Popular Old Inns, Taverns and Hotels

Submitted by Devonna Edwards

The Blue Bell Tavern

The tavern was located at the southeast corner of Windsor and North Street, one and a half mile from Halifax. In May 23, 1796 an ad in the newspaper had the well-known tavern called the Blue Bell up for sale. It stated that the property had a barn, stable, out-houses and garden with different fruit trees and a good well of water with about fifty acres of land adjoining the farm. Bell Road by the Halifax Common got its name because it was the road that people would take to get to the Blue Bell Tavern. When Kempt Road was built in 1824, the tavern was no longer on the main avenue of travel so business declined then by 1842 it was gone.

Another tavern also called the Blue Bell Tavern was located on the western corner of Barrack (Brunswick St.) and George Streets in the 1860s. It was a well-known local dive notorious for drinking, rowdiness, thievery and also known as a house of ill-fame. In 1963 Michael Hines, keeper of the Blue Bell Tavern on George Street, was sentenced for attacking a soldier with a hammer. There were ill feelings between a number of civilians and some of the soldiers in the garrison at that time. In the Morning Chronicle newspaper on Oct. 11, 1866 it stated that the police made a descent upon the house of ill-fame and arrested three females and two men who they found there. They were arraigned before the police court where the females were sent to Rock Head Prison and the men fined $4.00 each. In the Acadian Recorder newspaper on April 15, 1867 it stated that the police observed a light in the cellar of the Blue Bell Tavern which was unoccupied for some time. They found four men digging in the cellar and arrested them, one of the men stated that he had dreamed of a large sum of money being buried in the cellar and his friends offered to assist him.

The Red Cow Tavern

The tavern was located on the northwest corner of Chebucto and Mumford Roads around the area where St. Agnes Roman Catholic Church is today. The Red Cow Tavern was sometimes known by the Irish name of `Cool-na-gara`, meaning “a hole-in-the Wall“ because it looked like a hole in the mass of pine trees that surrounded it. Hanging in front of the tavern swung a sign with a picture of a red cow on it. The original `Red Cow` building was later used as a Teahouse before it was demolished and a man named Cleary built a house on the site in the late 1830s or early 1840s. Later occupants were Mr. Mont, John Clancy (1868) and J.J. Charlton (1894-1906) and the Brunt family. About 1888, one Marshall F. Gillow, alias Frank or John Jones, an alleged swindler from the United States, who afterwards committed suicide at Hubbards, is said to have lived there for a short time.

McAlpine`s Three Mile House also called Edward`s Valley Inn

The Inn was located at the junction of Windsor Street and Lady Hammond Road, three miles from Halifax. In August 1795 John McAlpine bought one hundred acres in the Dutch Village and in November he bought ten acres on a hill (Strawberry Hill) around the Bedford Basin, on this land he constructed a large house and opened his well-known hostelry, Edward`s Valley Inn. The “valley` refers to the area where Windsor Road descended the hills towards the shores of Bedford Basin at its southwest corner. The inn was probably named in honour of Edward the Duke of Kent, who passed the inn frequently on his way to town from his residence on the Bedford Highway. Townspeople often drove to McAlpines for dinner. A few years later, the busy entrepreneur built a separate residence.

There was also a slaughterhouse on McAlpine`s land, where the drovers killed cattle for market in town and a tannery nearby. In 1818 fire destroyed McAlpine`s cottage (also known as Three Mile Cottage), all his furniture and most of his family`s personal items, but within a year and a half, he erected a new and better house. Within another year he had leased his inn to Henry Maycock, who operated it from 1821 to 1822, offering good food, excellent beds, grazing land, board and lodging on reasonable terms. McAlpine also rented his inn to various other tenants, including John Northup. John McAlpine died on May 29, 1827, in this seventy-ninth year and ten years after his death, the house in which he died was offered for sale by his estate. McAlpine`s was still called Edward`s Valley Inn in 1834-35, but was known as Three-Mile House in 1864 when J. Parker lived there. In the later 1860 the inn burnt down.

