The Valley Inn Hotel, reputedly built by John Yakes of East Flamborough Township, was a two-storey frame structure with a magnificent verandah running the whole length of the front façade. Two gables were added in 1894 and an annex to the rear of the building, together with stables and a barn. During the 1860s and 1870s there were suspicions that much of the liquor sold in the tavern did not bear an excise tax stamp. Certainly it was a favourite “watering hole” for the farmers who made the regular journey to the Hamilton market.
The location of the hotel, so close to the very unpopular tollhouse, often resulted in trouble. There were incidents when, filled with too much liquor, farmers especially drove their wagons through the toll gate taunting the toll keeper to stop them if he could, and one incident, in which the toll keeper, fearing an attack by an unhappy farmer, beat him so continuously with a stick, that he bled to death on the roadside.
Great changes came to the area in the 1920s. The growing popularity of the motorcar made road improvements necessary. With the construction of the high bridge on Hwy. 2 at the Rock Gardens and Wolfe Island in 1926 and 1927, the road through the Valley Inn was reduced in status to just a local road. Snake Road with all its twists and turns was closed, and so was the old road to Guelph. With these changes came the demise of the Valley Inn Hotel. By 1928, the building stood empty and in November of the same year was almost completely destroyed by a fire when sparks from a passing train started a blaze on the roof which quickly spread through the old frame building before the Hamilton Fire Department arrived.
Although they managed to extinguish the flames before it was burnt to the ground, the fire chief and building inspector declared the building valueless when they returned to inspect the site the next morning.
The remaining buildings on the site were lost in another fire in 1959, removing all traces of one of the most important hotels that had served travellers in the area for more than 50 years.
Beginning in 2005, another Valley Inn landmark was also threatened. The old picturesque Bailey bridge, famous for the rumble of car wheels on its wooden timbers, had deteriorated and closure was initiated. Installed in 1965 after a truck hauling road equipment crashed through the original structure, it was loaned to Hamilton by the province and erected by Canadian army engineers.
At the time of the incident, there was a serious dispute about which municipality was responsible for the replacement, as Burlington, Hamilton and Flamborough all met at the Valley Inn!
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at email@example.com.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 18 November 2010.