December 8, 2022
The Queen's Hotel
Coboconk is home to two notable old hotels. One has become one of the best known establishments in the area, while the other, has served the community in many different ways over the years.
Nineteenth century travel was often slow and laborious, so it might take several days to make a journey that today would be accomplished in a few hours. Because Coboconk was the terminus of the Toronto & Nipissing Railway, the first line to reach north Victoria County, a lot of traffic came to Coboconk, both as a point of transshipment to neighbouring communities, and because there were many tributary logging operations up the Gull River. It was therefore an obvious location to build a hotel.
Amos Ferin (also spelled Fern) opened the first hotel in town, which was a dry establishment—less common (and lucrative?) than the alternative, but catered to a large and vocal subset of the contemporary population. Owning the property bounded between the river and Baseline Road, from Highway 35 to Elizabeth Street, he sold part of his holding to William Simpson, who built the Queen’s Hotel in 1873, and operated it with his wife. For its day, the Queen’s Hotel was an impressive structure, with solid brick walls and a full basement, 1424 square feet per floor. The ground floor had two guest rooms on each side, with a grand central staircase leading upstairs. The upper two floors contained 14 or 15 rooms, and a beautiful verandah stretched across the front of the building. In late nineteenth century Coboconk, it was perhaps the most conspicuous building in town, being so well constructed, and located right on the river.
For its prominent appearance, over the years it passed through many hands, while the competing Pattie House, quickly made a lasting reputation for itself. In 1916, Mrs. Sarah Anne Pattie purchased this rival hotel, to serve as overflow for the Pattie House. At that point both buildings could host 80 guests each. Ed Jackson managed the Queen’s Hotel for his mother-in-law, then after her death it passed to his son Harry, who offered both daily and monthly rates ($3 to $8 per month).
In the early 1920s, the Home Bank operated on the north side of the main floor, being the only financial institution in town. When it failed in 1923, it was a catastrophe for many local residents, who had put away what little money they had to be ready for whatever surprises life had in store in an age when there was no welfare, Medicare, or old age pension. A few years later the great depression hit, and many families never got it back. The Standard Bank set up shop in its place, followed by the Sterling Bank and the briefly the Commerce Bank, which then moved across the road. Often the bank manager lived on site. In 1938, Harry Jackson opened a garage next door.
In the early 1940s, the village of Coboconk was looking to open a community hall, and bought the Queen’s Hotel, only to decide to build an arena and community centre just off Baseline Road. In 1948, Arnold and Phyllis Richardson bought the property, converting the top floors into apartments, and installing indoor plumbing—up to that point, the hotel had gotten by with an outhouse. They lived on the back apartment on the second floor. There were two other apartments on that floor and another above. Each had 2 bedrooms, living room, kitchen and washroom. Arn was a baker, and turned the former bank into a bakery. Ably assisted by Charles Routley, Richardson’s packaged his bread for sale in nearby communities like Burnt River, Kinmount, Minden and Norland. Few locals would forget the taste of their chelsea buns. After Arn sold his bakery, he operated a small snowmobile repair shop.
Potter Kit Ross set up her studio at the Queen’s Hotel, working alongside Tessa Kiddick and Bill McKillop. Later on Jan Griffin was a hairdresser, then Bea Phillips opened a small restaurant. Next up was Harriet Millyard, who operated the drugstore across the road (Souter’s), and converted the south half into a laundromat. Forty years later, it is still filled with washers and dryers. Today, the north half is Tyler Higgins’ Law Office.