushwakker area and the brewers report strange draughts. There has been an unusual incident. The boiler that fires our brewhouse is in a room at the north-east corner of the cellar, together with the big boiler that heats the building. Our brewer claims that he went into the boiler room late one afternoon to work on our boiler. He says that the room was locked, empty and in complete darkness until he turned on the light. While he was working, a piece of coal came sailing out of the darkness above the big boiler and bounced off the side of a pail next to him. It happened twice and he decided to leave.
As it happens, our house electrician was working the same day over the boiler and had found some ancient pieces of coal on the top of it. He decided to throw some pieces down into a pail he had noticed below, so he could take them home to show his son. So, either Jim was copying the electrician or the brewer did not find the door locked shut before he entered the room, as he swears was indeed the case.
Jim’s name is Celtic and means “valley of the Dee”, a river that runs from the central highlands to Aberdeen, Scotland. Occupants of the Strathdee Building think that Jim is a reasonably satisfied ghost. He seems to be downright helpful. Perhaps that is because his building often reflects his heritage, with lots of Celtic and Scottish events at the Bushwakker. For instance, the Bushwakker’s next Single Malt Scotch Tasting takes place in late October, with six single malts, a pipe and drum band, highland dancers, and Celtic musicians.
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