House (Tavern) c. 1878
No Place Like Home: Standing next to
the man on the bicycle is Daniel Marentette and his son Amedee.
Standing on the upper veranda left to right are Florence and Corrine
Marentette, both born in the hotel, and their mother Edwidge (nee
Janisse). Note the British American Brewery (est. 1882) sign promoting
Cincinnati Cream Ale on the veranda rail.
Story by Bill Marentette
The Dominion House is the oldest remaining continuously
run tavern in the Border Region.
From its inception, when the stagecoach ran
between Windsor and Amherstburg, it has served local residents and
numerous travellers. When Frederick Neil published "The Township
of Sandwich Past and Present in 1909", the Dominion House, owned
by John McCarthy, had been operating at its present location for
26 years; 118 years later, it operates in the same building and
location, having survived fifteen or sixteen different innkeepers.
The Dominion House was named by Frank Dent in
1878 when it was on the west side of Bedford Street (Sandwich St.),
although it had been a hotel dating back to 1859, operated by James
Cotter and owned by Charles Askin.
Albert Lininger ran the old hotel when it burned
to the ground on the night of February 23 1883. In March of the
same year, Mr. Lininger reopened the hotel across the street in
an existing building, built by Francois Janisse, a local contractor,
with a clapboard exterior, and a front porch and side topped by
a railed veranda. The grand porch and veranda were removed in 1945
By the late 1880s, my grandfather, Daniel
Marentette, operated the house until his untimely death of heart
failure at the bar on Saturday evening July 28th, 1902. My father
often spoke of living at the hotel with his two sisters, and his
mother cooking meals on a large wood stove. They raised hogs for
personal use and to feed patrons; a garden behind the hotel supplied
fresh vegetables, etc.
Father told of farmers from LaSalle and River
Canard hauling their produce by horse and wagon to Detroits
Eastern Market, crossing the river by ferry on Friday night and
returning Saturday. The horses would automatically turn into the
lot on the west side of the building where a watering trough and
well were located and refresh themselves while the owners would
do likewise at the bar.
The Dominion House played a role in the history
of Sandwich, and as my father often recalled, juries from the old
County Court house would dine at the hotel and Essex County Council
members who would also spend off-session time at the hotel.
Following the death of my grandfather,
my grandmother sold the hotel to Eugene Breault, a long-time friend
of the family, later elected Reeve of Sandwich and Police Magistrate
in 1909 Following Breaults ownership, the hotel was purchased
by Capt. John J. McCarthy, then Lorne White (1920-1922) was innkeeper
during the first years of prohibition 1920-1922.
The next owners, William and
Jean Boyer (1923-1948) faced many problems, as did most hotel owners
during the twenties and thirties including prohibition, the Depression
and rationing of beer and restricted hours during WW2 it
was not the best of times to run a tavern. One bright spot during
this time was the construction of the Ambassador Bridge; Bill and
his wife housed bridge workers at the hotel.
Sid Walman arrived from Toronto
after working for the Paramount Hotel in the Spadina-Dundas district,
looking to buy into the restaurant business due to the high prices
in the Toronto area. After 25 years, the Boyers sold their business
to Walman in 1948.
Soft spoken and congenial, Walman
put the "DH" on the map with hospitality, good food and a great
staff, catering to the University crowd, and the locals. He opened
a basement lounge for poetry readings, etc. and many university
professors held regular classes at the DH.
In 1989 after 48 years, Sid
sold his tavern to Amanda Heiser & Co., a long-time employee;
by 1993, Ann Peterson, a former DH bartender, became a partner.
In 1994, Ron Limarzi and Sam Simoff, both experienced food handlers,
took over operation of the DH Within two years, they sold the business
to Mike Balun and Natalie Bouliann, who are now operate this historic
Bill's story about the history of The Walkerville Brewing Company