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Hotels part of Waterford's prosperous past

By Carol Steedman

Careful examination shows a sign above the porch with Teeter's Hotel on a Waterford building, which was located on the short Main Street that currently goes between Mechanic Street to the large brick building of apartments near the pond by the bridge. This causes confusion since a former hotel on Alice Street was named Teeter Hotel. Photo courtesy of Waterford Heritage and Agricultural Museum Archives

Careful examination shows a sign above the porch with Teeter's Hotel on a Waterford building, which was located on the short Main Street that currently goes between Mechanic Street to the large brick building of apartments near the pond by the bridge. This causes confusion since a former hotel on Alice Street was named Teeter Hotel. Photo courtesy of Waterford Heritage and Agricultural Museum Archives

WATERFORD  - 

Waterford had seen prosperity, seemingly ahead of its time, in the 1800s and early 1900s.

So, I wondered how, years ago, travellers fared when they passed through the community by train or stagecoach.

A visit to Waterford Heritage and Agricultural Museum provided information through its archives of newspaper clippings, books and pictures.

James Christison, the museum’s curator, found materials in the print archives, while assistant curator Catherine Coughill located digital photos.

The 1997 book, Townsend and Waterford: A Double Portrait, also helped in the research. The reference guide which accompanies the book listed 18 hotel proprietors and innkeepers in Waterford and area.

With two main railways passing through Waterford, salespeople would set up sample displays in hotels so that merchants could order their wares. Business people and travellers stayed at local hotels or inns while in town.

Christison and I, along with Robert Judd, who happened to drop by the museum, compared a map from the 1800s to Waterford now and noted some street changes, as well as locations of current familiar places.

Main Street used to cross the water at the dam on a bridge much lower than the current bridge. Travelling south from Mechanic Street, there was a long building on the corner, then Teeter’s Hotel, Dr. Duncombe’s house and the bridge across the water. The south end of the bridge was at the railway tracks and then Main Street continued through where the parking lot of Waterford TV and Appliances on Alice Street is now. The street branched into a Y-shape, with Main Street continuing on the east fork and West Street up the other fork. However, an immediate right turn led along Alice where there stood many businesses and at least one other hotel, originally named Teeter Hotel after Mr. H. F. Teeter who built it in 1897.

On Main, not far from the bridge, was a large, neatly kept white house named the Beemer House and in records dated 1858, P. Beemer was named as innkeeper. Also in 1858 a James Cutting was listed as innkeeper, but without any hint of its location.

The 1871 Business Directories named Wm. Pickhaver as proprietor of the Commercial Hotel and, later, in 1889 Henry F. Teeter is named proprietor of the same hotel. Since the actual location of the Commercial Hotel hasn’t been found yet, could it be the Teeter’s Hotel on Main before it was renamed? Or was there yet another hotel in Waterford owned by H. F. Teeter?

If this hotel is the one on the north side of the ponds, near Mechanic Street, it could be explained through two events which seemed to involve this hotel. However, it’s also known as Slaght’s Hotel and I can’t yet find a connection to someone named Slaght.

The first event was in 1879 or possibly 1880. The book, Double Portrait, quotes from the newspaper at the time, The Waterford Star, to tell in detail about how Michael Donnelly, one of the sons of the Black Donnellys from Lucan, happened to be in Waterford and was fatally stabbed at the Commercial Hotel in the village of Waterford. Donnelly was working for the C. S. Railway and had a wife and two children in St. Thomas. Since he belonged to the Order of Foresters, his “remains were taken charge of by the members of Court Waterford, and on the following morning forwarded to St. Thomas.” His assailant, William Lewis, also worked for the railway, and was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison.

The second event occurred in 1885 when Waterford was among the first villages in Southern Ontario to capitalize on electric lighting. A dynamo owned by the Ball Electric Company and powered by the Duncombe mill was set up to produce light on poles throughout the business section as well as to several stores. Waterford citizens crowded into the downtown area to see this amazing feat. An article in the Waterford Star on Aug. 13, 1885, recounts in part: “The Waterford and Townsend Centre Bands met at the Town Hall and marched down the street to Tuttle’s Hotel where they played several choice selections, when they marched across the river to Teeter’s Hotel where some excellent music was also discoursed.”

It would seem from these two events, the Commercial Hotel was renamed Teeter’s Hotel at some point in the early 1880s. It could also explain why the Waterford Star’s account for July 1, 1897, tells of Mr. H. F. Teeter purchasing the vacant lot between the Howard Block and the grain warehouse on Alice to build an elegant modern hotel which opened on Dec. 2, 1897 as Teeter Hotel, Alice Street, Waterford.

This Teeter Hotel later became the Saracuse Hotel until the late 1980s when a fire left it vacant for three years. Renovations by John Stam, builder and co-owner, brought it back to being a vital part of the community as Golden Pond Retirement Lodge, which opened in 1991 with 28 retirement units. It continues to be a favourite retirement location for seniors in Waterford and area.

Carol Steedman can be reached at goffsteedman@execulink.com.