January 21, 2018


Windsor, Nova Scotia - Victoria Hotel

Windsor, Nova Scotia - Victoria Hotel

 

Doran’s Three Victoria Hotels

 

Victoria Hotel # 1

The Victoria Hotel has been on Water Street since the late 1700s.  Thomas Doran came from Ireland as one of the first immigrants following the Expulsion of the Acadians in 1755.  In this oldest photo of it, signs bearing both names are seen.  It is quite likely that it was called Doran’s Hotel originally and later re-named Victoria Hotel in honour of Queen Victoria as happened with a street and the central park of the town.  Many of the locals continued to call it Doran’s for years.  The ground floor windows were well above eye-level and had shutters to ensure privacy and keep out the cold in winter.  A wood and coal shoot is at ground level for putting fuel into the basement for the many fireplaces in the various rooms.  A small private horse and buggy by the main door would have been privately owned as the Hotel wagon, used for transporting baggage, and shown in another photo, was much larger.  When this photo was taken in the 1880s, the ‘camera’ and ‘photographer’ were of far greater interest to people than the hotel - as is evident from the gathered people all watching as the man with the camera composes the picture.

Next door to the hotel was a small business selling ‘Boots, Shoes and Leather, owned and operated by John West.  Not a very fancy little building, it was just big enough for a ‘cobbler’ to store some leather, a table for cutting patterns from leather and his “cobbler’s bench”where he hand stitched boots and shoes for his customers.  Boots were more commonly worn than shoes in those times and a big part of the cobbler’s business was effecting repairs as they footwear was  used much longer than in modern times.  Boots were commonly passed down from one family member to another as feet grew. 

 

Victoria Hotel # 2

View # (A)

The original hotel was built back a few feet from the street’s edge which gave Mr. Doran the opportunity to add a refinement later on.  A three-tiered balcony, supported by cement blocks was constructed and decorated with ornamental woodwork pillars and guard rails on the upper two stories. Young boys gathered on the hotel verandah benches, equally as interested as their predecessors in getting their photograph taken.  Mr. Tom Brothers, the ‘Hotel Driver’ is seen sitting atop the new two-horse drawn covered carriage for customers while just to the rear is a low slung dray used to haul trunks to and from the nearby railway station.  A dray was built close to the ground for ease in loading and un-loading heavy baggage in an era long before the invention of the mechanical fork-lift.  Mr. John West’s small shop was still attached to the hotel when this photo was taken in 1895.  A lamp is seen hanging over the door way for evening use.  It would have been a kerosene gas light in use on main streets since 1852`. Electricity arrived in 1888 for street lighting only.  Electric lighting inside buildings was not available until 1892. 

 

Victoria Hotel # 2

View # (B)

 

This photo reveals that Mr. John West’s Cobbler Shop has been removed and replaced with a new modern brick building which was to be the Commercial Bank (later known as the Bank of Commerce).  Space for other businesses was planned for the building as well.  Mr. F. Percy Webster had moved his jewellery business from Gerrish Street into the Water Street side of the new building and hung out his sign(seen in a previous Gerrish Street photo).  The door to the bank was to be at the corner and Graham’s Grocery Store was established on the Stannus Street side.  Two sleigh teams are parked in front of Graham’s Store.  One has the name GRAHAM’S on the side board and is a one horse affair, while the one facing the other way was powered by a team of oxen, partly hidden by a power pole.  Five legs and feet and a set of horns can be distinguished.  The appearance of cars and trucks was still two decades away.  There is a date inscribed in concrete at the top of the building – 1896.  The new building was destroyed by fire in 1897, before the bank became established.  It was re-constructed in a great building boom that followed in 1898.

A fine two storey home is seen next door with a decorative central doorway and an open passage way incorporated in the building on its left side which would allow access by team to the rear of the buildings.  People who had their own horses and wagons also had storage barns behind their residences. 

Note that the buildings are built one against the other – an obviously bad system with regard to fire protection.  It was this factor that aided the rapid spread of fire on October 17, 1897.  Following that, a building code was introduced requiring wooden buildings to have at least six feet between them to allow for passage of fire fighters and equipment. 

 

Victoria Hotel # 3

Like the majority of shingle covered wooden buildings, the Victoria Hotel was destroyed by fire on the night of October 17, 1897, as was the brand new Commercial Bank next door. Both were rebuilt of brick and stone and still stand to this day.  Notice that there was a brass railing along the front of a balcony at the front of the hotel.  There were deck chairs there which were usually occupied in the mid-morning by a group of local men who would gather to smoke pipes and cigars, read the daily paper as it arrived from Halifax by train, and to discuss politics and local news or gossip, which ever was most entertaining.  Their meetings were the forerunner of today’s ‘coffee club’ groups - except there is NO SMOKING these days!  Awnings on the hotel had been rolled up at the time of the photo, unnecessary as the sun was cast on the other side of the street.  The sidewalks were made of concrete rather than dirt or gravel, another innovation of the times.  There was a beautiful four-globe street light standard positioned at the corner of Stannus and Water Streets.

