Dunbar’s Hotel Becomes the Kinmount Post Office
April 8, 2023
Fred Dettman's Dunbar House
A History of Lot 3 on the East Side of Kinmount’s Main Street
By Guy Scott
The current site of the Post Office was for many years a hotel. The first hotelier was John O’Neil Little, who arrived in the initial rush of 1861 when travel on the Bobcaygeon Road was at its peak. Kinmount village contained no less than 2 hotels and as many as 4 at any one time. These hotels fulfilled several functions. Of course they rented rooms to travellers, but they also included stables that rented teams/buggies to patrons as well. As well, they contained a bar-room or saloon. The sale of liquor was likely the most profitable side of the hotel business. Even in the 1800s, liquor sales were closely controlled. The hotel keeper was required to have a licence, the number of licences were strictly controlled and government inspectors were active from time to time.
However, today’s health and safety rules were unknown and the regulations were ‘light’ and seldom enforced! The Littles, John O’Neal and his son John Saul were landlords. They rented their business, called the Victoria Hotel, to others over the years, including David Barr (1873), William Brunker (1874) and David Drumble (1880). The high turnover rate does not speak well for the profitability of the hotel business. The Little family built several houses on Lot 42, Con A Galway and actually had a house built right over the little creek that runs through the lot. It was joked that the Little House had the first running water in Kinmount!
In 1883, John Saul Little, often described as an ‘eccentric,’ poisoned himself. The entire Little estate was put up for sale and purchased by Bill Dunbar for $2,100. One of Kinmount’s most famous residents, Bill Dunbar had for years worked for lumber king Mossom Boyd. Lately he had operated a hotel/tavern at Union Creek. But the opportunities here were limited compared to Main Street, Kinmount. Dunbar purchased the Little Hotel on Lot 3 as well as the properties on the Galway side of town. The Great Fire of 1890 levelled the Dunbar Hotel, but it was a blessing in disguise. Dunbar took out a $6,500 mortgage and rebuilt the hotel in a much grander state.
Bill Dunbar was very successful as a hotel-keeper. He used his genial nature and high standing in the community to advantage and developed a solid core of regular customers. His new Hotel contained 20 rooms on the second floor, plus a parlour or meeting room, a sample room, a billiard room, a bar room and a restaurant on the first floor. A sample room was a showroom where travelling salesmen could show off their wares. The stables could accommodate 17 teams of horses inside and a like number outside in sheds. The stables actually overhung the Burnt River, leading to an easy ‘disposal’ of manure via trapdoors. This was accepted practice a century ago: today not so much!
With the sudden death of Bill Dunbar in 1894, the new hotel-keeper was Fred Dettman Jr. In honour of the former owner, he renamed the hotel the Dunbar House. The Local Option [prohibition plebiscite] killed the tavern business for all the hotels in 1909. Without its profitable side, the business began to languish. By 1920, the Dunbar House had been converted into a garage/gas station. Later owners included C. Austin, Ernest Jordan and finally M. Cunningham in 1937. Later photos show the ornate porch demolished and a gas pump installed in front. By 1942, the once elegant hotel had seen better days. It was totally destroyed in the Great Fire of 1942. The lot stayed vacant after the fire. It became a sort of town park, with trees, grass and picnic tables. The Lions Club held carnivals on the lot and kids played sports. In 1967, Canada Post purchased the property to install Kinmount’s new Post Office. Previous Post Offices had been located in other stores: the last one in the north corner of what is now the Freshmart. By 1970, the new Post office was ready for business and it continues on this site to the present day.