Ginter’s Field has been a favourite spot of Prince George locals for many years. In the fall, the brilliant colours of foliage light up the hillside. Summer entices residents with its lush, rustling birch, aspen and spruce.
A paradise for nature enthusiasts, photographers, and families alike, Ginter’s Field is a wonderful place to get out for a walk and soak in the essence of Prince George. As one of only two designated, off-leash friendly dog parks in town, pet owners also frequent the trails.
The trailhead begins at the end of Massey Drive, just off Ospika Boulevard. Meandering gently up the hill through an open meadow, visitors are guided towards an old, abandoned home site- the long, but not forgotten Ginter’s Mansion.
Ben Ginter was an innovative man with a mixed reputation among locals. Individual opinion aside, Mr. Ginter brought a spot-light to Prince George as a city to be reckoned with. He began his career in heavy-equipment road construction, having a hand in railway and various roadway expansions throughout B.C..
In 1957 Ben purchased an abandoned brewery in town, founding the Caribou Brewing Company. His bearded-tartan marketing efforts gave Prince George its claim to fame as a cutting-edge leader in the brewing industry. Ben would go on to make beer-in-a-can a household product, with other breweries following suit. He also introduced the very first refund for empties and started a revolution in modern day beer production and consumption.
By 1963 Ben’s empire was growing astronomically. With his ongoing success he built a state-of-the-art mansion atop Massey hill. The eccentric and contemporary design infused luxury in every detail, from the indoor pool, pass-through fireplace, to the stately-pillared entrance. Locals recall the many parties hosted at the Ginter’s mansion, often with extravagant features like peacocks wandering the lawn.
Local resident Trish Roine recalls the many award-winning animals on his property. Many years ago, Trish’s friend had a bad accident near the property after falling from her horse. Mrs. Ginter found the girls, took them to the hospital, and ever since that day she would invite them in for cookies.
“I always liked them both, but I’ve heard that a lot of people didn’t like them. It’s probably because they had the money and showed it. Apparently Ben was quite a ruthless businessman- but hey, you don’t get rich being nice to everyone. To me, he was a nice guy- but I wasn’t in the business of competition with him,” recounts Trish.
Unfortunately by the mid 1970s Ben Ginter’s success ended in financial arrears, resulting in the foreclosure of his business and estate. The mansion was rented out for a few years, eventually becoming decrepit over time due to the construction of the UNBC roadway just above the property. The new connector induced flooding below, rendering the mansion a safety concern. The city tore it down in the mid-nineties, leaving it in the state that it is seen as today.
Today the municipal-owned property has become a cherished destination for residents to enjoy. Many nearby streets are named after his wife and children. Remnants of the old mansion can be seen- stone pillars still stand and the porch stairs lead visitors to a barren cement foundation.
Ben Ginter died while living in Richmond, B.C. in 1982.
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Ginter’s Mansion exudes a mysterious sense of history with many more details available to the public. The Exploration Place showcases all-local exhibits that rotate between different venues quarterly. Ben Ginter’s story is part of that exhibit.
Also for your reading pleasure is local author Jan-Udo Wenzel’s biography of Mr. Ginter featuring a full account of his life and influence in Prince George. Find the must-read book here.
Do you have any old stories about the old Ginter’s Mansion? We’d love to hear more. Let us know in the comments.