The other buildings adjacent to the hotel are also of significance.  Note the arched stone doorway on the new Royal Bank on the opposite corner.  One horse and buggy is seen parked in front of the Royal Bank.  To the left of the hotel is another brick building with common stairs leading to twin doors that entered two stores.  During the 1930-40s one was occupied by a nice gentleman named Harriett who sold reading glasses and who wore a small toupe of an unnatural shade of brown, with a central part, balanced carefully and centrally on his head.  There were several pairs of glasses in his display window and his business sign read ‘OPTOMETRIST’.  I recall thinking it strange that people called him ‘Effie’ for I knew that to be the name of at least two women in town.  Eventually I learned that they were saying “F.E.”.  My misinterpretation shocked me but not as great as when I learned that the ‘F’ actually stood for ‘Florence’, not ‘Effie’, for I knew far more women named ‘Flo’ than ‘Effie’.   The twin store was occupied by various businesses over the years.  Just beyond that is a doorway that led to the second and third stories to a Beauty Parlour and offices.  The other upstairs windows wer hotel rooms, an extension of the Victoria Hotel.  Next in line is the Blanchards Building with its name scripted in cement.  The  Blanchard Law Office was upstairs and the street level space was occupied by Knowles Book Store which specialized in scribblers, note pads, pencils, pens and erasers for school children as well as a good selection of reading material. 

The ‘parade’ is described in a section on Parades.

 

 

 Victoria Hotel in Windsor, Nova Scotia - October 2012

 

 

 

        Water Street circa 2012 - Victoria Hotel in Background

 

 

 

Victoria Hotel in Windsor, Nova Scotia, a few years earlier, full shot of the block on Water Street from corner of Gerrish St. to Stannus St.

 

 

 

                                                                 Victoria Hotel # 2 - View # (A)

       Here is an old photo of the Victoria Hotel before the Great Fire. A beautiful building. Via West Hants Historical Society.

 

                                                                 Victoria Hotel # 2 - View # (B)
                     To the right of the hotel is Graham's Grocery Store on the corner of Water and Stannus Street before the great fire.

 

Earlier version of the Victoria Hotel
Courtesty of Dr. Garth Vaughan
The Victoria Hotel has been on Water Street since the late 1700s. Thomas Doran came from Ireland as one of the first immigrants following the Expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. In this oldest photo of it, signs bearing both names are seen. It is quite likely that it was called Doran’s Hotel originally and later re-named Victoria Hotel in honour of Queen Victoria as happened with a street and the central park of the town. Many of the locals continued to call it Doran’s for years. The ground floor windows were well above eye-level and had shutters to ensure privacy and keep out the cold in winter. A wood and coal shoot is at ground level for putting fuel into the basement for the many fireplaces in the various rooms. A small private horse and buggy by the main door would have been privately owned as the Hotel wagon, used for transporting baggage, and shown in another photo, was much larger. When this photo was taken in the 1880s, the ‘camera’ and ‘photographer’ were of far greater interest to people than the hotel - as is evident from the gathered people all watching as the man with the camera composes the picture.
Next door to the hotel was a small business selling ‘Boots, Shoes and Leather, owned and operated by John West. Not a very fancy little building, it was just big enough for a ‘cobbler’ to store some leather, a table for cutting patterns from leather and his “cobbler’s bench”where he hand stitched boots and shoes for his customers. Boots were more commonly worn than shoes in those times and a big part of the cobbler’s business was effecting repairs as they footwear was used much longer than in modern times. Boots were commonly passed down from one family member to another as feet grew.

 

 

The "Skunk Club" - Victoria Hotel, Water Street -Harley Dodge (at top) l-r: Jim Forsythe, Father Joe Flemming - Windsor, George Wilson - Falmouth, Ned Ken, Rev???

 

 

Picture of Victoria and Water Street, Windsor, NS - 1930's?

 

 Doran's Taxi and Bus Lines - The original Taxi Stand - burned down early 1940's replaced by new structure.

    This building was behind the Victoria Hotel and faced the back of the hotel running along Stannus St.

    The lane where the taxi and busses are parked is today Victoria Lane and ran parallel to the railway tracks.

    When the new Taxi Stand was built, the building took more space in the lane and the cars and busses were parked in the front of the building along Stannus St.

    Looking down the lane you can see Wilcox Brothers building on Gerrish St and on this side of Gerish you can see the little shack where the gate attendant stayed to keep warm. That gages were lowered when a train approached.

 

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