ABOUT BRISTOW'S INN

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Bristow’s Inn bed and breakfast is a Carpenter Gothic heritage home, situated by the heart of downtown Elmira, Ontario. Surrounded by several charming small towns, yet also just a short drive to the Tri-Cities, Bristow's Inn offers the atmosphere of the Victorian era, but comes with all the conveniences of being close to urban centres. 

We offer 6 comfortable rooms, each with an en-suite bathroom, and can accommodate up to 16 guests at a time. We also have large indoor and outdoor main areas, full of amenities, including board games, TV, hot and cold beverages, a Keurig coffee machine, and a mini fridge.

Bristow's Inn is a pet-friendly, smoke-free establishment that welcomes guests of all ages.

HISTORY

In 1860, Edward and Hannah Bristow built Bristow's Inn—and, hence, the inn bears their name. Over the years, it has served as the West Woolwich Post Office, a family home, and a boarding house.

As the house aged and styles changed, the porch and balcony were removed, the Gothic windows boarded up, and many rooms subdivided to accommodate boarders. In 1989, it was purchased by Dr. John Craig and gutted down to the studs, before being restored to its original appearance. Because of the attention to period detail and the skill of many local tradesmen, the house was granted Heritage Status in 1989 and now appears on the list of Canada’s Heritage Buildings. 

 

In that same year, the original Bristow’s Inn was re-opened, and it ran as a successful inn until 2008, when it turned once more back into a family home. Now that family has grown, and former-resident Dr. Jodie Calvert Wang has returned the house to its previous role as a welcoming haven for those visiting Elmira.

Bristow’s Inn awaits you and invites you to become part of her story. Come sleep in a bit of Upper Canadian history and experience the warm welcome of small town Ontario.  

For a more detailed history, click here.

Click the images to see expanded photos and descriptions of Bristow's Inn throughout history.

 

THE INN THROUGH THE AGES

Pre-1800s

  • Pre-1650: This land is the historic territory of the Neutral Indians, who became extinct after warring with the Iroquois in the early 1650s.
     

  • Mid-1700s: Settlers begin to migrate from Europe and the northern United States.
     

  • 1794: The land 6 miles on either side of the Grand River is given to the Mohawks.
     

  • 1798: Chief Joseph Brant sells the land to William Wallace.

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1800-1849

  • 1806: Wallace loses the land for failing to meet contractual obligations.
     

  • 1807:  The German Company, under the leadership of Augustus Jones, John Erb, and Jacob Erb, purchases 45 thousand acres of land. This year, Jones, Erb, and Erb sell this parcel of land to Martin Wenger.
     

  • 1828: Wenger dies. The executors of his estate sell the land to David Musselman, who went on to settle the community of Conestogo in 1830, where he developed two sawmills on the Conestoga River. 
     

  • 1832: The Lord of Egremont in England starts the Petworth Emigration Scheme, which gives grants to English families who emigrate to Canada. Edward Bristow and his wife, Hannah Streeter Bristow (pictured left), along with their eldest three children and Hannah’s younger brother, George Streeter, emigrate from Shipley, Sussex, England, under this program. Bristow takes up employment at the Conestogo sawmill.

  • 1846: Bristow agrees to accept 53 acres of land in lieu of back wages and becomes the owner of a large piece of forested land, bordered by Arthur Street.
     

  • 1849: Bristow is the postmaster of the West Woolwich post office and Troy’s Hotel, which includes a tavern, a potashery, and a general store. (The original log-frame building, with a small stone foundation, was later moved to the Woolwich Agricultural Society grounds, where the current Memorial Centre stands. It was later relocated to its current site, at 103 Arthur St. S., across and slightly north of the current inn, leaving behind only the stone foundation and the original post box at the original location)

1850-1899

  • 1850: This hamlet is known by the name of Bristow’s Corners, after the busy postmaster.
     

  • June, 1860: Edward Bristow sells the land to Jacob Bowman for $2,350 and moves his family to Shipley, in Perth County, where he works as the postmaster and merchant for the remainder of his life. Bowman begins the construction of the current house on top of the previous stone foundation. (This makes him the actual founder of the inn, although Bristow is always credited!) Construction of the current lobby and bedrooms on the west side begin. 
     

  • 1864: The house is purchased by Samuel Weaver, who, in 1853, renamed the town, “Elmira," after having travelled to the home of his literary idol, Mark Twain, and deciding that such a name was befitting of an up-and-coming community.
     

  • 1871-1872: The house is purchased by Christian Schluter. His widow sells it to Jacob Yost the following year for $3,610, who sells it back to the estate the same day for $2,400. 9 months later, the estate again transfers the title to Yost.
     

  • 1880s: The house is expanded on the east side to include the current parlor and honeymoon suite. In 1886, Elmira incorporates as a village and gets electric streetlights.
     

  • 1890: The oldest known photo of the house is taken (pictured right). The lilac tree in the picture still blooms each May.

