The headquarters of stage coach travel before the railroad arrived, the “old Kentville hotel,” will be torn down, proclaimed the Berwick Register in its April 27, 1938 issue.
“Erected 123 years ago by a group of leading citizens in Kentville’s first community enterprise,” the Register said, “the old Kentville hotel where King George V was once a guest, has been sold and according to reports will be razed to make way for a large modern apartment house.”
For anyone interested in Kentville’s early day, the Register story on the hotel provided lots of little known history about the town and its connection with the stage coach line. The hotel about to be razed was hailed as the town’s oldest landmark by the Register. The hotel, located on what was known as “the Flat” on east Main Street, said the Register, was built in 1815 by one “Caleb Handley Rand and other citizen residents of the village and countryside (who) formed a company and built the 30-room hotel.”
On the hotels connection with early 19th century transportation, the Register noted that in 1829 a “stage coach commenced to run from Halifax to Annapolis Royal three times a week in summer and twice weekly in winter. The two coaches travelling East and West met at the hotel and exchanged passengers, freight and mail.”
When the Register reported the hotel’s upcoming demolition, the paper noted that at the time it was owned by the town’s postmaster, J. R. Lyons. The postmaster’s father, James, had “bought the other shareholders out in 1830 and operated the hostel for 70 years.” Sometime during this period (1884 say some sources) the Duke of York, who was to become King George V, stopped in Kentville “on a shooting expedition” and stayed at the hotel.
The Register concluded its report with an observation that while the hotel was to be demolished it was in superb condition – “that the old-timers built well is shown by the fine preservation of the structure.” The hotel was in its heyday during the period the stage coach was running, which, said the Register was “put out of business by the (arrival of the) railroad in 1869.” Said arrival no doubt also contributed to the hotel’s decline.
This is an excellent newspaper report, one mixing current events with town history. There’s one problem with it, however. The report was premature. Take a stroll today down east Main Street to “the flat” and you’ll finds that the old Kentville Hotel still stands there in all its glory. While it actually was slated for demolition, as the Register reported, the hotel was saved from destruction by the late Fred Huntley, who purchased it in 1938. With slight alterations by Mr. Huntley over a one year period, the old hotel came to life again as the “Stagecoach Apartments.” It has remained an apartment building ever since.
The former hotel is featured in the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia publication, Seasoned Timbers. First published in 1972, this is a book on unique historical buildings in western Nova Scotia. Describing the old building, Seasoned Timbers pays a well deserved tribute to Fred Huntley: “Much of the interior and exterior fabric, the two large chimneys and the many fireplaces (of the Kentville Hotel) remain as they were over one hundred and fifty years ago, thanks to the vision of Mr. Huntley.