The British Coffee House

The house was opened by Elizabeth Taylor in 1779 on Windsor Street near where the Fairview Cemetery stands today. An advertisement in the Nova Scotia Gazette newspaper in 1779 states:

At the Red House of the village on the road to the Blockhouse, will be opened to genteel entertainment for the accommodation of gentlemen and ladies either travelling, or refreshing or recreation where they will be attended with great respect and compliance.

The Octagon House also known as the Fairview Hotel

The house was located at 450 Dutch Village Road (the west side) in Fairview near the Fairview Underpass, today that part of Dutch Village Road is now known as Joseph Howe Drive. It is not known when the house was built but in 1891, the house along with thirteen acres of property was owned by Archibald McFatridge. An Octagon House is described as a house that has eight sides and was popular between the 1850s and 1870s. The Octagon house in Fairview might have possibly been designed by Henry S. Elliot and built by John Keating who also designed and built an Octagon House in Dartmouth in 1871. The Octagon building stood near the railway tracks which before 1914-15, ran on the western side of the lower Dutch Village Road, later the tracks moved to the eastern side of the road. The Octagon building in later years became a boarding house for men mainly working for the C.N.R. Railway.

In 1902-03 James D. Livingstone was the proprietor and by 1914-15 Daniel O`Connell was then the proprietor. The City Directory in 1918-19 listed Lieutenant Harry Taylor and Sargent William Draper as staying at the Octagon House. In 1920-26 Joseph Shaw (cabinet maker) was listed as his home being at 450 Dutch Village Road. Also in 1926-27 James Hobson (employee at C.N.R.) was listed as living at 450 Dutch Village Road (Octagon House).

James Stanford (tanner and leather boot and shoe manufacture) lived at the Octagon House in 1927. In the Evening Mail newspaper for October 30, 1926, Archibald McFatridge had his Octagon House and property for sale, asking price at $5,000 dollars. Beulah Smart lived near the old hotel when she was young, and she remembers the local children quickly running past the derelict building, saying that it was haunted. The Octagon House was demolished in 1927.

The Three Mile House also called the Bedford Inn

The Inn was located on the Bedford Road, today known as the Bedford Highway near the Fairview Underpass. It was described as a livery and tavern, a resting place for travelers. Their horses and carriages were housed in the stables. Isaiah Shaw built the first inn on the site about 1822, calling it at first the Bedford Inn. It was described as a rather large house that held twenty-two rooms. He also built a huge stable which could hold sixty horses and tons of hay. John Northup was the proprietor from 1828 until a man with an unusual name of Increase Ward replaced him in 1830. The inn was consumed by fire in October 1857 and a new two and a half storey high Three Mile House was built on the site soon after. Thomas Ward, son of Increase Ward became the proprietor until his death in 1887. After his death his family kept the inn in business for five years, until Thomas`s daughter married John F. Gough and he took over the inn. He added the western two storeys, flat roofed 20 ft. addition. He was the owner until the railway department took over his property in 1914 and the building was demolished in 1918 to make for the new Fairview Train Station.

The Algonquin Inn

The inn was located on the west side of Dutch Village Road (known today as Joseph Howe Drive) just a short distance from the bottom of Main Avenue and opposite to the Fairview Train Station leading out to the Bedford Highway. The large yellow house with a verandah was said to be an inn and a house of Ill-repute run by a lady named Betty, who had previously owned a second-hand goods store on Gottingen Street. Betty Kyle was said to be tough but kind-hearted lady, she once shot a troublemaker on her verandah but was kind enough to send chicken soup to the Fox family (who lived on the hill behind the inn on Evans Avenue) when she learned that the children were sick. She docked her beautiful cabin cruiser in the Bedford Basin and was known to stash money in her stockings, which would bulge out the sides when full. Betty also paid local boys five cents to twenty cents to clean up beer bottles at her establishment. She moved to Fairview in 1928 and by 1930 the Algonquin Inn in Fairview was listed in the City Directory. It was sometimes listed under Private Hotels as the Algonquin Inn, ran by Mrs. M. E. Kyle but also listed under Restaurant and Lunch Room. The last listing found was in 1942.

