Vanished Flamborough: The B-Hive Restaurant

Originally Published in Heritage Happenings, April 2006
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The demolition of the B-Hive Restaurant at Clappison’s Corners in the early 1980s marked the end of an era and another change in the history of transportation and the development of roads around the City of Hamilton. Located at the top of the Clappison Cut, on the south-west corner of the intersection of Highways 5 and 6 North, the unique B-Hive Restaurant was witness to more than 50 years of highway travel, catering to a wide clientele, from the occasional Sunday driver to long distance truck drivers.

This intersection, still known as Clappison’s Corners, has served the needs of travellers for over 150 years. In the late 1850s, a small settlement began just a couple of miles west of the village of Waterdown, around the present-day intersection, serving the travellers along Dundas Street. A stagecoach hotel, The Wayside Inn, was established and operated by Thomas and Mary Clappison and later by their son, John Henry, and his wife, Mary Long. The hotel served as a rest stop for travellers and as the local post office. By the 1880s, the community had grown to include three hotels, a blacksmith shop and general store, catering to the regular east-west stagecoach traveller, with connections northwards via the Brock Road.

For Hamilton residents, before the 1920s, travel along Dundas Street to communities such as London, Guelph or beyond required ascent of the steep face of the Niagara Escarpment at the western end of the city. This was via one of the narrow, unpaved tracks, such as Snake Road, which had remained virtually unchanged since the days of toll roads. Travel was often slow and unpredictable, so hotels, such as those at Clappison’s Corners, provided the necessary food and accommodation required for both passengers and horses.

The end of the World War I saw the beginnings of the great changes in travel that were to come with the invention of the horseless carriage – the motor car. By the early 1920s, motor cars were firmly established in the Hamilton area as the new mode of transport, despite the lack of good roads. Between 1920 and 1930, the provincial government was forced to tackle the problem and a flurry of construction and improvements were initiated. To provide a direct connection northwards to Guelph and the Bruce Peninsula, a “cut” was made through the Niagara Escarpment, following the townline or boundary between East and West Flamborough Townships.

Between 1921 and 1923, a new road, Highway 6 North, was constructed to join Dundas Street at Clappison’s Corners. Although the Clappison Cut was a magnificent engineering feat, during the early years there were frequent rock slides and its steep, almost vertical grade, resulte in the continuing need of service from the Clappison’s Corners community.

In 1936, the Hamilton Automobile Club established a First Aid Post at Gordon’s Garage, and a year later at Sire’s Garage to cope with these highway emergencies. Suddenly the business of serving travellers had changed – gone were hotels, stagecoaches and the blacksmith shop, replaced by garages, service stations and 24-hour-a-day restaurants. During this decade, the construction of restaurants at the intersection provided motorists and later, truck drivers, with a place to relax and enjoy a good meal.

The most famous of these restaurants or diners was the B-Hive Restaurant, a small building designed in the Art Deco style. By the mid-1930s, this style of architecture, reputedly inspired by the age of automobiles and jazz, was the design choice in a wide variety of buildings, from residences to railway stations, but its most popular form was for the roadside restaurants that sprang up along the major highways of the province.

Far from elegant, the little one storey cramped building reflected a squat, homely beauty that came from being unpretentious. Its white, almost creamy walls, with their flat surfaces appeared to have been sculptured from a large slab or plastic material, the whole building decorated with its menu in giant-sized letters proclaiming to the passing motorist its fame for wonderful food. At night, its illuminated sign above the entrance was a welcome sight to the hungry driver. Inside the decor was completely masculine. Chrome-trimmed swivel stools were located along the three-sided counter, with booths circling the outer walls, looking out onto the parking lot, gas pumps and the muffled sounds of passing traffic.

Always popular with local residents, the restaurant’s most faithful customers gradually came to be long distance truck drivers who needed a good hot meal. The menu was simple: mashed potatoes, grilled pork chops, steak pie, hot hamburg sandwich, beans on toast, home fries with gravy – it was basic food for hard-working men, all at a reasonable price. Over the years, owners of the restaurant added their own specialties to the menu. Steak and eggs during the ’60s, steaming hot chili fueled with Mexican spiced in the ’70s. When interviews in 1978, the owner told of the quantities of food consumed – 40 pounds of beef stew in a day, 110 dozen eggs, 145 gallons of milk and 125 gallons of chili in a week!

Just as the demise of the hotels at Clappison’s Corners came from changes in highway travel, so the demise of the B-Hive Restaurant came in the 1980s, when it failed to compete with competition from the fastfood chains and modern service stations that sprang up, and as highway rest stops became a feature of long distance travel.

© The Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society 2006, 2024.


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