Tag Archives: temperance

HIGH & DRY: Stittsville’s prohibition-era Temperance Hotel

Next time you visit Quitters, have a close look at the brick building right next door on the corner of Orville Street. You can still see a faint line marking where a second-storey white balcony and veranda used to wrap around three sides of the house.

Today the house is rented out as apartments, but decades ago it was known as the Temperance Hotel and was a popular stop-over for travelers when they were passing through by horse or train.

The Temperence Hotel, with balconies intact.  Undated photo via the Stittsville Women's Institute / Tweedsmuir History Collection.
The Temperence Hotel, with balconies intact. Undated photo via the Stittsville Women’s Institute / Tweedsmuir History Collection.

 

The building dates back to around 1875. It was originally built as a hotel (pre-dating the temperance era) and legend has it that Sir John A. MacDonald once made a speech from the balcony, possibly in the 1880s.  It was later converted to a private home.

I’m not totally clear on when it was turned back into a hotel, but it appears to have coincided with when Stittsville went “dry”, banning the sale of alcohol. The Ontario Temperance Act was passed in 1916, prohibiting the sale of alcohol in the province, although some municipalities went dry well before that. It looks like Stittsville enacted a ban in 1907.  (The act was repealed in 1927.)

The alcohol ban closed down most of the traditional hotels in the area (including Green’s hotel across the street, now home to Hudson Insurance).  But it created an opportunity for Joe and Agnes (Brown) Lewis, who owned the brick house just south of the train tracks (now the Trans Canada Trail):

“The house had nine bedrooms, some with two beds, and Mrs. Lewis served and prepared all of the meals, making 25 pies some evenings and moving her children out of their beds to sleep on the living room floor to accommodate more guests,” writes Bonny Riedel in “The Heritage of Goulbourn: A Driving Tour”.

They called it the Temperence Hotel to leave no doubt that they were in compliance with the law.

Kids on Main Street, 1915. The balcony of the Temperence Hotel can be seen in the background on the right side of the photo.   Photo from the Goubourn Historical Society Collection.
Kids on Main Street, 1915. From left to right, Maime Switzer, Gerald Alexander, Orma Lewis. The distinctive white balcony of the Temperance Hotel can be seen in the background on the right side of the photo. Photo from the Goubourn Historical Society Collection.

 

Besides the hotel, Joe Lewis was also well known as a horse breeder. He built stables in behind the building, and later on ran a horse farm in an area that’s now part of Amberwood. He collected urine from pregnant mares for use in cosmetics.  No kidding.

Joe Lewis and his horse Milton, 1927. Photo via the Stittsville Women's Institute / Tweedsmuir History Collection.
Joe Lewis and his horse Milton, 1927. Photo via the Stittsville Women’s Institute / Tweedsmuir History Collection.

 

Agnes Lewis lived from 1864-1943 and is buried at St. Paul’s United Cemetery on Carp Road. Joe Lewis was born in Munster in 1871 and passed away in Stittsville in 1949.

 

The old Temperance Hotel on Stittsville Main Street, at the corner of Orville. Photo by Glen Gower / September 2015
September 2015

 

Back in September, Quitters owner Kathleen Edwards mused about opening a music venue next to her coffee shop.  Could she be reviving the Temperance Hotel after all these years? It would be nice to see the building turned back into a place of hospitality… although maybe without the temperance part this time.

If you’re interested in learning more about the temperance movement in Ottawa, the Ottawa Archives has an exhibition called Taverns and Troublemakers running until March 16, 2016.  It’s at the James K. Bartleman Centre, 100 Tallwood Dr. (corner of Woodroffe)
in Centrepointe.

This article was based on research from “The Heritage of Goulbourn: A Driving Tour” by Bonny Riedel, available at the library on Stittsville Main Street.

Photo by Joe Newton
Winter 2015. Photo by Joe Newton

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