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A Beautiful Summer Resort

An article in the Charlottetown Herald of June 1883 notes "Rustico, for quietness and enjoyment, is the very queen of watering places" so it is no wonder that on that glorious point below South Rustico that a hotel rose in 1871. It was first called The Ocean Hotel and it was a two storey building with 21 bedrooms, large dining room, a bowling alley and an ice house. In 1875, the owner Mr. John Nelson suffered a financial set back and it was sold or taken over by John Newson in 1876.

John Newson was a furniture maker in Charlottetown and it was suggested that he had supplied the furniture for The Ocean Hotel and therefore had first claim when the crunch came; otherwise it seems strange that he would have bothered. Newson had married Mary Allison Jost in 1867 and by the time he took over the hotel they already had five children. Although it appears to have been Mary Allison who took over the operating of the hotel even though over the ensuing years she produced five more children. Her summer days must have been full.

Over the twenty five years that they operated the Seaside Hotel, the place was, first, the centre of summer activities for their extended family; the Josts, the Stanleys more Newsons and cousins from all over. The Newsons were part of the business, social and religious elite of the city so they spread their net far and wide.

Summers on Rustico Bay were truly an series of glorious holidays for that extended family along with a wide collection of guests drawn to the spot. That "charming scenery, salubrious and bracing atmosphere, sea bathing, sea and river fishing ..." noted in their advertising along with the confirmation that "the Seaside possesses advantages equal to any hotel in North America." would be hard to resist.

It was such a significant destination that when the Governor General, The Marquis of Lorne and his wife, Princess Louise visited the Island in 1879, it was natural that the "out of town" trip planned was to the Seaside Hotel. The big disappointment of the day was that Princess Louise did not accompany her husband , the Governor General.

On that Saturday , August 11, 1879 a train left Charlottetown for Hunter River with "a large party of ladies and gentleman" and under the charge of Conductor Kelly, one of the most esteemed conductors on the line. Mr. McNab, the Superintendent of the Railline also accompanied them.

At Hunter River a large throng was congregated to greet the official party. The procession, several miles in length, moved in horse and carriages toward South Rustico - under an arch in New Glasgow and another one in Rustico. They arrived at the Seaside Hotel for a grand Bill of Fare of boiled and roasted turkey, wild duck, tonque and chicken, cold lamb etc, etc.. The Guest book shows "Lorne 1879" as proof of this exceedingly important event on Prince Edward Island's North Shore.

Over the years visitors came from all over; Fathers of Confederation from Ottawa, Mr. Laird from the North West Territories, and the Swabey's and even Mr. Beazley from Amoy, China, Rev. Lang came from Inverness, Scotland, some Dawsons from Lennoxville, Quebec and even Cyrus Field, either the Atlantic Cable guy or his son, and Sir Joseph Pope, Island born, but a very important man in Ottawa.

The three hour drive in good weather from Charlottetown was a joy if you chose not to take the train to Hunter River. The "travel" writers waxed eloquent on the landscape they passed. The extended holiday, and the returns, that most quests seemed to take confirmed that the Seaside Hotel on Rustico Bay was one of the finest hotels in the Province in its day.

The hotel closed in 1904 and the Newsons moved their large brood and extended family to Warren Farm, across the harbour from Charlottetown. The hotel burnt on a January night in 1906. The end of an era.

Written Wednesday, April 10, 2002 at 09:02 PM

(c) 2000 by Catherine Hennessey. Questions or comments? Email me@catherinehennessey.com

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