Kentville would be “just another town if it weren’t for the Cornwallis Inn,” hotelier Don Wallace is quoted as saying in a 1986 issue of the Atlantic Advocate. Since much of Kentville’s prosperity can be attributed to the railway, and the railway built the Cornwallis Inn, no one can reasonably dispute Mr. Wallace’s statement. Kentville was a thriving railway town long before the Cornwallis Inn opened its doors on December 9, 1930, the opening of the hotel clinched Kentville’s place as the leading town in the Annapolis Valley.
The Cornwallis Inn had been converted into an apartment and business complex by Mr. Wallace after he purchased the property in 1976. As well as being named a heritage property, the Inn has the distinction of being the most famous building in the Annapolis Valley; or as the Advocate article put it, the Cornwallis Inn is “a unique Nova Scotia landmark.” Today, the Inn still dominates the Kentville landscape.
The forerunner of the Cornwallis Inn, as mentioned in a September column, was the Hotel Aberdeen. The Aberdeen’s name was changed to the Cornwallis Inn when it was purchased for $30,000 in 1919 by the Dominion Atlantic Railway. The railway operated the hotel, located immediately north of the railway station at the time, until it was torn down and replaced in 1930. In her history of the DAR Marguerite Woodworth notes that a larger and more modern hotel was needed in Kentville, which was growing rapidly – thanks Woodworth said to the railway having its headquarters there and the town being the center of the apple-growing district.
I found an interesting quote re the Hotel Aberdeen in the above mentioned Atlantic Advocate article; this sheds more, but not a lot more, light on a Kentville business that has a dearth of information on it available:
“The hotel was built for the Dominion Atlantic Railway, a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific, to replace the first Cornwallis Inn which had been operated since 1893 adjacent to the Kentville train station. The original hotel was built by Daniel McLeod and initially called the Aberdeen Hotel. But it was saddled with financial difficulties and indifferent service until 1919 when the DAR acquired it from Hally L. Cole for a mere $30,000. The railway renamed it the Cornwallis Inn in honor of Edward Cornwallis, the first governor of Nova Scotia and founder of Halifax.”
Construction of the new Cornwallis Inn began early in 1930 and was completed in 208 days. The Inn was built on the homestead of Judge Barclay Webster, a leading citizen of Kentville. Opened with great fanfare, the Inn was hailed as a “striking specimen of the Tudor style of architecture and the Old English theme.” The Inn went up on the Corner of Main and Cornwallis Street. On the other side of town, and with little fanfare, the old Cornwallis Inn was quickly being demolished.