Monday, March 13, 2017

Half Way House Inn

The Half Way House Inn is a Georgian, two storey building that was constructed between 1847 and 1849 by Alexander Thompson and his wife Mary McClure.  The Inn was built on land that had originally belonged to Mary's great grandmother Sarah Ashbridge. The Ashbridge family were Quakers from Chester County in Pennsylvania.  Following the American Revolutionary War they left America and as United Empire Loyalists they were granted 600 acres (240 ha ) of land on Lake Ontario east of the Don River.  Sarah Ashbridge arrived in Canada with her two sons, three of her daughters and their families, following the death of her husband, Jonathan, in 1782. 

After their marriage, Alexander Thompson and his wife built the Half Way House Inn between four farms owned by Mary's siblings and one that belonged to her uncle.  The actual building was situated on a piece of land from William Hale's farm and a sliver of a farm belonging to Isaac Ashbridge.  It was constructed to serve as a resting place that would accomodate passengers travelling by stage coach between Dunbarton, Pickering and Toronto. Many of the travellers were taking their produce and goods to the St Lawrence Markets in Toronto.  Prior to the unification of the British Colonies of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, these pre-confederation resting stops for travellers were popular places for liquor and entertainment.  They were cheaper to visit then the finer town hotels built after the mid century.  The Half Way House Inn offered relaxation and kegs of Mr O'Keefe's Brew or Gooderham's Whiskey.  

By 1865 a small village had risen around the Half Way House Inn.  The village, called Mortlake, had a post office that was located in the Half Way House Inn.  Following Alexander's death in 1867 Mary continued to get the tavern licence until the building was sold to Ignatius Galloway.  The new owner added a dining room and a kitchen to the building.  Galloway remodelled the second floor, using the Inn Keepers quarters and meeting rooms to create a ballroom.  As time passed the rooms in the building were used as classrooms, a church and for community meetings.  Eventually the main floor was leased out for retail purposes.  The Bluff Smoke Shop and the Midland Bargain Centre were long time tenants in the 1950s.  Albert Christensen TV, Radio and Appliance Repairs and a paint store also had tenancy within the building.  

In 1962 it was decided that the building would be carefully dismantled and reconstructed in Black Creek Pioneer Village.  The building was renovated, with the kitchen of the house being faithfully returned to its former glory using archival documents.  A more modern restaurant facility was added to the building.  

The Half Way House Inn is said to be haunted by a lady in blue.  The apparition has been sighted in the ballroom, on the balcony and standing on the stairs.  Knocking has been heard on the restaurant walls and the radio inexplicably turns off and on.  A wardrobe in the hallway has the door opened from time to time.  Some people believe that the woman in blue is Mary McClure, Thomas Alexander's wife.  There are those that feel she haunts the building because she was angered by the fact that Thomas had been married to a relative of hers, who had died young, prior to their marriage. This however seems strange as its believed Mary was well aware of Thomas' first marriage.  Perhaps she just loved the Inn and has decided to stay. 

I enjoyed visiting the Black Creek Pioneer Village and it's quite amazing to visit the Half Way House Inn and walk through it imagining the many people who must have at one time or another enjoyed its hospitality.