Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Bell Inn is a single story stone Colonial building situated on a plot of land containing a stone outcrop on Cape Road in the Village of Dorchester.
The Bell Inn is designated a Provincial Heritage Place for its architecture and for its role in the hospitality industry.
Constructed sometime between 1811 and 1821, the Bell Inn is significant as one of New Brunswick's oldest surviving stone buildings. The simple rectangular single story massing, pitched roof and dormers are good examples of features of the early Colonial style. The stone is identical in color and texture to that in an outcrop located behind the building which shows signs of quarrying. This indicates the strong possibility that the building stone for the structure came from this outcrop. Several interior details that indicate the Colonial style from this era are still present.
After serving at least four decades as a private dwelling and small country inn under various ownership, in 1858 it passed into the hands of William Hickman, later one of Dorchester’s leading shipbuilders. Following extensive renovations, Hickman ran it as an inn in conjunction with his recently acquired stagecoach line between Moncton and Amherst, itself part of a longer line running between Saint John and Halifax Nova Scotia. From then until the completion of the Intercolonial Railroad in 1872 the “Bell” served as Dorchester's only stagecoach inn. Earlier stagecoach lines, established as early as 1835, had patronized two larger hotels across the street, “Hickman’s” and “Weldon’s”.
When the stagecoach era ended, Hickman turned the “Bell” into a handsome residence and head office for his far-reaching shipping and mercantile enterprise. Scene of many an important social gathering, it remained in the Hickman family until 1948. After a period of decline and dilapidation, it was restored to something like its 1850 condition by the joint efforts of the government of New Brunswick and the Westmorland Historical Society, which now owns and maintains it. Today, it hosts the Bell Inn Restaurant that is currently listed in “Where to Eat in Canada”, the country’s premier dining guide.
Source: Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport, Heritage Branch, Site File # 56.
The character-defining elements that describe the architecture of the Bell Inn include:
- exterior stone walls of coursed ashlars on the front façade;
- random coursed roughly squared stone on the gable ends;
- squared cut stone quoins;
- symmetrical and ordered structure of five bays with a central door at the front façade;
- asymmetrical window arrangement on the side façade;
- medium-pitched gable roof;
- tall cut stone chimneys at both ends;
- overhanging roof eaves;
- gabled dormers with wood clapboard siding;
- southern side ell clad in wide horizontal wood boards on the front façade, wood shingles on the side and rear façades;
- basement (low ground floor) commercial storefront in the southern ell;
- roughly squared rubble sandstone foundation walls;
- original double-hung windows throughout, including 6 over 6, 10 over 10, 6 over 3 and 9 over 9 windows.
The character-defining elements that describe the interior of the Bell Inn include:
- original wood railing with squared balusters and newel post;
- original Greek Revival window and door trim throughout;
The character-defining elements of the location of the Bell Inn include:
- highly visible commercial orientation to the street and road intersection;
- stone outcrop.
Province of New Brunswick
Heritage Conservation Act
Provincial Heritage Place
1820/01/01 to 1860/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Trade and Commerce
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Eating or Drinking Establishment
- Commerce / Commercial Services
- Hotel, Motel or Inn
- Single Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport. Heritage Branch. File number 56
Cross-Reference to Collection