Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Room at the Inn

I was talking the other day about how buildings go through transitions over the decades, centuries, leaving us with today's version, and only hints into what they were like before - bringing out the detective in all of us lovers of old buildings. Delving into the history of our local Clarion hotel, which is an historic building once called the Quinte Hotel, is a worthy exercise in time-travel.

The building was built in 1895 on the long-vacant site of the Dafoe Hotel, which burned in 1886. The Quinte Hotel itself was rebuilt after a disastous fire, in about 1909, adding a fourth storey in the process. It has seen many changes, has operated under several different hotel chains, losing a lot of its grandeur over the years. The Quinte Hotel was spoken of in superlatives in newspapers of its day. The Belleville Sun, in 1895, in the enthusiastic rhetoric of the time, reported that "there is no finer hotel to be found inthe province of Ontario than the Hotel Quinte". The hotel is associated with so many stories of Belleville, and of its illustrious citizens. Its a great story longing to be told.

When the Quinte Hotel was first built it is reported to have had many Romanesque Revival elements - that style said "we're important" in 1895. From what I can see in the photos I have viewed there were rusticated limestone foundation stones and piers for the prominent high porches (one removed in the 1960's, the other lowered and modernized), the deep red brick emulating the characteristic red sandstone, the round-headed arches and brick hood moulding above windows on the first floor and frontispiece on the Bridge Street side, rustication on the chunky pillars of the porches and the detailing at the top of the Bridge Street frontispiece, which all suggest Romanesque Revival. I can't see enough of the detail of the sun-room at the top, but it has a massive feel.

During the rebuilding after the fire around 1909, a brick fourth storey was added with a cornice separating it from the floors below, and classical features diluted some of the Romanesque Revival feel. The removal of the Bridge Street portico and the lowering and modernizing of the Pinnacle entrance were the biggest loss to its historical sense of style.

Today the hotel is a viable Clarion Hotel, much changed, but still the centre of downtown life, and mindful of its heritage. We should be proud of its longevity.

1.Top :(coloured postcard) Quinte Hotel (after 1909 rebuilding, note fourth storey above cornice.)
2. Left: Quinte Hotel (as originally built in 1895, note the sun-room on the roof)
3. Right: Dafoe Hotel (note the carriage-way into a central courtyard)
4. Bottom: Quinte Hotel (now the Clarion Hotel) as it is today.


  1. I really enjoy learning about buildings in my new area - keep them coming, please! Dinner at The Silk Route soon, I think? There must be some occasion we can celebrate!

  2. Replies
    1. It was with great delight that I read about the Hotel Quinte in your "Room at the Inn" blog (dated Feb 24, 2011). My great grandfather Charles Parsons Hunter was the first manager of this grand old hotel when it opened in 1895 and his son (my grandfather) as a young man worked there for a time as night desk clerk. Charles had also worked at the Dafoe house for a few years before it was destroyed by fire. So I feel a natural bond with these old hotels and am always searching for information about them and those times. Many thanks for your site.

  3. So delighted to hear of your connection to this wonderful spot. It has fallen on some hard luck of late - in receivership. We all await a positive outcome. Plans were proceeding for a heritage designation earlier this year. This place needs an influx of cash to help a dedicated staff recreate its gracious past in a boutique hotel. For more information you could contact the local Community Archives archivist Sharon White -