The Four Mile House also known as Hotel St. Elmo

The inn was located in Rockingham four miles from Halifax. In 1843 William Davey bought a large house, outbuildings and sixteen acres of land in Rockingham. He turned the house into an inn and leased it out until 1853.The first known person to run the inn was John Leizer before 1846. A man named Blois ran it in 1846-48, than in 1849 Mr. Hessleins took over until 1850, when Mr. Butler ran the inn until 1852. It was known as William Davey`s Inn in 1853, when Davey returned to live on his property after learning that the railway was being built. He figured that if the railway train stopped at his inn it would be very good for business, so he petitioned the Railway Board to pick his inn for the train’s first stop.

After he was granted his wish his Four Mile Inn thrived. Davey died in 1876 and after that the inn was owned by people by the names of H. Wright, and Patrick Connolly. In 1885 Henry N. Paw married Patrick Connolly’s daughter Mary, and he became the next owner of the Four Mile House. He changed the name to Hotel St. Elmo and advertised sea bathing, rowing, and sailing for his guest’s entertainment. He also had bathing houses built on his beautiful beach and had a suitable livery stable which added to the establishment’s popularity at that time. Years later Henry Paw sold to Mrs. Britton and then the hotel was finally demolished. During the 1870s into the 1880s rowing was a popular sport in the Bedford Basin. The Four Mile House as well as Three Mile House housed many of the oarsmen, who competed in the races.

Five Mile House also known as the “Ye Wayside Inn`”

The house was located five miles from the city of Halifax on the water side of the Bedford Highway. It was built by John Leizer in 1817, who sold it to Alexander Keith in 1833, who then leased it to Thomas Davidson, who soon purchased it in 1846 and ran it with great success. He operated a simple business catering to drovers, who stopped at his bar for business talk and a cold drink of beer or rum. The inn’s kitchen had two stoves that were needed for preparing meals for the many guest attending their facility. The patrons were also attracted to the inn’s cozy and comfortable atmosphere. After Thomas died in 1855, his son-in-law Ephriam Burgess managed the inn until 1886 when, he sold the inn. After the sale, the inn had several owners until 1902 when Alexander McNeil bought the Five Mile House. He renovated it adding rooms at the back which were covered with a flat-roof, and he also had several cottages built there. He then changed the name, calling it “Ye Wayside Inn”.

The inn provided accommodation for over one hundred people and had a splendid view of the Bedford Basin, from its location on high ground near the water side. The most important of the outdoor exercise was the golf links at Birch Cove, only a five minute walk from the inn. The guests enjoyed other activities such as lawn tennis, croquet, and boating, which was so popular that Alexander built a new boat house behind his establishment. Rockingham was known for its beautiful hills and healing sea water. It was also known for its fresh, sparkling spring water which flowed down the rock-bound hills and because of this feature, Alexander had a pipe line bringing the spring water into his inn. At that time more renovations were underway, with an additional bath-room built, and electric call bells put in every room. A large verandah was built connecting the inn with the nearest cottage. It was described as an attractive summer resort, easy to travel to by train and the fare from the city of Halifax only cost just one dollar a month.

In the early years, the inn had a hanging sign over the door depicting coach horses attacked by a lion, but years later Alexander changed the sign with just a picture of a stage coach on it. The inn burnt down in 1939.

The Donaldson Hotel also called the Birch cove Hotel

The Donaldson Hotel was located at the head of Birch Cove, Rockingham and was owned by James and Elizabeth Donaldson in the 1820s. They opened the hotel in their large house, formerly known as the Belcher Mansion. The hotel mainly catered to army and navy officers, offering dinner and entertainment. After James died at the age of thirty-nine in 1831, Elizabeth ran the hotel and called it the Birch Cove Hotel and had a new bath house built on the shore of Bedford Basin. She successfully ran the business until 1842, when she closed the hotel and sold her property to her brother-in-law Peter Donaldson and his wife Susannah.

