life and times
hiram who
birth of the auto
border cities
sports heritage

Where shall we go? “Away from the madding crowd!”

To the Mettawas!

To serve his business interests, Hiram Walker built a railway, The Lake Erie, Essex, and Detroit River Railway. For his recreation, he built a grand resort on the main line of the railway and on the shores of Lake Erie – The Mettawas Hotel, which opened in 1889. The elegant hotel was torn down in 1902, but memories live on, particularly for Kingsville residents, and through “The Walkerville Mercury”, published by Hiram Walker himself.

Walkerville Mercury, June 28, 1890

There is a wise old proverb that says, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Perhaps at this time of the year, when the days are longest, and the sun is at its zenith of power, this adage is brought more forcibly to the mind of the wearied statesman or the toiling banker, merchant, and over-brain-worked professional man that at any other season of the year.

Although the custom is pretty general in most parts, another writer has just said, “In no other part of the world is the custom of seeking an annual change of air and scene so general or the provision for the habit so universal as on this continent.

Upon the coasts, in the mountains bordering our lakes, great and small, in fact wherever invigorating breezes prevail or climatic conditions are favorable to the constitutions or ailments of our people, are to be found hotels, which in numbers, dimensions and luxuriousness excel those of any other country.

Notwithstanding the fact that there are so many places to choose from, the greatest difficulty arises in finding the right place to suit the habits and temperament of each member of the family or social circle, as the case may be. This place is too gay, that too grave; this too quiet, that too boisterous; and in trying to please all in the party or family in arranging the summer holiday, the cry is given out, “Where shall we go?”
…the place that suits the tastes and habits of each individual member of the party best will be Kingsville, on the Essex shore of Lake Erie, and that the Summer Resort Hotel, where the guest will find all the comforts and luxuries of a refined home, coupled with those out-door amusements which refined tastes and good manners demand, is The Mettawas, situated as it is, on the north shore of Lake Erie, the very waters of which lave the beach and feet of the hotel’s lawns. To arrive at this delightful spot let all intending visitors by rail meet at Walkerville station, the chief station and starting point on the Lake Erie and Detroit River Railway Company’s system, situated in the rising Town of Walkerville, and easy of access by ferry boat or street car from Windsor and Detroit, a good converging point from all parts of this continent.

When at Walkerville, board the 5:28 p.m. saloon car of the Mettawas special, and for some 30 miles the visitor will pass through, alternately such sylvan and pastoral scenery that has justly earned this Essex peninsula the name of “The Garden of Canada.”

Although one of the earliest settled parts of the Dominion, until opened up by the L.E. and D.R. Railway, it has hitherto remained but little known to the outside world, except to citizens of Detroit and some American sportsmen who have been allured to its solitudes in search of game, and to the adjacent Island of Pelee after the finny tribe, for which the waters surrounding it are famous.

Passing quickly through the pretty hamlets and villages of Pelton, Oldcastle, Paquette, Macgregor, New Canaan, Marshfield, Harrow, and Arner, and only 50 minutes after leaving the Walkerville station the visitor will alight at Kingsville station, and within five minutes’ drive from the Mettawas, whose well-appointed omnibus and luggage car are always in waiting for guests and their baggage.

“Kingsville is one of the most delightful haunts of health and pleasure seekers, and enjoys the distinction of being the most southerly incorporated town in British America – a fact which has led to its receiving the sobriquet of ‘The Sentinel Town.’

It derives its name from Colonel King, who early in the present century erected the first house within its limits. For some years the natural beauty of the locality and its reputation for healthfulness have attracted to it a steadily increasing number of summer visitors, and it was to meet this demand for accommodation that The Mettawas was built. The streets of the town are well shaded by maple trees, thus forming cool promenades.”

Leaving the saloon cars at Kingsville station the visitor enters the omnibus and is driven along the well-made entrance road of the hotel and grounds, which is lined on both sides with young trees, and in a few minutes finds himself under the carriage-way portico at the main entrance hall of The Mettawas, a magnificent pile of buildings, constructed after what is known as “the American style of architecture.”

The Kingsville Reporter,
Millennium Milestones 1900-2000

The expensive structure was built of piled fieldstone, had shingled gables, was three stories high and contained 120 bedrooms. The exterior gave an impressive appearance with seven balconies on the third floor, four on the second, and a white columned veranda stretching across the south side of the building, running the full width to the north side.

Casino Days
The casino was part of the original Mettawas hotel, which opened in 1890. It was a separate building west of the main hotel and contained a bowling alley, dancing hall, billiard room, card room, lounging room, etc., but apparently no gambling area. Although the main hotel was torn down in 1903-1904, the Casino building remained until well after World War II.

Dime a Dance Romance
The Bandshell Dancing under the stars was a quite popular event in the 1930s and ‘40s and certainly the outdoor dance floor at the lake in Kingsville was one of the most popular spots. Many area residents will remember the fun nights that were enjoyed at the outdoor dances in Kingsville at this bandshell, which stood overlooking the lake.

The Mettawas, designed by Mason & Rice Architects of Detroit, was reported to have cost $250,000. Well-to-do Detroiters would arrive at the fieldstone Kingsville railroad station. They then rode the three short blocks to The Mettawas in the hotel’s carriage.

To supply the resort with the water, Hiram Walker had a complete water pumping system built at the bottom of the hill below the hotel. The pumphouse equipment also supplied the entire town with water and was eventually purchased by the town and from this nucleus was developed the modern plant that supplies pure water to the town today.

One of his sons, Franklin Walker, maintained a summer home in Kingsville for many years after Hiram Walker died in 1899 (it was called Birchlea Villa and was located on Park Street, near where Southgate Residence now stands).

In 1901, W.P. Beyer purchased The Mettawas. In 1902 bitterness developed between Beyer and the town authorities over property assessments. Unable to have the assessment reduced, Beyer made a final decision and the elegant Mettawas was torn down. Gone was the splendor such as Kingsville would never see again – it was the end of an era. Only the casino and the servants’ annex were left standing.

When the Windsor, Essex and Lakeshore Electrical Railway was opened in the early 1900s, the financial interests controlling the railway bought the Mettawas property.

New owners built a little neat hotel called The Mettawas Inn on part of the foundation of the grand structure. The new summer hotel opened in 1914. This hotel was operated by the owners and several subsequent owners for many years with varying and rather different results and was eventually renamed “The Lakeshore Terrace Hotel.”

After World War II, the notable casino was torn down. Leaving a faint memory of the original Hiram Walker family’s presence in the town were the annex of the present building which now stands uninhabited; the remains of a water pumping station which has since been demolished, and a unique fieldstone railway depot which once welcomed the well-to-do to Kingsville. It is currently undergoing plans for full restoration.

The Kingsville Train Station

Hiram Walker commissioned the eminent architect Albert Kahn to design and build the Kingsville train Station to be ready when construction of the railway line reached Kingsville from Windsor in the spring of 1889. The interior layout included gentlemen’s and ladies’ waiting room, ticket office, freight and baggage area, covered porch, porte-cochere, and a second floor bed chamber. Built of stone, complete with a slate roof, the station was equipped with gas heating and lighting brought in from natural gas fields nearby. Fares round trip to Windsor were 80¢ for adults 40¢ for children. Plans for restoration are in process.



©1999-2015— Walkerville Publishing — All Rights Reserved