"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nova Scotia Connections: A Day in the Life of Great Village: Elmonte House

In a bustling place like Great Village, a good hotel is a must. There are people coming and going all the time, lots of tourists and travelling salesmen; regular Sunday School Association conferences or Teachers’ Institutes, which bring in folks from near and far. Great Village is fortunate to have one of the most efficiently run hotels in Colchester County, Elmonte House, operated by Mrs. Smith, with able assistance from her husband, Ralph, who divides his time between the hotel and his passion for inventing. Indeed, the Elmonte is one of the largest, most up-to-date hostelries in the county outside of Truro. Broderick’s Hotel at Five Islands is a close rival, but most of the folks around think that the Elmonte is superior.

Elmonte House and the "Sample Room" (right)

Elmonte House has all the modern conveniences including a telephone, well equipped livery stables, as well as an automobile to take people to and fetch them from the stations in Londonderry and Truro. The hotel is three storeys high and its office, parlours and rooms are large, airy, elegantly furnished and scrupulously clean. Mrs. Smith also offers excellent cuisine, and many of the societies in the village hold their anniversary banquets in its fine dining room.

One of the interesting features of the Elmonte is the “Sample Room,” a long, low building between the Elmonte and W.W. Peppard’s store, where salesmen bring samples of their goods and display them. Merchants from miles around stop by, view the goods and place their orders. When a salesman arrives word spreads quickly along the shore and for the next several days the salesman conducts a bustling business. The merchants are able to order clothing, boots and shoes, dishes of all kinds and even farm implements. Eventually, the goods arrive by train at Londonderry Station.

The Elmonte was built in 1899 to replace the Londonderry Hotel, which was destroyed by fire on December 5, 1898. The Londonderry Hotel had served Great Village and its visitors since 1861, when it had been built by Adam Chisholm. The Londonderry had been run well by Mrs. Captain James Wilbur Johnston for years. She had the central telephone office at the hotel for some time before it was removed to Miss Amelia Spencer’s home in 1898, just a week before the awful fire, which villagers still talk about whenever they pass by the Elmonte, which was constructed more or less on the same site.

There has been a public house or inn in the area as far back as 1807. With each new road put in some enterprising fellow tried his hand at a hostelry. There was the Post Road Inn on the corner of the Post Road and the Cross Road, a half mile from the village. Then the Riverside Hotel was built on the road connecting Great Village with the railway. In 1860, when a new road to Acadia Mines was made, which ran along the Great Village River, Mr. Chisholm built the Londonderry Hotel, and it served the community for nearly forty years.

The Elmonte is busy all year round, but now that summer is coming, there are more travellers and one can always see interesting people going in and coming out, all day long. Villagers faithfully read the Newsy Notes of Great Village in the Truro Daily News, as the Elmonte regularly sends a list of its guests for the week. Mrs. Smith is busy today, she had nearly a full house overnight and just about as many guests tonight. A few of them have come in specifically for the missionary lecture in the evening. Her dining room will be hosting folks from as far away as New York and Boston, Montreal and Halifax; as near as Parrsboro, New Glasgow and Economy. She has a few tables left for supper and promises several wonderful fresh strawberry desserts, as well as some fine trout, and her famous sirloin. Even without reserving a table, Mrs. Smith always tries to accommodate anyone who stops by.(1)

Mrs. Smith is out early in the morning sweeping off the verandah. She sees Angus Johnson open up the Post Office. She sees Dr. T.R. Johnson hurry by in his automobile, off on some house call, she supposes. A number of the guests are up early having breakfast, to be ready to head to the station in Londonderry. She’s about to go inside to tend to some check-outs when she sees Will Bulmer’s wagon come up over the hill from the bridge, with Gertie and Grace on board. Mrs. Smith shakes her head sadly and wonders how things will go. It will be a long trip down to Halifax, she thinks. Perhaps Grace will stop in as she sometimes does, when she’s back home, and let her know how Gertie is doing.


1. The Elmonte House served Great Village and its visitors until March 1932, when it, too, burned to the ground. Though the contents of the hotel were saved and the building was insured, it was not rebuilt, and Great Village remained without a hotel. Today, the Blaikie House Bed & Breakfast and the Willie Ed Bed & Breakfast welcome visitors from all over the world.

The Elmonte House on fire

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