The Rockingham Inn

The inn was located six miles from Halifax at Prince’s Lodge, on the Bedford Highway. The Rockingham Inn was formerly the Duke of Kent’s barracks or guard house on the shores of the Bedford Basin. When the Duke left Halifax in 1800, the property was given back to Governor John Wentworth, who changed the barracks into a roadside inn. The inn opened soon after 1800 and became the meeting place of the aristocratic Rockingham Club, which held weekly dinners there until 1814. After Wentworth went back to England, the club disbanded and the Wellington Club then met there. The inn was handsomely furnished and had many paintings adoring the walls, along with many bookcases. Members could indulge in playing cards, chess, or have a game at the billiard table, sometimes they just sat in a comfortable chair to read one of the many books featured in the bookcases. The sign hanging from the inn bore the Wentworth Arms. Governor Wentworth owed the inn with Robert Grover as the proprietor until 1809, when Mr. Grover bought the property. Other owners of the inn after him were John Fry in 1814, Sam Douglas, and Charles Paine. In 1832 Henry Barkman bought the property and renovated the inn. On December 12, 1833 the inn burnt down, the fire originated in the stables adjoining the inn.

The Florence Hotel later called the Rockaway Inn

The hotel was located on the Bedford Highway eight miles from the city of Halifax and near the Millview railway. The Florence Hotel was built on a high hill and was described as being a four storey Victorian designed building, having two spacious verandahs in front, surrounded by a well-kept lawn. It was built in 1895 by Charles Rogers at a cost of $65,000. The hotel consisted of 56 large bedrooms, parlours, salons, a dining-room and a large kitchen. It was a beautiful building designed with many windows, had its own plant for generating electricity to run the lights. On the first two floors, the ceilings and walls were finished with enamelled steel. The enormous dining area could be turned into a ballroom. They also had a barn and stable in the area where the Traveller’s Motel Office later stood. The Florence Hotel had a beach in back of the building on the Bedford Basin, where there was also a bathing house for the guest convenience. Large concrete steps once led up to the fabulous hotel from the beach and still can be seen near the shore today. Indian Island, later called Crosby Island could be seen in the Bedford Basin behind the hotel. Today the island is filled in to become part of the shore land, part of the Bedford Basin infill project. Many people came to the hotel by boat while others travelled there by train, sleigh or horse and buggy.

Years later the business became unsuccessful and eventually passed to Mr. Archibald. Senator A.B. Crosby bought the hotel in 1915 and changed its name to the Rockaway Inn. During the war years business thrived but after 1918, efforts such as using the hotel as a teahouse failed to generate more business. Mr. Bruno was the manager for many years and was there in 1929. After the Senator’s death his wife, who owed the hotel sold it to S.R. Cardswell in June 1931. He operated the hotel with a dance Hall as an attraction. The hotel was completely destroyed by fire on November 16, 1931 after, sparks from the chimney set the roof on fire.

W. D. Piercey bought the property in 1945-46 and later sold it to Arthur Hustins, Sr. who by 1947 built ten cottages on it. The cottages were called the Ocean-view Cottages, in later years the cottages were removed to Parker’s Brook and renovated into houses. After the cottages were removed, a motel called the Travelers Motel was built on the site. Today the main office building of the Travelers Motel has been demolished, but the remaining motel rooms have been renovated and are now used as individual businesses. The original cottages located higher up on the hill still remain and are also occupied by businesses.

The Nine Mile House also known as the Holland Inn or the Mill Inn

The Inn was located beyond Nine Mile River on the lower side of the road, a few yards from the later Moir’s Chocolate Factory. It was a busy establishment especially when horse racing was taking place on the ice of Mill Cove. In earlier years the Bedford Basin would freeze over and people would travel on the ice with their horse and buggies into the city of Halifax. In 1819 Emanuel Williams operated the inn, and then Anthony Holland owned it from 1822-25, Mr. Backman in 1828, Mr. Gough from 1832-39, then by Mr. Thomson from 1840-44 and Mr. Ward from 1845-9. The inn became very popular with honeymooners in later years.

In 1827 a few meals served there were: hot turkey, smoking caribou, pickled herring from Digby, reindeer tongues, bear-hams from Annapolis, cherry brandy and P.E. I. whiskey. The inn burnt down on May 10, 1931.

The Bedford Hotel also called the Fitzmaurice Hotel, the Claremont Hotel and the Sea View Hotel.

