Cornerstone Tunnels tour up and running

Lisa
Lisa Goudy
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Standing at the top of the stairs behind a closed door, Maryianna Potts introduced herself.

Maryianna Potts gives a tour of the Cornerstone Tunnels underneath Cornerstone Bar and Grill on July 21, 2014.

She was dressed in period clothing and it was like a jolt back in time. As she descended down the stairs and into a parlour room, she gave a first-hand account into the tunnels and the part they played during prohibition.

Even as she spoke, it was impossible not to be aware that this is underneath the location of Saskatchewan’s oldest hotel, the Maple Leaf Hotel. It had first opened on Dec. 22, 1899 as the first permanent building on the block, known then as the Foley Block.

The Cornerstone Tunnels underneath the Cornerstone Bar and Grill at 8 Main St. N. are the newest to open in Moose Jaw, but are likely the oldest tunnels in the city. Located not far down from the Tunnels of Moose Jaw, this tunnel tour opened up during Sidewalk Days at the beginning of July.

“Basically what we’ve done here is created a tour of Tunnel Junction is what it’s called under the Cornerstone Bar,” said Brent Boechler, one of the owners of Cornerstone. “We just thought it’d be kind of cool to tie that in with the restaurant and bar. People can come down and have a bit of fun and experience Moose Jaw in a different way.”

After purchasing the building a few years ago, Boechler began working on the idea of a tunnel tour.

“I’ve always been interested in the history of this building and the history of Moose Jaw of course,” he said. “We just decided that we should go back and dig up the history on this building which used to be the connection of all the tunnels.”

The tunnels used to go from the Cornerstone Bar and Grill to the Exchange Café to where the other tunnels are and to River Street and the train station.

He added the tunnels aren’t considered competition to the Tunnels of Moose Jaw. So far, the Cornerstone Tunnels have been going well.

“We’re getting a lot of interest. It’s kind of a fun tour and I think people like it too because it’s not that expensive and it only takes 15, 20 minutes instead of 45 minutes and there’s nothing wrong with the other tunnels. They’re great too. This is hopefully going to accent them and augment them,” said Boechler.

The Cornerstone tour isn’t as in-depth as the Tunnels of Moose Jaw, but he said it was a bit more hands on.

“In other words, you actually get to go inside a tunnel. You get to actually participate in moving the ore car that brings the booze across the street,” he said.

The first thing to be done was change the establishment’s bar license last fall to allow children to be at Cornerstone Bar and Grill from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“So now we can accommodate families,” said Boechler. “We wanted it to be a family tour.”

There is also a tour history book for purchase for $10. It includes the history of Moose Jaw over the last 115 years through the perspective of the Maple Leaf Hotel, which became the Churchill Hotel, then the Cornerstone Inn and now the Cornerstone Bar and Grill.

The tour itself costs $5 per person. It runs seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit Cornerstone Bar and Grill, call 306-692-4747 or go to cornerstonebargrill.com.

Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.

Organizations: Maple Leaf Hotel, Cornerstone Inn

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Tunnel Junction River Street

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