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Empty for a decade, historic Smiths Falls hotel gets new lease on life

CBC News
July 22, 2017

Dawn Quinn looks back fondly on the coke floats and sodas she served up as a teenager at the Hotel Rideau.

“We made the best banana splits going. And the most wonderful delicious milkshakes,” said Quinn, a Smiths Falls, Ont., town councillor who as a teenager in the late 1950s and early 1960s worked at the downtown landmark.

“It was a fun, fun place to be.”

Pigeons aside, for the past decade no one’s been doing much of anything inside the 116-year-old Beckwith Street building. The heritage property has sat empty for about a decade, after its last incarnation, a bar, shut down.

Now, however, a local development firm is hoping to bring new life to the hotel — once described in early 20th century newspaper articles as “one of the best hotels in eastern Ontario.”

‘It’s just been so neglected’

Last year, North Gower’s Parkview Homes bought the Hotel Rideau from the previous investor. They pitched a plan to convert the crumbling structure into a mixed-use condominium with 25 residential units and a pair of commercial suites — while also preserving as many heritage features as possible.

Residents of the town, about 80 kilometres south of Ottawa, are “so thrilled” that there seems to finally be a plan in place, said Lorraine Allen, who like Quinn also sits on Smiths Falls’ town council.

“It’s just been so neglected and has sat empty for so long. And for those of us that saw it in its former [state] — it’s even more sad,” said Allen.

“People were worried about it getting worse and worse. Because you can have neglectful things happen. Buildings get [torn down] because they’re not cared for. And it really worried a lot of us.”