Between Hudson’s store and the firehall the Wilson Hotel was built in 1899. The grand two-storey building had 20 rooms upstairs and below housed a spacious parlour, dining room and beautiful walnut bar featuring a curved bar with brass footrail.
After a few years the Wilson family moved and rented the building to John Humphrey. During John’s tenure, in 1908, an annex was built next to the south end with a catwalk joining the two buildings. Guests could now walk between the two buildings during a southeaster, without getting wet. The annex, with rooms above, featured one big hall downstairs. The hall downstairs had specially made dance floor where grand parties were held. Mrs. Humphrey, a great cook, presided in the kitchen. She was known for her oyster cocktails!
Later the hall was converted into a general store operated by Dale and Partridge. A butcher shop run by Bill Bowder was built on to the annex between the buildings. In 1910 Mr. Humphrey died of a heart attack. He was dressed in his best clothes was laid out in the parlour. In 1913, the hotel was sold to Alf Horne who successfully ran it until prohibition came into law in 1917. With the bar the mainstay of the hotel, Mr. Horne could see no future, so auctioned off the furnishings, and with the profit bought out Charlie Bishop to become partner of Jack Frazer owning the Nelson Hotel and big store.
The building was boarded up until the Wilson sisters returned to their old home, about the same time that prohibition was lifted in 1921. The hotel was sold to hotelier O. H. Fechner, even before beer parlours were given permission to sell beer. Mr. Fechner was caught unloading a carload of beer but was acquitted because the prosecution failed to prove their case.
Not long after this the hotel mysteriously burned down, taking with it the annex, the butcher shop, medical dispensary, and Hudson’s house. It even jumped the Island highway and burned Waddy Wilson’s house. The flames were so high, with sparks jumping everywhere, that people living on the Company Hill feared for their homes. It was a spectacular fire during the night of February 18, 1922, which was first spotted by the train crew on the wharf. Engineer Richard Ray sounded the alarm by tooting the engine whistle long and loud. Fireman Louis Magnone dashed off the wharf and across the beach to arouse people. He helped pulled out Mr. Partridge’s 1914 Model T truck that was stored in the garage. Some say, as a reward, Louis was given the pick-up which he drove until he died.
It was not long before businesses were rebuilt. Hudson rebuilt their home and store; the Wilson sisters constructed a residence and confectionery on their property. The Wilson family kept ownership of the property, and much later a granddaughter built the big home that is there today.
By Janette Glover-Geidt