History of the Inn

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Chesley’s Inn was built in 1814 by Alsaints Chesley.  Alsaints was one of three brothers from New York State who all fought on the Revolutionary side during the American War of Independence.  He brought his family to Cornwall in 1800 where he seems to have had a change of heart as he and his sons fought on the Canadian side during the War of 1812 – while his brothers were both in American regiments.  According to a family historian in the U.S. it caused a family rift which lasted some years!

The first record left by a visitor to the Inn is contained in a memoir written by Charles Fothergill.  An émigré from England, Fothergill traveled by sleigh from Montreal to Kingston in the winter of 1817.  He quotes the Innkeeper, John Chesley as telling him that the difference between Canadians and Americans is that ”The Canadians are richer than they seem – but the Yankees seem richer than they are – making a great display of small means…”

photo-01Another prominent early visitor who recorded her impressions was Catherine Parr Traill.   Traill and her sister Susanna Moodie both achieved literary fame writing about life in the backwoods of Upper Canada.  Traill was a bit of a snob and disliked Americans.  In her record of her visit to Chesley’s Inn she sniffs that “Mrs. Chesley showed her into a room that had no bed curtains and an excuse for a washstand.  When she asked Mrs. Chesley whether or not their was something larger, she was told there was another room with four beds – three of which were occupied by men – and asked if she would prefer that.”  Mrs. Traill was not amused.

Popular local legend also has it that Charles Dickens spent a night when he passed  through Cornwall during his 1840’s tour of the Americas.

The coming of the railway moved traffic away from the St. Lawrence River and the Inn was eventually turned into a private residence.  Many people in Cornwall still refer to it as Dr. Taylor’s house.  During the Taylor’s long occupancy the house was a popular hangout for theatrical groups and the site of lively social affairs.  In those days before cheap travel to southern beaches, Mrs. Taylor once confronted the winter blues by having a ton of sand dumped in one of the drawing rooms and held a February beach party in which guests had to arrive in bathing suits!

In recent years the house had fallen on hard times and was in a derelict state when purchased by the current owner and lovingly restored to highlight both its features as a one-time Inn and as a gracious family home.  Once again it is welcoming guests.

40 First Street West, Cornwall, Ontario. K6J 1B9. Canada.    |     Tel: 1 (613) 936-1111.