July 04, 2012

Historic Exchange Hotel looks modern inside

As published in The Erin Advocate

Renovations are proceeding nicely at the Exchange Hotel in Hillsburgh, with seven condominium units now on the market and plans made to open the Coach House Creamery restaurant on the Civic Holiday weekend.

A public walk through the interior of the hotel building was the highlight in a tour of downtown Hillsburgh hosted last week by lifelong resident Lee Tocher, a former owner of the property.

It is still a construction site, but much of the electrical, plumbing and drywall work is complete and the elevator shaft is in place.
Front door will have stained glass
Built about 1883, in the prosperous years that followed the arrival of the Credit Valley Railway, the Exchange "outclassed the other hotels in Hillsburgh" according to Wellington historian Steve Thorning.

It served as a headquarters for the well-to-do members of the Caledon Mountain Trout Club, and the main hotel parlour was a favourite meeting place for Erin Township Council.

Decorative brick exterior preserved
Tocher said traveling salesmen "in the old days" would often use the hotel as their base of operations in the area, showing their products in the sample room above the arched passageway that led to the livery stable.

"Years later, they had a restaurant in here and a big pool room at the back with three tables," he said. "It was a working hotel up until about 1966."

Tocher owned the building from 1966 to 1986, operating his store and renting out apartments. He has given some hotel artifacts to the new owners, including some glassware and a Seagrams 3-Star whiskey bottle, with a cork, which was inside a wall.

Developers Roy McCullough and Justin Morrow were on hand to show off the progress they've made.

"We've gone through a lot," said Morrow. "It's been about a year process trying to get it converted over to condominiums, and we just got approval last week."

The Creamery will be selling ice cream, soups, sandwiches and a variety of treats. The new restaurant is at the south end, while the north end on the ground floor is available for lease (or purchase) as retail or commercial space.
Septic system under construction

A section at the back of the building has been rebuilt, and reinforcements have been made to the structure. Most of the wood in the interior had to removed to meet fire regulations. They have also purchased the small building just north of the hotel. They are using it as an office, but it will soon be demolished.

There are four condo units on the second floor and three on the third, each with its own laundry facilities, furnace and air conditioning.

They range from a 534 sq.ft. one-bedroom unit called The Cataract, listed for $229,900, to The Grand (what Morrow calls the "gem"): a 1,490 sq.ft. two-bedroom unit stretching across the full front of the third floor, listed at $429,900. More information is available at www.exchange-hotel.com.

The Exchange Hotel was originally built by Bill Dwier, in a style that incorporated details normally found on much larger commercial buildings in cities. That exterior appearance has been preserved. The third floor has a mansard roof, with windows in dormers.

"This style was a feature of Second Empire buildings, perhaps the dominant style in the 1875 to 1890 period, and which still adds flavour to downtown Fergus and Guelph," said Thorning, in an article on the hotel. A series of his articles is available at www.erin.ca. Go to the About Erin section and click on History of Erin.