Historic accommodations in Ontario
Former castles, mansions, factories and jailhouses tell the story of Ontario’s rich and storied history. Some of these heritage places have been carefully converted into boutique hotels and bespoke inns with their historic charm and architecture kept intact.
If you love history, heritage architecture and places with a good backstory, plan to stay at one of these fifteen Ontario properties.
Greater Toronto Area (GTA)
Located in Toronto’s Garden District on historic Queen Street East, the Ivy at Verity is an intimate, four-suite boutique hotel with a celebrated restaurant and exclusive women’s spa.
The hotel guest rooms occupy the second floor of a restored building originally constructed in the early 1800’s as a chocolate factory for the Robertson Brothers Wholesale Confections Company. You can still see remnants of the former factory in the original brickwork and beams. Each room features a balcony that opens onto the restaurant courtyard below, which once served as the delivery area for the factory.
The large, airy rooms, opulent washrooms, romantic terraces and vintage décor gives the air of a chic European pied-à-terre.
In addition to the award-winning cuisine at George Restaurant, Chef Lorenzo Loseto also makes artisanal gelato, so the tradition of sweet creations continues in this heritage building.
Location: 111 Queen Street East D, Toronto
Old Mill Toronto Hotel is a landmark property on the shores of the Humber River with a history shaped by the city that grew around it. The original sawmill was constructed in 1793, the same year Toronto was founded as the town of York.
Over the next two centuries, and through numerous reconstructions and restorations, the site evolved from industrial to recreational. In the early 1900’s it became a popular place for locals to socialize, complete with dance hall and tea garden. By the end of the century the buildings and grounds had transformed into a luxurious inn, spa, restaurant and gardens.
While all the modern amenities, comforts and extra touches of a boutique hotel are provided, beautiful historical elements such as the English Tudor style architecture and afternoon tea tradition whispers of a bygone era.
Location: 9 Old Mill Road, Etobicoke
Occupying the corner of King and Yonge Street, in the heart of downtown Toronto’s financial district, One King West Hotel is a luxury hotel in what was Ontario’s original Dominion Bank building.
The bank’s head office was established at this location in 1879 and remained there for the next 126 years. Between 1910 and 1914, the building was converted from five to twelve floors in a modern Beaux-Arts white terracotta style. A massive vault that was shipped from the UK and dragged up Yonge Street by a team of horses was installed and remains today. The Grand Banking Hall emulated the splendour of renaissance architecture of the time.
In 2005, preservation was a driving factor in the conversion and construction of a contemporary 51-storey condo/hotel tower above the original structure named the Silver. Now you can stay in one of the historic suites at this Ontario heritage designated site. Onsite valet parking is available.
Location: 1 King Street West, Toronto
This attractive, ivy-covered bed and breakfast in the heart of Old Town was originally the first public schoolhouse in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Constructed in 1859 on military grounds after the War of 1812, the four-classroom school continued to serve as Niagara Public School until 1948. Over 50 years later, extensive renovation transformed the building from disrepair into a country inn. The original maple flooring and tin ceilings were salvaged and reinstalled. During the overhaul, blackboards with writing still on them were discovered behind walls.
Choose from one of only six aptly names suites like the Professor’s Suite, the Principal’s Loft and the Librarian’s Loft. Each spacious unit is tastefully decorated with private en suite.
Location: 40 Platoff Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sterling Inn & Spa is a boutique hotel with full-service spa and fine dining in downtown Niagara Falls that’s popular for romantic getaways and luxurious stays.
Dating back to the 1920’s, the building’s former purpose was much less lavish. The site was established as Cairns Creamery, a large dairy and ice cream producer. Borden Creamery took over in 1930 and continued dairy operations for over 40 years, including a door to door bottled milk delivery service.
In 2007 the building began its conversion into an upscale, 41-room boutique bed and breakfast style inn and spa with modern finishes, amenities and comforts. The massive, cement milk bottle above the main entrance is the only reminder of its industrial past.
