The Whiskey Man
The Mysteries of Livingstone Street
In 2013 Yorkton celebrated 75 years as a city, and as a celebration project the City of Yorkton Municipal Heritage Advisory Sub-Commission undertook the writing of the Balmoral Hotel/Bronfman Saga. Heritage Researcher, Therese Lefebvre Prince has written the book, and Mark Claxton is the editor. It was funded with a grant from the Painted Hand Community Development Corporation. The WHISKEY MAN has 64 pages of stories with photos and artwork.
The book "THE WHISKEY MAN" is a compilation of the research findings and the various stories told by people who had experienced or witnessed certain events, or heard the facts and folklore of those uproarious years, and the later more quiet years. It was not an easy task, for even today a few people continue to contribute to the mysterious goings-on that took place on Livingstone Street by statements such as: "I don't know if I want this story to be in a book." One can therefore understand why no one has left written accounts of how much contraband liquor was mixed with the legal shipments on freight trains that went thundering out of Yorkton in the deep of a 1920 night, and how many times a Bronfman-hired chauffeur crossed an American border trail south of Gainsborough to make a delivery in 1922. The mysteries have therefore been perpetuated.
In the years following the turn of the century-the early days of village and town building in Yorkton, two streets were considered main thoroughfares. They were Broadway, where several business places with imposing facades had been erected, and North Front Street, renamed Livingstone after World War I which ran parallel to the railway, and where impressive-looking buildings were also located, the most notable of which was the Balmoral Hotel. A short street compared to Broadway, Livingstone rivaled it in importance because of its proximity to the railway-a time when the train was king of transportation, and businesses vied for nearby locations.
Overtime, heritage-minded citizens have deplored the disappearance or the impending demolition of some of the fine old buildings on both these streets. However, no other building has been missed as much as the venerable Balmoral Hotel after it was struck down by fire in 1985. It had been noted for its hospitality since 1897, but people have been nostalgic about the hotel because of its colourful history, in particular because it was the property of Harry Bronfman of the famous Bronfman dynasty. Associated with the mysterious liquor running activities during the Prohibition years of 1915 to the mid 1920s, it became well-known across the province and elsewhere. Of particular interest, it had been the object of never ending rumours that it was the alleged starting point of a network of underground tunnels, which led to caches of liquor housed in neighbouring buildings and to C.P.R. freight sheds for clandestine shipment.
A number of authors have written books about the Bronfman dynasty. Time had come however, for Yorkton to review the story and write an account of the Balmoral Hotel/ Bronfman saga from its early days up to the hotel's demise by fire in 1985. The research focused on finding more local details, in particular, more on the life and times of Harry Bronfman's sojourn in Yorkton, the involvement of his brothers Abe and Sam in the community's life and the role the Bronfman family played from 1915 to the mid 1920s during Prohibition years in Saskatchewan.
- The Balmoral Hotel was located at 25 Livingstone Street until it was destroyed by fire in 1985
- Livingstone Street was first known as North Front Street