Boutique hotel contributes to livable, complete community
By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Ancaster is set to welcome a new addition to its rejuvenated Business Improvement Area this spring.
BIA chair Bob Wilkins and his partner Bill Walker are expecting to open a new 19-suite boutique hotel, called the Barracks Inn, at 423-425 Wilson St. E.
“That is a realistic goal,” said Wilkins. “I’m excited about the opening.”
Work on the building, which some say was used as a barracks in the War of 1812, began about two years ago. It was delayed until the city had completed its new official plan and the province signed off on it.
The owners did receive a minor variance to allow for the hotel, and Wilkins said city permits were acquired for sewers, water and electrical. The inn won’t have a restaurant, which Wilkins said is by design.
Instead, visitors will be able to walk to the many other restaurants along Wilson Street and dine, contributing to the growth of the BIA. The inn, though, will have an on-site bakery.
“(The inn) will add to the idea of having a livable and complete community,” he said. “There are four restaurants within walking distance.”
The inn will also be a short distance away from the Ancaster Old Mill, a popular place for weddings, he said.
Wilkins also expects people who take in a show at the Old Fire Hall Arts Centre to stay at the inn. And if the city acquires the Memorial School building from the public school board and converts it into a cultural centre as some in the community want, Wilkins said the inn will provide much-needed accommodations forpeople who attend events.
Wilkins said he is always looking to enhance the area’s heritage appeal, and renovating the building has produced some interesting history to the location. The work exposed a massive stone wall that Wilkins said will be used as the inn’s lobby.
The original building, which was L-shaped, was used as a drug store between 1835 and 1868 when the site burned down. Over the years the barracks included a modern addition that previously housed an automotive body shop and a tool and die-making operation.
According to the reference book, Ancaster: A Pictorial History, published by the Ancaster Township Historical Society, there is some question about the building being a barracks for soldiers during the 1812 conflict.
The arduous renovation work included excavating the ground and installing new footings because the structure didn’t have a foundation. Crews also constructed a one-and-a-half storey addition on top of a concrete block building, which was attached to the rear of the structure, built sometime in the 1960s.
Wilkins said during the course of the work, material found in the aftermath of the structure’s fire that had been buried, was used. One of the corner stones found in the rubble had the date 1851 carved into it. The stone was used in the restoration work.
“The heritage will be wonderful,” said Wilkins. “The natural stone will shine.”
The three-storey inn will also feature a large porch running the length of the second floor and extending over the entrance. Wilkins said the porch pays homage to the former Newton Inn that was located at Jerseyville Road and Wilson Street, before it burned down.
“We tried to emulate that porch (and) provide some heritage touches for the community,” he said. “There is a rhyme and reason to the additions (on the building).”
When asked how much they have invested in the building, Wilkins said only it has been “significant.”
This isn’t the partners’ first foray into renovating a building in Ancaster’s core. They refurbished the Ancaster Carriage Factory, which now houses a financial services firm.
“What matters is we are getting it done,” said Wilkins.
“It’s a place everybody will be proud of, a place where everybody will be able to go to and enjoy.”