Location: 5195 Magdalen Street, Niagara Falls
Hamilton, Halton and Brant
The Barracks Inn is an upscale 18-room boutique hotel in the historic village of Ancaster, just west of the city of Hamilton.
Its original construction date and purpose is unclear, although many believe it was built to house soldiers during the War of 1812—hence the name. Later, the building served as a drug store until, like so many structures of the time, it was destroyed by fire in 1868.
After its reconstruction from the ruins of the fire, the site saw many uses, included a tool-and-die business and a car repair and dealership before being transformed into a luxury accommodation in 2016.
Key historic features retained are the striking stone walls, including a cornerstone from 1851. Each of the suites balance period décor and modern amenities and comforts and your stay includes breakfast and parking.
Location: 425 Wilson Street East, Ancaster
Huron, Perth, Waterloo and Wellington
In 1868, Samuel Merner, a local businessman, member of Parliament and Senator oversaw the construction of what was to become his home, a lavish Italianate architectural style mansion.
Located in New Hamburg, between Stratford and Kitchener, the house featured rich window details, grand porches and gables, decorative cornice molding and high ceilings. In 1888 another prominent resident, Robert Puddicombe purchased the home and it remained in his family until 1969.
It wasn’t until 2006 that the current owners began an extensive and careful renovation to convert the property into an elegant eight-room inn, restaurant and spa called Puddicombe House.
Special touches like large canopy beds, chandeliers, antique settees and in-room fireplaces preserve the extravagance and luxury intended for this grand home.
Location: 145 Peel Street, New Hamburg
One of Ontario’s most distinguished boutique accommodations overlooking the picturesque Elora Gorge, the story of Elora Mill Hotel and Spa dates back to its original construction, which began in 1851.
After two devastating fires, the site changed hands, was rebuilt and expanded with a gristmill, sawmill, wool factory and eventually used for granary storage and sale in 1944. Similar to Old Mill Toronto and numerous other mills across the nation, the important industrial and economic role of Elora Mill evolved into a social one as a hub for people to gather.
The first reinvention as an inn occurred in 1975. However, it wasn’t until 2010, after numerous ownership changes and ensuing deterioration, the mill underwent its ultimate revival. The newly transformed Elora Mill Hotel and Spa is now the perfect blend of modern hospitality and century old heritage.
After a stay in one of the charming rooms, suites and lofts, each with stunning views and no expense spared on comfort, you’ll see why this hotel receives such high accolades.
Location: 77 Mill Street West, Elora
If you dare, spend a night in an authentic cell block of a former jailhouse at the Saintlo Ottawa Jail Hostel in downtown Ottawa.
Constructed and opened in 1862 adjacent to the Carleton County Courthouse, Carleton County Gaol was one of the area’s earliest jails. Architecturally, the solid stone structure was designed to appear imposing and austere. Notably this was the site of Canada’s last public execution in 1869.
The prison continued to operate until 1972, when it was converted into a youth hotel. Shared and single room accommodations are available, and while original elements like the stone walls and iron doors remain, you’ll enjoy modern comforts like air conditioning, towels and individual lockers.
Not surprisingly its rumored that the building is haunted—several guests have reported hearing ghosts humming and playing with their cell doors. Find out for yourself if the rumors are true.
Location: 75 Nicholas Street, Ottawa
The Smith Hotel is a luxury, 10-unit accommodation housed in the lower level of a beautifully converted 19th century church. Located in the heart of Kingston, also known as “limestone city”, naturally the original structure was constructed of limestone.
Build over 200 years ago in 1864, you can still admire the craftsmanship of the gothic-style spire and stone walls. Industrial features like metal beams, exposed stone, stained glass and concrete floors preserved from the original structure are balanced with custom furnishings and light fixtures, soft linens and towels and full kitchens.
Location: 221 Queen Street, Kingston
One of the most renowned hotels in Prince Edward County, Merrill House is a stylish, boutique hotel with quality service and luxurious amenities.