The hotel was at times called the “Lower House”, and was located in lower Bedford on the shore of the Bedford Basin. It was built by Thomas Fitzmaurice in the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1893 Harry Howell leased the hotel from its owners, the Bedford Hotel Company, and purchased new furniture for all the rooms and paid the staff out of his own pocket. On May 9, 1893 sparks from a small steamer called a lighter, docked at the wharf behind the hotel, started a fire on the roof of the hotel’s ballroom and the building went up in flames and burnt down.

The Belle-Vue Hotel also called the Scott’s Hotel and the” Upper House.” It was located on the upper road in Bedford on the Bedford Highway. In 1857 the hotel was operated by John Butler. In 1866 James Scott held shares in the hotel and when John Butler died in 1868, James sold his interest to David Stirling and Donald Keith. In 1871 Thomas Beach and Alfred Powell were the proprietors of the hotel. A special feature in the hotel was a bowling alley which was popular with the guests. The hotel was demolished around 1913 and the materials from the hotel were used to build other buildings. The Bellevue Hotel was deemed a good place because, when the guests got drunk, they could roll them down the hill to the railway station.

The Lewis House

The hotel stood very near the railway tracks on Shore Drive in Bedford and was in operation for seventy-one years. The hotel was built by William Willis and opened by his daughter Lizzie and her husband Frank Lewis in 1907. It was described as having two wraparound verandahs and was often called the “bread tray house”, because the verandas looked like one bread tray piled on another. The summers were very busy at the popular hotel, with as many as twenty prominent guests staying there at one time even though the Lewis family had a strict policy of no alcohol or smoking allowed inside the house. The quests were met at the train which stopped in front of the hotel and their luggage was taken to their rooms by one of the Lewis children. All four children of Lizzie and Frank had chores to do at the hotel. They had a stove called the Iron Duke at the hotel and on this Lizzie prepared all the meals for her guests who raved about her cooking. In the 1930s room and board for one week at the house cost $11.00. Today in 2022, the house now renovated made into a private residence, is still standing on Shore Drive.

The Costen House also known as The Colonial Inn

The house was built in 1872 by Andre Heffler but the inn was not established in the house until 1908 when Jim Costen and his wife bought the house. The inn was still there in 1933, when the Halifax Riding Club had their banquet there. Later the inn was demolished, to make way for McLean’s Service Station.

Ten Mile House also known as the Scott’s Inn and Lawlor’s Inn

The house was located ten miles from Halifax on the Bedford Highway. It was built in the late 1700s for Colonel Joseph Scott on land granted to him in the 1760s. In 1798 it was called Scott’s Inn, and opened as a House of Entertainment by John Maddock. Joseph Scott died in 1800 and his widow Margaret conveyed property to John Lawlor. Who opened and operated Lawlor’s Inn from 1802- 1809, possibility later.

The inn served travelers dinners and suppers, where they were offered fines wines and other liquors. It had a barn across the road from the inn, which was opened at both ends so the coachman could drive his team in and remained there under shelter until his passengers returned from having refreshments. The Ten Mile House was described as a Georgian-style building with a wooden structure, two and a half storeys high with stone masonry within. The house was originally longer, but had several feet of its northeast stone end taken off in later years but the other end is as it was originally. Mr. Routledge was the owner in 1848, Mr. Brass in 1849 and James Increase Ward in 1850-56, also Blois`s in 1856. Bennett Smith and Nelson Chambers owed it in 1865, and from 1867 until 1957 the Ten Mile House had many different owners.

In 1957 Claire Stenning and W.G. Ferguson bought the building. They moved the house further back from the road because the Department of Highway wanted to widen the road. They renovated it, installing radiators, and adding a concrete foundation.

In 1959 they opened an antique and art gallery. In 1961 they attached the Peverill house to the southern wing of Ten Mile House. Brian Doige of Ontario, who was a dealer in art, bought the house next but by 1973 two artists John Cook and Alan Wylie became owners of the house. In 1976 Walter Hopkins bought the Ten Mile House and in 1978 the old house became the property of Maritime Properties Ltd.

Today in 2022, the Ten Mile House is still standing on the Bedford Highway, behind the Bank of Montreal building. A sign saying “Ten Mile House” hangs above a door that looks forlorn with no stairs leading up to it. The once grand old building stands out from another time, encroached by the modern structures of the 21st. Century!