When the Cariboo Gold Quartz mine opened early in 1933, a survey of the townsite of Wells was done by Major E.J. Gook. The first two lots, on the corner of Pooley Street and Sanders Avenue, were sold to entrepreneur Paddy Macdonell who commenced to build the Wells Hotel on the site.
The Wells Hotel is the largest and most imposing building on Pooley Street,and is the centerpiece of the main street. It is thought to be the first building in the Cariboo to be constructed from plans drawn by qualified architects.
To achieve the exterior English Tudor style, utilizing three symmetrical false gables with half-timbered effect in the upper story was achieved with the use of dark brown slats and California stucco. Materials from all over Europe and California were used on the interior walls and floors: with the three fireplaces faced with gold bearing rocks from the three operating mines that can be seen from the windows of the hotel; the Cariboo Gold Quartz, Island Mountain and the Coronado, on Cornish Mountain.
The hotel was completed late in the fall of 1934, and a huge lavish opening party was held at the hotel on the evening of November 13, hosted by the owners, Paddy and Mrs. MacDonell. For this special occasion the electric power supply to the town was turned on for the first time.
The Wells Hotel Pub was the first beer parlour in Wells, and was very popular with the mine workers, especially on pay days when Paddy would cash their checks as they sat down to drink their beer.
A popular story regarding the Wells Hotel is that the price of beer at the time was 5 cents a glass, and since Paddy was the only beer parlour in town, it wasn’t long before he began to assume that the miners would buy beer at any cost, so he doubled the price of the golden liquid. The miners were furious, but they continued to buy their beer; however once their glasses were emptied, they flung them into the fireplace, smashing them. Eventually, but not before every glass in the hotel had been destroyed did Paddy put the price back down to 5 cents a glass.
In 1939 the hotel saw an expansion of an 8 additional rooms with private baths and beer parlour, or as it was sometimes called, the “beverage room” was also enlarged to accommodate for separate entrances for men and women which was required in those days.
In 1961, the MacDonells sold the hotel to Art and Ollie Smith. While the economy of the Wells area was mostly dependant on the short tourist season and a small amount of logging, the later 1960s and 1970s were dark times for the community, when nothing much seemed to be happening. Many of the transient population that had lived in Wells during the 1960s had gone and even the local ski hill and jump that had been so popular during the 1930s and 1940s was now overshadowed by a new ski hill built at Pine Creek, near Wingdam.
By December of 1970 the Wells Hotel had been sold to Keith Pelletier, who operated it until 1978, when it sold, but later returned to Pelletier when the sale fell through. Later owners were George Leslie, who did a lot of work on the vacant building. Barb Wilson, an artist from Victoria, who had originally been sent up to Wells to do “as found” drawings of the historic building. Other owners have been Barb and Arnold Schmode and in 1996, a group of investors from the Quesnel area, headed by Jim Savage and Kevin McKelvie, bought the hotel, conducted the largest renovation since its construction in the 1930s and reopened it as a heritage inn. While the Wells Hotel has seen many changes in ownership and several renovations in its long history, it continues to be a significant landmark and has been the site of many famous and infamous events since its construction in 1933.