OVER 200 YEARS OF HOTEL HISTORY (October 31/03)

Asked to contribute a history of Kentville’s early days to the Christmas 1895 issue of the Western Chronicle, Probate Judge Edmund J. Cogswell responded admirably to the task, writing a detailed description of the town as he remembered it. Some of Cogswell’s essay was later quoted (without credit) by A. W. H. Eaton when the latter compiled his history of Kings County.

Historians will be forever grateful to Cogswell and to a later writer, Leslie Eugene Dennison, who in 1932 reminisced about early Kentville in The Advertiser. Both Cogswell and Dennison gave detailed descriptions of the town and its citizens, providing valuable information that might otherwise have been lost.

In places, Cogswell and Dennison differ on a few details, but that was to be expected since they produced their works from memory when well along in years. Cogswell was 70 when he wrote Kentville: A Historic Sketch. Dennison, a lifelong newspaperman, was almost 70 when he wrote Kentville And Vicinity A Half Century Ago.

When she wrote her Kentville history – The Devil’s Half Acre – in 1986, Mabel Nichols credits Eaton’s history as one of her sources. While Cogswell and Dennison aren’t mentioned in the credits, some of the details she included on Kentville’s streets and its citizens can only be found in their works. We have to assume that Nichols was familiar with the mini-histories by Cogswell and Dennison.

This long preamble is leading to another mention of Kentville’s hotels. I wrote about several of the town’s early hotels, especially the Royal Oak, in a column [three] weeks ago when quoting from a 1930 newspaper article. Cogswell, Dennison and Nichols write about Kentville’s hotels in their works, for the most part agreeing on how many there were over the years and on details about ownership and so on. The works of these writers are an excellent resource, and in fact, are probably the only original sources when looking at the 200 plus years of hotel history in Kentville.

Since about 1790 Kentville has been served by many hotels, some on a grand scale. Looking at Cogswell first, he mentions several including the Royal Oak. Besides the Royal Oak, Cogswell recalled the Kentville Hotel, the Porter House, the McIntosh Hotel and Bragg’s Hotel, which he says was also called “Mulloneys or the Victoria House.”

Dennison doesn’t mention the Royal Oak and he differs from Cogswell, writing that it was the Kentville Hotel, not Braggs that was also called Mulloney’s Hotel. Included in Dennison’s list are a couple of hotels not found in Cogswell’s paper; these are Lyons Hotel, Reddens Hotel and the Riviere House.

Mabel Nichol’s book is a much better source of information on Kentville hotels than Cogswell and Dennison. Nichols lists 12 early day hotels with a brief sketch on each one, including the original owners and the dates the hotels opened and closed. Nichols writes that Kentville Hotel, Bragg’s Hotel (or Inn) and Mulloney’s Hotel are separate entities and she lists five hotels not mentioned by Cogswell and Dennison.

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