This Victorian-style building was once the home of Edwards Merrill, a progressive lawyer who made significant and positive reforms to the Canadian justice system in the 1800s. In 1878 Edwards commissioned Merrill House in Gothic Revival style architecture constructed with fashionable red bricks.
The most recent restoration of Merrill House was completed in 2019. Many of the original features remain today including the bargeboard trim and slim chimneys. In addition to sophisticated accommodations, Merrill House offers fine French dining, a Wine Spectator-awarded cellar, a conservatory bar and a cocktail parlour.
Location: 343 Main Street East, Picton
Just two blocks from the Market Square in Kingston, the Frontenac Club is a beautifully designed hotel with, quite literally, a rich history.
Originally opened as a Bank of Montreal branch in 1845, this limestone landmark property has undergone many diverse transformations. It’s been a bowling alley, a private home, a gentlemen’s club and a friendly bed and breakfast.
With its most recent reinvention, the Frontenac Club has become a stylish blend of old and new, with tastefully renovated rooms offer fantastic views of Kingston, the St. Lawrence River and St. George’s Cathedral. Deep soaker tubs, fireplaces and private patios add a touch of elegance. Amazingly the original bank vaults have been kept intact and are used for special events.
Complimentary tours are offered to walk you through the history of the building and give you a peek at some of its new spaces and hidden places, including those secret vaults!
Location: 225 King Street East, Kingston
Experience a taste of royal treatment at Clonmel Castle, a Georgian-style mansion in Norfolk County.
Sitting atop Prospect Hill and encircled by a handcrafted stone wall and a hectare of gardens, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back a century or two.
However, the story of Clonmel is much more recent. After received a large inheritance, Harry Barrett, a veterinarian from Port Dover commission the build to emulate the original Clonmel mansion in County Tipperary, Ireland. It was completed in 1929.
In 2015, Clonmel began a much needed restoration and modernization to become a luxury, all-inclusive country estate complete with a grand stair case, library and music rooms, dining hall, fully furnished suites and traditional gardens.
Location: 150 Prospect Street, Port Dover
Stay in a former jail and designated historic site in the lakeside town of Cobourg.
In 1906 this Georgian manor was converted from a family home into a penitentiary by the Corporation of the United Counties of Northumberland. Over the next 92 years, the Cobourg Jail expanded. It housed up to 100 inmates at any given time behind five-metre tall concrete walls. It continued to operate until 1998, when it was closed and auctioned off to private investors. Eventually the site was turned into an upscale inn.
Six of the 18 rooms are original jail cells complete with steel bars. With such a colourful history, its not surprising that ghostly and paranormal activity has been reported by guests at the inn. Ask about jail escape and ghost hunting games as well as guided history tours of the property.
Location: 77 Albert Street, Cobourg
Overlooking the Ganaraska River in picturesque Port Hope, The Waddell Hotel is a beautiful heritage building.
It was constructed in 1845 for Robert Waddell, an Irish businessman whose career led him to become a bank agent, gristmill and grocery store owner, railway director and eventually, local sheriff.
Waddell commissioned two top architects of the time and the design included a bank and retail spaces on the main level and hotel accommodation on the upper floors. Housing quarters for the bank manager was located directly above it. Impressive stone columns welcomed patrons to the Waddell’s Bank of Montreal on Mill Street, while the hotel portion operated from Walton Street.
Over the years, the structure went through several renovations and changes of ownership, but its notable architecture including double entrances with polished stone columns, elevated chimneys, restored lantern decorative details and distinguishing brickwork has remained.
Spacious rooms and suites blend heritage elements with all the modern amenities and comforts. Enjoy award-winning Italian-inspired cuisine on the riverside patio and explore the historic architecture, waterfront trails and scenic country routes in Port Hope.
Location: 1 Walton Street, Port Hope
Last updated: August 22, 2023