The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 16 April 1853

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Spring Walk

The weather has been so bad again that it was yesterday only that the British Whig was able to continue its peregrinations about town. The greatest want perceptible in Kingston, is the want of a good Hotel. The City has but one First Class Hotel, the "British American," and that is tumbling down. Mr. Counter, the proprietor, talks of building a Mammoth Hotel on the size of the British American, to cost £20,000; but the public are satisfied that it is all talk. In the first place, because such a Hotel could not pay its expenses; secondly, because Mr. Counter can invest his spare money more advantageously than in overbuilding; thirdly, because while Mr. Kent, the worthy host, pays his a thousand dollars a year rent, for the present old ruinous fabric, Mr. Counter will not be a monstrous hurry to build at all. Depend upon it, Mr. Counter's new Hotel is all bosh! In this state of affairs, would it not be as well, or rather better, if the Capitalists of Kingston would join purses, and build an Hotel of their own. Nor a monster house that would break the back of its keeper, but an Hotel, costing with its scite [sic] about £5000. There are several good Hotel keepers who would gladly take such a place, pay a remunerating rent for it, and keep it as it should be kept. Mr. Perkins, for instance, or even Mr. Kent himself; for no one better knows the misery he daily endures in his present uncomfortable location. An Hotel of this kind and size would pay well, and Stock taken in it must soon be at a premium. A good Hotel is imperative in a growing city, and it is a demonstrateable fact, that Hamilton owes a great part of its unprecedented prosperity to the excellence of its hotel accommodation.

Mr. Irons, of the Exchange Hotel, well known to American Travellers, in conjunction with Mr. T. Kirkpatrick, the owner of the land, is doing what Mr. Counter and Mr. Kent should have done two years ago. That is, he is building a new and spacious Hotel alongside his present premises. But Mr. Irons has made money ministering to the fashions and customs of his United States customers, and he will not readily change the hours and habits of his house. Although his new hotel, (to be called the "Iron House,") will be a large well built, and handsomely furnished building, yet as the dinner hour will continue to be one o'clock, it cannot be called a First Class Hotel; that is to say, it cannot attract, with the exception of Americans, First Class Travellers. But it will be well patronized nevertheless. Canadian gentlemen like to dine late in the day, and they won't willingly go to early dining houses, when others more accommodating are open. This fact Mr. Counter knows and takes advantage of; for while the dinner hour at the British American remains at five o'clock; let his tenant, Mr. Kent, grumble a much as he chooses, his grumbling won't amount to much; for First Class Travellers will still flock to the British American, as they have done for the past forty years, for the sake of a good and late dinner. Now, if a Joint Stock Company were to build a new Hotel, or even take steps to subscribe the necessary Stock, it would have the good effect of bringing Mr. Counter to his senses immediately, and make him do at once, what may otherwise take him ten years to accomplish. Kingston must have a good Hotel, and no mistake. This is a fact.

On Monday afternoon last, while examining into the additions and improvements on board the steamer Canadian, late Prince of Wales, which boat has been very handsomely refitted this season, with new machinery, new deck and new cabin furniture, the bell run, and Capt. Chrysler politely asking the writer to accompany him to Cape Vincent and return the same night, he acquiesced and went. The distance to the Cape round the head of Wolfe Island is twenty-two miles, and the Canadian ran it in a little more than two hours. Returning, the night looked so very ugly, that the pilot preferred coming back by the foot of the Island, upwards of thirty miles round, and the boat did that distance in three hours, blowing all the while a little hurricane. Thus the speed of the Canadian was proved to be ten miles an hour, and her sea-worthiness tried in a remarkable degree, for she behaved during the storm like a seventy-four, steady as Old Time. These things have been mentioned here, because some scrub of a newspaper writer up the Bay has been recently abusing the Canadian, and prejudicing the Bay People against travelling with her. And for what reason it is impossible to guess, except private pique. The Canadian is not nine years old yet, has capital boilers, with an excellent safe engine, is well furnished, gives good and cheap meals on board, has a most popular Captain, is large enough for the Bay Trade, and in every respect is fitted for her employment. She is withal a most fortunate vessel, and never met with an accident. The only other reason that can be imagined for this cruel attempt to run her down, is because the other boat of the Gildersleeve Line, the Bay of Quinte, is a most superb boat, and goes like a witch. Therefore, because the Bay People have one fleet steamer, they ought to have two! Now, these same good folks have been told a hundred times to build their own boats; and until they do that, they have no right or reason to complain. The Canadian has three or four good years of life in her, and while she continues safe and sound, and is well commanded, she is quite good enough for the Bay People and the Bay Trade. The fact is, the steamer Bay of Quinte is much too good for folks who grudge to pay more than three York Shillings for being carried fifty miles, and think that a dinner equal to one at the Astor House, should be furnished for a quarter of a dollar. Now, a wager might be safely laid, that if these two boats were laid on in opposition, from Kingston to Picton, and the fare of the Bay of Quinte was half a dollar, and that of the Canadian three York Shillings, the former would go empty, while the latter would be crowded! The truth of this assertion was proved while the Farmer ran in opposition to the Prince of Wales, a boat as inferior to the Prince as the Canadian is to the Bay of Quinte. The Travelling Public may rest fully assured, that the Canadian is a clean, well appointed, comfortable boat, quite large enough, and quite quick enough for the Bay of Quinte Peddling Business.

Cape Vincent has not made that rapid improvement which the advocates of Railroads expected. It is certainly a busy, stirring, improving town, and one handsome range of new buildings has been put up since the writer last visited it; but it is not a city of fifty thousand souls yet. The plain fact is, that Railroads do not build up places so quickly as some sanguine folks imagine; for here at the Terminus of one of the best paying Roads in the Union, there is but little perceptible difference between Cape Vincent of 1850 and Cape Vincent of 1853. Let the reader ponder on this fact! It must however be admitted, that until this season, Cape Vincent did not possess the facilities to do the good Freight Business it will do now. A noble Line of Steamers owned at Rome, Watertown and Kingston, will run daily to the head of the Lake on the Canadian Side, and will add much to the growing importance of the Cape. And here, it may be as well to make mention, that until the Engine of the Highlander, is made good, her place in the Line will be supplied by the Freight Steamer Ottawa, Capt. Wells, whose days of leaving Kingston are Wednesdays and Saturdays. Cape Vincent is well supplied with Hotels.-There is Mr. Shuler's excellent house, and then Mr. Warren's long established Hotel, and last, though by no means least, Mr. Walter Collins' new Hotel, already a spacious mansion, but to which he is adding this season, many rooms and much improvement. So if the Cape Hotel Keepers don't do a splendid business, they do everything to draw custom, and deserve it. Kingston might take a useful lesson in the Hotel line from Cape Vincent.

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16 April 1853
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), 16 April 1853