Clifton House Hotel

  • Hotel 1854 (Approx.) - 1970

This landmark hotel was located on the site of the Senior Citizens’ apartments on Francis Street East. Its early history is a mystery. Kirkconnell claims [p. 50] that William Martin opened what was to become the Clifton House in 1854, but there is no confirming evidence. It was certainly in operation by 1858. The Directory of the United Counties of Peterborough and Victoria states: “There is a good hotel in the village, which has just been re-opened. It is a very fine building and is fitted up in the most comfortable manner. There are about 24 bed rooms in the house, besides a large number of sitting rooms … The hotel commands one of the best views of the Falls.”[43-44]. Oddly, no innkeeper is listed, although Robert Podger was the proprietor by 1859, as the Township of Fenelon “… meeting shall be held at Fenelon Falls at the tavern of Robert Podgers, now called the Clifton House, at the hour of 10a.m.”

These references suggest that the hotel had recently “reopened” and changed its name, perhaps as a result of its new proprietor. Podgers was to run the hotel for much of the 1860s and it was often referred to as Podger’s Hotel. He is listed as a 37 year-old, English-born member of the Church of England in the 1861 Census. The hotel employed “2 male, 3 female employees”, with the men receiving $25.00 per month and the women $12.00. His capital investment was $4000.00. Events may have turned against Podger in December 1864 when, in response to increasing incidents of public drunkenness throughout the village, the Township of Fenelon voted for a prohibition bylaw under the Dunkin Temperance Act, a bylaw that was passed by Council on January 16, 1865 . Although eventually repealed, Podger left the village the following year, as he disappears from the records by the fall of 1866.

In 1870 the property was taken over by the R.C. Smith lumber Company and used to house their unmarried workers . In 1873 the Fenelon Falls Gazette began publication “in what had long before that been the bar room of the old Clifton Hotel.” [Suggitt; 108]. By 1875 the hotel that had once “astonished the natives” was now “dilapidated and sadly needs repair.” [CP 3 Sept 1875: 1], and in 1876 the Hotel was used by the school for classes when the new school house addition was under construction [CP 12 My 1876; 3].

By 1885 “The Clifton House [wa]s a large rough-cast building, and was at one time the leading hotel at the Falls; but for several years past it has been sometimes empty and sometimes used as a dwelling. It is now owned by Mr. R.C. Smith and rented by Mr. Henry Slumen for a boarding house, for which purpose it is well adapted, as it contains numerous rooms and is near to the mills” [FFG 15 Aug 1885: 2]. During the 1890s some of the older outbuildings were gradually removed. The “dilapidated” driving shed was removed to a local farm and converted to a barn in 1895 [FFG 29 March 1895; 5], and other sheds torn down about 1898. The Goad Insurance plans for 1898/1902 show that some renovations were underway, with the addition of verandahs and other small additions, mostly on the side facing the street. By 1900 the building was without tenants.

After a complete renovation starting in 1902, the Hotel Kawartha opened about 1903. New verandahs were constructed, running water was added, and the interior redecorated with doors, sash, and staircases with banisters and spindles, all installed by the Sandford Furniture Factory. The Hotel became a popular place for the village’s growing tourist industry. During the 1920’s a group of New York State businessmen made it the centre for their fishing club. They even published their own brochures. In the late 1930’s the name was changed to the Alpine Inn, and later, in the 1960’s, to the Anchorage House. As tourism patterns changed, the hotel struggled to remain open. Nonetheless, when it burned to the ground on Thursday February 19th, 1970 (FFG 26 February 1970), the new owners were attempting to get it ready for the next summer season.

218 Variant names: Alpine Inn, Kawartha House, Anchorage House.

219 Suggitt states the same (p. 281), probably using Kirkconnell as her source.

220 Township of Fenelon By Law No. LVIII (2 May 1859).

221 The servants’ names were Margaret Duggan, Elizabeth Mulcahey, Catharine Miller, George McArty, and Patrick Brenan.

222 [CP 23 December 1864; 2]. See also Fenelon Township By-Law 110 (16 January 1865)… That the By-Law adopted by the Electors of this Municipality for enforcement of the Temperance Act of 1864 is hereby established. This by-law was eventually repealed in February 1866.

223 Between 1866 and 1870 the history of the hotel has been lost. The proprietor may have been an “L. Downey” (listed in the 1869 Province of Ontario Gazetteer and Directory) but there is no direct evidence for this claim.

224 Married workers lived in seven double houses fronting on Clifton and Francis Streets.

225 Some of the owners over the years were F.N. Rutherford (1910/11), J.T.Smith (1918-1925); C.O. Phillips (1938-1940); Baird Brothers (1944-1945), Dickson & Keyes (1946-1949); Mrs. Romola Taylor (1950-1962); Mr. Pelletier (1962) and Mr. and Mrs. S.E. Pavelek (1969-1970).

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