Description of Historic Place
The Dominion House Tavern (circa 1880) is the oldest remaining, continuously operating tavern in Essex County. It is a two-and-one-half-storey, vernacular Georgian style frame building, located in the historic Sandwich community of west Windsor.
It is recognized for its heritage value by the City of Windsor By-law 11345, 1992.
A landmark on Sandwich Street, the Dominion House Tavern is situated on a large lot at the easterly entrance to the Sandwich community. Part of a collection of important heritage properties, it contributes positively to the streetscape and is an enduring component of this historic neighbourhood.
The Dominion House Tavern is widely known as “the DH,” and has been associated with persons and events related to the development of the former Town of Sandwich and, later, the City of Windsor, since 1883.
The oldest remaining tavern in Essex County and the area's best-known tavern, it has continuously served both residents and visitors for more than 120 years. Located on the old stagecoach route from Windsor to Amherstburg, it was once a popular stop-over for weary travellers who spent the night there. Throughout the years, it has been a favourite gathering place for judges, lawyers, politicians, and generations of university faculty and students, due to its proximity to Mackenzie Hall (former Essex County Court House) and to the University of Windsor.
The name comes from the original Dominion House, which was located across the street and had operated as a hotel since 1859. When it burned in 1883, this building, already in place, was to have been a temporary replacement. It continued to operate, however, under the ownership of a host of prominent area residents including Daniel Marentette (whose ancestors moved to the area in 1751), Eugene Breault (a reeve of Sandwich and police magistrate), John McCarthy, William Boyer and Sidney Walman.
While the basic structure remains intact, alterations over the years – some in response to changing times – have destroyed much of the building's original exterior aesthetics. In 1945, for example, the grand front and side porches topped by railed verandas were removed and an enclosed foyer was added when the building was raised and a basement was dug to provide a beverage room for “ladies and escorts.” The Georgian period style is still evident in the box-like proportions and symmetrical elevations, side-gabled roof and main entrance flanked by two set of windows.
Sources: Building Analysis Form, June 3, 1992; City of Windsor By-law 11345, 1992; and City of Windsor Heritage Planner's files.
Character defining elements that express the heritage values of the Dominion House Tavern include its:
- ongoing use (since 1883) and location as a Tavern within the Sandwich community providing a traditional meeting place for drinks and dialogue
- prominent placement on a large lot on Sandwich Street in the historic former town of Sandwich
- proximity to other significant heritage properties along Sandwich Street, including the McGregor-Cowan House (circa 1808), Sandwich Post Office (1905) and Mackenzie Hall (1855).
- vernacular two-and-a-half-storey Georgian style design
- frame construction with some stucco and clapboard claddings
- gabled façade with chimneys at either end
- 2 over 2 second-storey window