The old Brunswick Hotel that once stood on Sparks street in Ottawa was a grand hotel. In 1908 the building was replaced with a new one to house the Murphy-Gamble store (118-124 Sparks Street) which was completed in 1909. In their heyday the Brunswick Hotel was known far and wide as the best “dollar-a-day” hotel in the area.
The old Brunswick Hotel spread over a vast area of Sparks Street and was opened in the late 1850s by the late John Bishop, and was known as the British Lyon until John Huckell took it over in 1885. For many years Mr. Huckel and the Brunswick Hotel were features of Sparks street. Mr. Huckell bought the hotel from Hugh Alexander, a former Stittsville man who had run it for a number of years after the retirement of Mr. Bishop.
It might be explained that neither Mr. Alexander nor Mr. Huckell owned the building. What they owned, and what they sold, was the equipment and the goodwill. The property remained vested in Mr. Bishop and subsequently the Bishop estate.
When Mr. Huckell retired in 1904 he sold his furniture and goodwill and lease to the late Sam St. Jacques and John Cain. After the death of Mr. Bishop the property was acquired by Mr. Fred Carling who tore part of it down and erected the modern department store that was known by the catch phrase “Meet Me at Murphy’s!”
For many years the name of John Huckell was well known on Sparks street. As a sidelight on property values in the early 1880s Mr. Bishop offered Mr. Alexander the hotel building and land (extending through to Queen street) for the sum of $32,000. Mr. Alexander offered to give $30,000. A little later he proposed to take up the offer at $32,000, but Mr. Bishop had raised the price to $35,000, but Mr. Alexander refused to come up and the deal fell through.
The Brunswick was a hotel of considerable size, as it had 62 bedrooms and the dining room could accommodate 98 guests. Both the old British Lion and the Brunswick witnessed many banquets, and it was for years a sort of headquarter for the annual dinners of societies, and much oratory was heard there. It had fine stables and was the starting- point of both the Richmond and the Billings Bridge stages.
Like all old time hotels it had up to comparatively modern times, a gateway from Sparks street. But in the 1890s after land became more valuable the gateway was lined in. The Brunswick Hotel was also noted as the headquarters for the Carleton county councillor when the County Council was in session.
The son of Ben Huckell, John Huckell, also knew something about the hotel business. He had grown up in hotels nearly all his life. His father, Ben, who came to Ottawa from Bucks, England in 1858 had considerable to do with hotels in the early days. Though he was a miller by trade in the Old Country, Mr. Huckell, after he had been here two years, opened the “Prince of Wales Feather” Hotel on Cathcart Street between Sussex and Dalhousie Street.
The hotel was in a stone building and Mr. Ben Huckell began the hotel with the idea of catering to the better class of lumber hands such as square timber men, cullers, etc. But, he evidently chose a site which was out of the way as he didn’t do very well there. So about a year later he moved to York Street at the corner of Dalhousie and started the Kingston Inn. The Inn ran for 7 or 8 years with better success and early in the 1870 he sold out and went to March Corners where he opened another hotel and also farmed.
In the fall of that year there came the great fire of 1870. Huckell’s hotel was not burned, but the fence all round the property and the outbuilding were. The country all round had become so scorched and damaged that hotel keeping became unprofitable and he went back to Ottawa.
He secured a job as letter carrier and John Huckell says his father and one John Brown were the two first professional letter carriers appointed for Ottawa. Ben Huckell “carried” in Upper Town and John Brown in Lower Town. Mr. Brown was a Quebec man who had come here a couple of years after the removal of the old government from Quebec.
After his return to Ottawa Mr. Ben Huckell settled on Bank street in a little white cottage, which used to be located between Lisgar and Cooper streets and which was one of the landmarks of early Bank street. Everybody knew where Ben Huckell lived and all the old timers knew Ben Huckell and he knew them.
One of these is the old home of Mr. Ben Huckell The other shows the modern business block which replaced Mr. Huckell’s home. The Ottawa Citizen Ottawa, Ontario, Canada –31 Jul 1926, Sat • Page 26
All the old timers knew Ben Huckell and he knew them. Great Englishman Ben Huckell was a great Englishman. He was one of the charter members of St. George’s Society and was one of the seven men who attended the first organization meeting.
Son John Huckell also had considerable hotel-keeping experience apart from the Brunswick. About the year 1878, after having about 12 years’ experience on the steamers Queen, Prince of Wales, and Peerless of the Ottawa River Navigation Co., and about 4 years in the boot and shoe business on Duke street at the Chaudiere, he bought out Pierre Poulin’s restaurant business at 648 Sussex street and went into the restaurant business. But, he had only operated this place a few months when a man named Latremouille made him an attractive offer and he sold out. John then bought out the “Terrapin” restaurant at 11 O’Connor street from C. A. Clisby. This restaurant ran for over 6 years, until he took over the Brunswick Hotel.
In April 1909 the Brunswick Hotel was said to be insolvent – Mr. J. P. Cain – proprietor of the Brunswick hotel, Sparks street, assigned for the benefit of his creditors.
Mr. John Huckell later retired — but looking at the father-son relationship- one wonders if their was an argument, or the elder John Huckell just could not cope anymore. In March of 1896 the case of Huckell vs Huckell was called into the High Court and the plaintiff was father Ben Huckell and the defendant was his son John Huckell of the Brunswick Hotel.
The suit was taken to recover the possession of Ben Huckell’s property on Bank street. The statement of claim showed that Mr. Ben Huckell purchased the property in 1884, and lived on it for some time. He found himself unable to meet the payments and asked his son to lend him the required amount giving him a mortgage in exchange. In 1895 the son forcibly ejected his father from the property, hence the action. The defence claim that there was no attempt at ejection; that the father was about to lose the property, not having paid anything on it lor seven years, when the son came to his assistance.
The father was dependent on the son for many years and lived with him until the action was taken. The defendant was quite willing to support his father, and if the case was settled he would pay all costs and continue to support him.
Jaan Kolk – Ottawa Historian—The only thing I might ad is that the Blyth’s Guide is from March of 1906, and The Gilmour (on the NW corner of Bank and Gilmour) was destroyed by fire in September of that year. Sadly, the electric car tracks advertised proved to be too close when the front wall of the ruins collapsed onto a streetcar Oct. 9, causing additional death and injury.
The Gilmour was rebuilt (in very similar style) as The Alexandra. Years later, the hotel people may remember as the Gilmour was built across the street from the Alexandra.
Here is LAC MIKAN 3300751
Jaan Kolk— did you know the Brunswick Hotel was next door to the White House? Here’s a photo from June 1904 (LAC MIKAN 3326041), with part of the Brunswick at left. The sign across the top was for Topley’s Photographic Supplies, located in in the corner of the Brunswick.
11 Mar 1896, Wed • Page 7
Ottawa Daily Citizen
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
23 Aug 1887, Tue • Page 4