Bed and Breakfast Beginnings
This year's "Out and About" promotion gave me and Lila a closer look at the tourism industry in the province, especially B&Bs. What I saw reminded me how far we've come.
When we became an adopted orphan of the British Commonwealth by Mother Canada in 1949, we were backward. We were behind in world knowledge, business sense, political savvy, education (particularly secondary education), personal wealth, and, more importantly, belief in ourselves. However, what we did have were more millionaires per-capita than any other province. Today we have fewer very-rich people, many fewer poor people and a large middle class. We have the highest per-capita secondary education rate in the country. In world knowledge, we're up there with the best. In political savvy - I think the name "Danny Williams" answers that question. In spite of his few faults, I think Danny is one of the best provincial leaders this country has seen. (We aren't escaping the worst part of this recession by sheer luck). We Newfoundlanders and Labradorians certainly have more belief in ourselves than we did 21 years ago, when this magazine started. I've witnessed it and it's happened to me. One of the great success stories of the last two decades is the tourism industry, and the quality of the tourism businesses here. Among my favourite are the B&Bs, which define the unique hospitality experience of Newfoundland and Labrador. And some in particular provide more than comfort and style - they have fascinating histories.
A moving story
Rothesay House Inn in Harbour Grace is a beautiful modern B&B offering four rooms with ensuites and ocean views, and fine dining by reservation. But long before it was bought and renovated by returning expats, Lynn and George Butler, in 2004 (who, by the way, found the house among Downhome's real estate advertisements), this house's story began in another community. It was built in Brigus in 1855, by a rich Scotsman named Azaria Munden from Rothesay, Scotland. Many of the original accessories in Rothesay House came from Scotland. Then in 1906 love and marriage intervened, which saw the house dismantled in Brigus and rebuilt in Harbour Grace.
In Cupids, Lila and I toured Cupids Haven B&B, a renovated Anglican church with four rooms to let. The B&B is open year-round, while the tearoom is open from July 1 until September, serving a variety of Newfoundland traditional dishes - from homemade pea soup with doughboys, to fish cakes, baked beans and toutons.
The Anglican Church's history in Cupids goes back to c. 1613, when the first Anglican priest in the New World came to John Guy's colony at Cuper's Cove (the first English settlement in North America, now known as Cupids). The first church, built in the late 1700s, burned to the ground in 1910. Less than a year later, it was rebuilt in a Gothic-style popular at the time.
In more recent times, the Anglican congregation dwindled to the point that the church was decommissioned and the property put up for sale. In February 2004 two couples - Shawna and Darrin Akerman, and Charmaine and Derek Akerman - bought the building and turned it into what it is today. They were able to design a modern, efficient B&B while keeping some of the real character of the church, most noticeably the windows.
A property with many stories
Campbellton's Inn on the Hill has historic significance in my own life. I lived in that town when I was very young and remember having a soft drink (a treat back then) in that house when it was the private home of Max and Elsie Rideout. Max owned a trucking business and a taxi company, and Elsie operated a candy store out of the house. They later built a take-out where the salmon river meets the ocean on the site of the old mill.
The old mill was the site of several businesses at different times over the years, including a convenience store that sold beer. Around 1978, my son Grant, my brother Gary and I were on our way to meet three friends, including my brother-in-law Jack from Springdale, for a fishing trip to the island's interior (at Ebbegunbaeg). But as we were passing the old mill in Campbellton, my Chevy Blazer, with Gary's canoe tied to the roof, came to a sudden stop. My first thought was the transmission. Then I noticed a taut rope leading from the Blazer's roof down past the hood. Closer inspection revealed the rope was caught under the right front tire and the vehicle couldn't move. My brother Gary and I took it as a sign that we had stopped in front of a place that sold beer, so we bought more. It turned out we should have bought groceries instead. We never did run out of booze, but we nearly starved, even though we ate all the prize fish we meant to bring home. We were saved, however, by a lady I will never forget, who had given me several bottles of seal meat to take back to Toronto, where I was living then. They were in the Blazer, along with potatoes Grant and I had stolen out of his grandmother Hilda Troake's garden. I tell you, these six starving men will never forget the delight of seal stew, cooked on the tailgate of a Chevy Blazer, just off a dirt logging road somewhere south of Millertown.
And that fateful convenience store? It's now an establishment of fine quisine, called The Bistro.
The property of the Inn on the Hill and The Bistro dates back to 1902, when the Horwood Lumber Company bought John Campbell's sawmill and turned it into a pulp mill. In 1903, the company built the structure that is the Inn on the Hill today. Part of the mill remains and some parts of the cement troughs that brought the logs to the site can still be seen. If you look closely at the cement platform outside the mill, you will see the cat tracks. A man who worked at the mill got fired over that incident - so I've been told. In 1904, a forest fire that started miles away in Notre Dame Junction eventually reached Campbellton and virtually destroyed the community. Two of the wooden structures spared were the present day Inn and the house next door. Apart from being a company-built house, and a candy store, the Inn was home to builders of three-masted schooners, and served as a post office and a telegraph office. The telegraph office closed on April 11, 1942. The last telegraph sent was addressed to Miss Winnie Kearley, 2 Hill Road, Grand Falls and read: "Many happy returns of today from us all home - Dad and Mom Kearley."
Now operated by Judy and John Stephenson, the Inn on the Hill has not only retained its historic value, but has an ocean view and great hospitality as well.
Founded on love
The history of the final B&B in this series is a love story. It begins with Dr. Yvette Hounsell of Glovertown, Newfoundland. In 1997, Yvette was attending Bradford University in the UK when she met David Webb, a fellow student from Essex. When the couple wed in Glovertown in 2002, David's divorced dad, Keith, attended the wedding. He fell in love with Newfoundland immediately and stayed here. Then in January 2004, Keith met Eileen Walker of Norris Arm. On July 30, 2005, their wedding night, they stayed at the Lilac Inn, which they now own and operate. The house was built circa 1920 by sea captain Baxter Burry, to please his second wife, Mary Currie. Is there irony in this, or is it just me?