Description of Historic Place
The Commercial Hotel, located at 23-43 West Mill Street, is situated on the north side of the street, west of the intersection of West Mill and Metcalf Streets in the former Village of Elora, now incorporated in the Township of Centre Wellington. Constructed in stages between 1848 and 1870, the three-storey stone building was loosely designed in the Scottish/Loyalist style.
The property was designated for its heritage value, by the Township of Centre Wellington, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 2005-011).
The Commercial Hotel served as the centre of the Village of Elora's social, cultural, economic and political life in the middle of the 19th century, and is associated with numerous Canadian political leaders. Some of the politicians who visited the hotel include George Brown, Sandfield Macdonald, Oliver Mowat, premier of Ontario for 25 years and Edward Blake, who established the Supreme Court of Canada.
Politics and the Commercial Hotel were inseparable in the early days. Elora was a hotbed for the Clear Grit brand of reformers and the Commercial's banquet room was frequently used for meetings and rallies. Political leaders would meet inside and party followers would rally outside on Mill Street. Occasionally a rival mob would assemble to put a torch to a representation of George Brown and other reformers. For the local politicians, the Commercial Hotel was where the Elora council regularly met, in an upstairs parlour.
The earliest portion of the building was constructed in 1848, and was named the Elgin House, after the Governor-General of the time. Although the Elgin House was the village's fourth hotel, it was the first building on Mill Street, and the first hotel in the town modelled on the size and style of big-city hostelries. Over the following twenty years, a series of additions and changes were made to the hotel, which by 1870, boasted 70 rooms for rent (more than the total number of rooms in the other hotels in Elora combined), four sample rooms for travelling salesmen, five parlours, a dining room, a banquet room, and a large stone stable, in addition to the popular bar-room.
Thomas Biggar bought the Commercial Hotel in 1865 and his family retained control for the next 40 years. Biggar undertook further extensions to the building, adding a third storey. Declining patronage and prohibition led to the closing of the Commercial Hotel in early 1920.
Source: Former Village of Elora By-law No. 2005-011; Reasons for Designation, 2005.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Commercial Hotel include its:
- imposing size and style, modelled on big-city hostels
- location in the centre of the Village of Elora
- three-storey stone and stucco clad exterior
- hip roof
- double hung three over one windows
- stone voussoirs on main floor windows
- projecting eaves with metal fascia