History of Stratford's Old Hotels   Floodtides of Fortune by Adelaide Leitch

Was ever a place more bountifully supplied with liquid refreshment than Stratford?  Whisky could be bought for 15 cents per gallon and it was the very best. James Kennedy claimed his liquors were so pure that the gallon jug he used as a measure never needed to be washed.

It was also the heyday of the hotel. In 1856, there were, in Stratford, eleven hotels, a brewery and a distillery, and the weekly Stratford Beacon and Perth County General Intelligencer ($2 per annum in advance) had a standing head for a classified ad column: "Hotels, Saloons, Etc." By 1871, there were 25 hotels and taverns, four saloons and five liquor shops. It was said that you could walk the four blocks from the corner of Huron and John Streets to Erie Street and pass (or fail to pass) fourteen places where you could get a drink.

The great hotel boom produced, among  early inns, the impressive New Albion.

There was the American Hotel (which became the Avon), also the Crown and the Ontario House, the old Queen's Arms with stabling for 100 horses, and then another Avon. At one time or another there flourished: the Central, the Arlington, Browning's Hotel, the Commercial, the Dog and Gun, the Falstaff, the Gladstone, the Glasgow and the Golden Inn; the G.T.R. Station Hotel, and the Junction Hotel; King's on Wellington Street, the Lake Huron Hotel later McCauley's Tavern — near the railway overpass.

Annie Alcock, Junction Hotel, proprietess

Here is an interesting fact about Annie Alcock and the Junction Hotel. 

Almost 40 years before Canadian women had the right to vote, and when most working women were dressmakers, milliners, teachers, or nurses, a number of Stratford women ran their own businesses.Lucy Cartwright was one(seemeribah Mineral Springs, Nile Street) and Annie Alcock was another. Annie Allcock was the proprietress of the Junction Hotel near the GTR station. She served fine meals and the choicest liquors. According to her advertisements, even the express trains remained long enough for passengers to take refreshments.  Source: Did You Know… Annie Allcock  & Lucy Cartwright ? – Stratford & District Historical Society 

The Lake Huron Hotel  was at one time one of the busiest hotels in Stratford. It got most of the railroad trade. It was known first as the Lake Huron Hotel and later as McCauley’s Tavern. What is now the Canadian National Railroad line, running over Erie street, was once the Buffalo and Lake Huron railroad. The railroad station was at the corner of Nelson and St. David streets and the Lake Huron Hotel was the only hotel close enough to the railroad to get railroad travelers. The hotel operated for about 25 years. 

At one time the hotel was considered one of the most up-to-date in Stratford. It had the usual bar and was in close proximity to a brewery which stood at the corner of St. Patrick and Erie streets. It could not be learned when the hotel closed but the gradual swing of business from that section of the city to the Downie street area, following the eastward move of the railway station, spelled its doom.”

The Crown

The Queen's Arms

There were: the Market Hotel and the Mathews; the New Found Out on Thereon Road at the outskirts of town; the Palmerston, the Robertson House, the Rose, the Royal, Shipman's near the station; the Stratford on Ontario Street; the Terrapin (which had the best food in town, they said); Toronto House, the Victoria, the Waverley, the Wilson House and Herron's. Pethick's Hotel near the station advertised: "Express trains stop long enough for passengers to take refreshments." Getschell's Hotel on Erie street was a favorite haunt of immigrants from Yorkshire. Charles Duperow operated a hotel for a while on Erie Street, and there were two at the Embro Road corner Chowen's and McPhee's. Another two small hostelries appeared at the junction of Guelph and Nile Streets. Succeeding with his first venture, which was Browning's Hotel on Market Square, owner Charles Browning then opened up another, the Balmoral. It, in turn, became the Mansion House, after 1876.

Even after business blocks replaced the inns, the skyline of Wellington Street, three stories up, reminded the people hurrying along the road below that four hotels had once been there: the Cabinet, the City, the Worth and the Corn Exchange, which became the Royal Exchange and then just the Royal.

The most famous hotel after the old Shakespeare was probably the Albion, built in 1855 by James and Peter Woods on Ontario Street, across the square from the burned-out site of the Sargints' original inn. It pulled in the farmers from the townships and the citizens from the village, and the commercial travelers en route to Goderich. Ben Douro, the colored man, drove for it with a fine team of grey horses and a wagon. Adjoining the hotel, were Corey's Livery Stables which operated the Albion Hotel Omnibus to and from the station.

Like the coffee houses of the eighteenth century, some hotels had their own special clienteles. For a while, the Queen's Arms was the special headquarters of the county councilors and their friends. The Albion was considered a "Tory hang-out". The Mansion House (see St. Patrick Street) at Wellington and St. Patrick, with large stables across the street, attracted the farmers, as did the Farmers' Inn, across from the blacksmith shop. Farmers were welcome at all the establishments, of course, and the hundreds of them that hauled their wagonloads of wheat into Stratford had a lot to do with the mushrooming of the hotels.

The thirsty wayfarer did not have to go to a hotel, of course, although he might have trouble avoiding one. There were also the saloons. Most popular was Ben Sleet's (see North Street) Market Refreshment Hall near the market house, where this astute colored man advertised 'oysters, fried and pickled pigs' feet, tripe and other refreshments" as well as I 'the Best of Wines and Liquors"

In 1857, the village council asked the ratepayers to vote on a bylaw to close the saloons. Although the "yes" vote was 82-2, the bylaw was defeated because it did not win, as required, a majority of the ratepayers — who numbered 280. As if this weren't enough of booze for one community, Stratford also made— and had been catering to its citizens' thirst since the earliest whisky and beer days of settlement, when W. H. McCulloch  (see William Street) had added a distillery to his mills.

Later, Vivian's Brewery opened on St. Patrick Street, and continued, off and on, to operate under different proprietors and various names for more than a hundred years. Its product resembled British ales, using no artificial carbonation, and, for years, Vivian's was the only brewer of ale in Perth County.

It became the Formosa Springs and Perth Breweries, and was the last  independent left in Ontario in 1949, before it was acquired by Canadian Breweries, and closed down. Much later and less famous was the Empire Brewery on Erie Street And meanwhile, somewhat lost in the array of watering holes, there existed, determinedly, in Stratford the Temperance Hotel and Boarding House, which had opened in 1857. 

When the hotels began closing, Stratford acquired business blocks. The historic Albion, after 1875, was replaced by three stores — a grocery, known as the Italian Warehouse, a jewelry store (Goldsmith's Hall), and George Klein's dry goods and ready-to-wear clothing. The New Albion, on the other side of Ontario Street, one block east, had originally been the Waverley House; it too, eventually was converted into a business block. 

Only a few hotels made it into the 20th century in recognizable form: the Dominion House (1870) (see Guelph Street)and the Windsor (1881) were still in business under their original names in the 1970's. The Avon on Downie Street had once been the American. The Mansion House was starting its second century in 1976. The Queen's Arms, early established on the main road from Hamilton to Goderich for commercial travelers and boarders, retained mementos of the old hotel when it rebuilt around 1906. The Queen's Hotel today still has a few of the tiny old rooms, equipped with their small taps and basins.

Dominion House