From Perth Remembered–The St. George Hotel
Early Hotels of Perth
The year 1896 was a good period for the hotel industry in Perth. Five recorded hotels flourished within the town boasting a grand total of 165 rooms, five bars, and two more establishments than presently service the needs of the traveling public in 1964.
According to 19th century observers, Perth had a high caliber of service and had an excellent reputation as a fine hotel town. One such observer was the old Perth Expositor which noted how strangers “always judge a town by its hotels” and then carried the impression of hospitality and service to the far reaches of the land.
The hotel business of 1898 was a vast improvement over the rude taverns and inns of early days. Several of the hotels survived the turn of the century and can be readily seen in today’s busy commercial trade. The only hotel still bearing the same name and remaining in the same location is the Revere House at Wilson and Foster.
The hotels of Perth began just prior to the Boer War, and were five: Barrie’s Hotel, Hicks House, Allen House, Revere House and Queen’s Hotel. They were all located in the business section of down town Perth and catered to a through trade from road, stage and traveling salesmen. Since 1900 the road trade has shifted west to Highway 7 where an assortment of motels enjoy a lucrative business from an almost entirely auto trade.
The St. George Hotel had a direct relationship to the economic and social development of Perth. Constructed in 1830 by John Doran, a native of Wexford, Ireland and one of the earliest settlers of Perth, this Georgian-style structure was constructed as a private home. However, by 1832, the building had been converted to a hotel by William Cross, a Perth Innkeeper, who advertised in the Bathurst Courier that he had moved to a “Commodious Stone House” and would supply his guests with “choice liquors of all kinds” and a larder stocked “in the good old English styleIn 1896 the oldest hotel was Barrie’s operated by Thomas Barrie. It had thirty rooms and a well stocked bar. A resort of the surrounding farming community, the hotel enjoyed a heavy seasonal business. Mr. Barrie was hailed as a “jolly good natured fellow” with a “pleasant greeting” for all.
The Hicks House, now the Perth Hotel, was hailed as the “leading commercial hotel” in eastern Ontario, sporting a bar, billiard room, free bus rides and a variety of fare on the table. The proprietor was John Wilson, noted for his catering and disciplining of the “hotel attaches”.
The Queen’s occupied thirty rooms, a bar, a billiard room and stables across from what is now Girdwoods Store on Foster Street. Owned by Frank A. Lambert, father of Edward Lambert, present day proprietor of the Imperial Hotel on Wilson, the Queen’s closed its quarters in 1918 after purchasing Barrie’s from James P. Hogan who succeeded Mr. Barrie as operator. Queen’s and Barrie’s are thus the modern day Imperial Hotel operated by Ed Lambert who took over from his father in 1934.
In 1896 Revere House was a 25 room establishment run by W.J. Flett who is described as one of the best hotel men in the valley. He enjoyed a popular local trace.
Largest hotel in Perth, now closed to business, was a fifty room spread called the Allan House, situated to the west of the town hall in a block now occupied by Chaplin and Code and the Coin Wash. Andrew Robinson the proprietor, was famous for his “uniform courtesy and kindness” and the free bus rides to the train and stages. Mr. Robinson purchased the Allan House from I.C. Grant after ten years as an employee of the Hicks House.
Needless to say, the hotels of Perth had close connections with Crystal Sprine Brewery and McLellan’s Distillery, two enterprises which made Perth famous from Nova Scotia to British Columbia.
READ THE PERTH COURRIER AT ARCHIVES LANARK