  • 1898: The house is purchased by Joseph Ernst for $4,600, who sells it back to Yost the same day for $1,400.

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1900-1944

  • 1900: The arch of the gothic windows are boarded up to allow the rectangular panes to be more readily replaced, as well as reduce. 
    s also have busy hotels.Winterbourne, and St. JacobConestogo, Floradale, he Zilliax, the Union, Ontario House, O’Donnell House, Elmira House, and the Steddick Hotel. large and well-established hotels: tElmira now has at least six
     

  • 1901: Yost sells Ernst the property again. Ernst builds the neighboring yellow brick Victorian home for himself, located at 78 Arthur St. S. His descendants live there until 2017.
     

  • 1903: Elmira Furniture Company is founded. The local wool factory is converted into Great West Felt and Footware factory, offering major employment opportunities.
     

  • 1907: Elmira gets a Grand Trunk railway station and the Phonola Company of Canada, manufacturer of phonographs for the country.
     

  • 1909: The house is sold by Ernst to John B. Gateman for $1,700; Ernst holds a mortgage of $1,500.
     

  • 1910: Gateman sells a parcel of the property to Susannah Gateman in August, who sells this property to Ferdinand Nolinsky two months later. The same day, Nolinsky sells the property to  Frank L Meyer.
     

  • 1913 & 1915: Ernst sells more property to Nolinsky.
     

  • 1920s:  Elmira is a local industrial center, with over a dozen major factories. The Victorian style porch is replaced with a more contemporary porch, which has large brick columns and greater width, to function as an outdoor living space. The upper balcony milled trim is replaced with plain boards (pictured left). 
     

  • 1921: Nolinsky sells the property to Simon Moyer, who sells the property a month later to Elizabeth Floto. 

1945-1974

  • 1945: In January, the widow of Simon Moyer sells the property to Floyd Moyer. In August, the property is transferred from Solomon Bender to Simon Moyer’s estate. The Moyers (pictured right), a family with 11 children, live in the home. 
     

  • 1951: In September, part of the lot is transferred to Floyd Moyer from the Treasurer of Ontario. That December, Floyd Moyer’s widow, Margaret Moyer, transfers the deed of the house to herself.
     

  • 1955: Bender’s estate transfers property to Margaret Moyer. 
     

  • 1961: Margaret Moyer sells to Mildred Geisel, who transfers the property, the same day, to Irvin L. Snyder.
     

  • 1964: Snyder sells the property back to Mildred Geisel. 2 months later, Mildred sells to Edward. J. Geisel. During the tenure of the Geisels, the house is turned into a 4-apartment rooming house, with small rooms subdivided to make space for extra beds. According to unsubstantiated rumors, the house may have also operated informally as a brothel.

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1975-1997

  • 1978: Province transfers another part of the property to Edward Geisel.
     

  • 1985: The house is purchased by Dr. John Craig.
     

  • 1989: The Craigs start remodeling the exterior of the house back to its Victorian style, using the 1890 photograph as their guide. They restore the original trim and rebuild the balcony and north side porch to match the original exterior. They gut the interior of the home down to its studs, modernizing the electrical and plumbing, and they design the interior with 7 large bedrooms, each with en-suite washrooms. Interesting features they are able to salvage include the cast iron spiral staircase, which was originally the basement stairs, and the original pane of cobalt glass, which forms the transom window over the front door. The Craigs run the inn with 1 full-time employee, while living elsewhere in the region. 
     

  • 1990: The township of Woolwich declares the home a heritage building, citing it as an excellent example of gothic picturesque styling, with original gingerbread vergeboards and finials intact.
     

  • 1991: Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation grants Bristow’s Inn its “Award of Excellence.”

1998-2007

  • 1998: Clive and Lindy Watson purchase the property from the Craigs, and they begin construction of the innkeepers’ quarters in the rear of the house, so they can live on-site. This addition, made to match the style of the heritage portion, includes a large kitchen, a dining room, and 2 upstairs bedrooms, joined by a washroom. The interior of the inn also requires some modifications: a hallway is created to join the 2 house sections; the entrances and washrooms of the 2 lobby bedrooms are altered; and the guest kitchenette is added to the end of the hallway, which features the original 1860 pantry cupboards that had remained installed in the main lobby area since the 1860s. The Watsons run the home as a bed and breakfast (business logo pictured right) for the next 2 decades.

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2008-Present

  • 2008: The Watsons retire, and the house is sold to the Wang family from Kitchener (pictured left, as featured on Hockey Night in Canada). This family of 9 children move into the house, and they especially love the proximity to the arena and the local high school. As the years pass, the children gradually grow up and move out, but Bristow’s Inn remains their home base for large family gatherings.
     

  • 2021: Jodie Calvert Wang re-opens Bristow’s Inn, with the aim of providing comfortable lodging in a unique heritage setting.

We hope you have enjoyed this tour through time, as we explored the history of this grand heritage home, one of the jewels of Waterloo Region.