Work continues as we rebuild the foundation wall of the old Glen Villa Inn.
Last week I wrote about some of the treasures we unearthed as the wall came down.
This week brought more treasures and even more surprises.
The story of Glen Villa Inn was familiar to me before we acquired the property where we now live. This is not surprising since tales about it colour the history of North Hatley. I wasn’t prepared, though, for the impact that the hotel ruins had on me. They were right on our property, at the end of the big lawn, and they were such an impressive sight that they brought those familiar stories to life.
I began to do research, trying to discover as much as I could about the hotel and the property we now own. I collected or was given old postcards and photographs showing some of that history, including an original brochure produced by the man who built the hotel, George Albert LeBaron.
One of those colour postcards showed a strange flower arrangement, four posts or tree trunks covered with Virginia creeper or some type of ivy surrounding what seem to be annuals planted in a big metal tub.
This week, thanks to enquiries that the filmmaker Louise Abbot made to Jody Robinson, the archivist at the Eastern Townships Research Centre, I saw images of the hotel I’ve never seen before. One black and white photograph shows either the same flower arrangement or one that looks very similar. On the flat ground below, it shows a tennis court and the building that housed a bowling alley and dance hall. It also shows a boardwalk or ramp that I’ve never seen pictured. I haven’t figured out where the walkway led… a mystery still awaiting a solution.
But undoubtedly the most exciting photograph that Jody unearthed came from the archives of the Lennoxville-Ascot Historical Society. It shows the hotel after it burned in 1909.
This photo was taken the year the hotel burned to the ground, shortly before it was due to open for the summer season. The wall extends farther to the left and right than we thought. It includes the remains of a fireplace and steps leading up the hill, and ends in a castellation that is a complete surprise.
I know the topography of the land so well now that seeing the almost bare hillside behind the hotel ruins came as a surprise. But the shape of that hillside was totally familiar…. its shape is evident even now.
We aren’t planning to replicate that wall… only a part of it now remains. But what look like circular flower beds lining the drive that turned in front of it offer interesting possibilities…