Early Tillsonburg saw a number of hotels emerge on Broadway. These hotels were stopping points for stagecoaches and were frequented by commercial travelers passing through and/or looking to sell their wares. The earliest hotel was located at the junction of Broadway and Simcoe Street and was known as the British American or North American. In the early 1860s, it was operated by Macaulay Boyce. The Baldwin Hotel, which later became known as the Royal Exchange Hotel and the Oil Exchange, was located at the corner of Broadway and Brock Street. Aaron Musselman was the proprietor of the Oil Exchange Hotel which was said to have the longest bar and best selection of cigars in Tillsonburg. It was destroyed by fired in 1872.
Advertisement for the Oil Exchange Hotel, 1871.
Across Brock Street was the Queen’s Hotel, also affectionately referred to as O’Neill’s Hotel in honour of its early proprietor, Joseph O’Neill. O’Neill was a prominent Roman Catholic Layman and a member of the small group forming the nucleus of the congregation of St. Mary’s Church. The Queen’s Hotel would pass through a number of hands until it was destroyed by a fire on May 20, 1908.
The Queen's Hotel after it was damaged by fire, 1908 [courtesy of Annandale N.H.S. & Museum]
The Queen's Hotel after the fire in 1908 [courtesy of Annandale N.H.S. & Museum]
Headline from the Woodstock "Sentinel-Review" newspaper about the Queen's Hotel fire, 20 May 1908.
On the southwest corner of the market and Broadway, Adam Matheson opened a hotel known as Matheson House. Unlike its competitors, it was of frame construction and resembled a large house. It was considered to have the best bar and dining room in town. In January 1893, the Matheson House was destroyed by a pre-dawn fire. Matheson would rebuild the hotel and in 1907, when the business passed out of his hands, it became known as the Arlington Hotel. It was sadly destroyed by fire in December 1967.
Matheson House and Market Square, Tillsonburg [courtesy of Annandale N.H.S. & Museum]
Arlington Hotel in Tillsonburg, 1920
In the late 1880s, the Royal Alfred Hotel was built and operated, on Broadway, by proprietor Alexander Cowan Sr. His son Alexander Jr. worked as the bartender. Likewise, the Imperial Hotel was built in 1891 and boasted inside water closets (flush toilets) and two of “Cops Brothers'” largest and best furnaces.