Little Inn of Bayfield was built in the 1830's as a
stagecoach stop on the Sarnia- Goderich line. It is
Ontario's longest continually operating Inn and a landmark
on Bayfield's Heritage Main Street. The present day bar was,
in fact, the original waiting room for the coach stop.
Gutted by fire in the 1850's, owner Donald Fraser was quick
to rebuild what was then known as the Commercial
Hotel. Like most of the stores at the time, The
Commercial had a flat roof. Sometime between 1873 and
1895, owner Richard Bailey put an addition on the back of
the Inn (including what is now the back parlour or games
room, as well as rooms 8 and 10 upstairs) and also the
present roof. During the era of prohibition, Richard had a
secret compartment for alcohol in the wainscoting of the
parlour-- perhaps some lucky person will find it one day!
Around the turn of the century, Richard's son operated an
ice cream parlour out of the south-west corner room (now the
front half of the "old" dining room). At other times, this
area housed a bakery and a dentist's office-- separated from
the diners by only a curtain!
In the early 1900's,
The Commercial became a popular summer destination for
travellers. A heritage plaque indicates that the decorative
verandah was added in 1903, but other documents suggest that
it could have been as early as 1847. In the 1920's, owner
Edgar Weston changed the name to The Lakeview. We assume
this means you could see the lake from the property at the
time! The subsequent owner, Mrs. Seeds, also purchased the
property next door (the old carriage house) which she set up
as her home. In 1941, the hotel was transferred to Mr. and
Mrs. George Little.
George Little had lived in
Bayfield as a boy, from 1905-11, when his father, Henry,
drove the stagecoach. He and his wife, Ada, returned to
Bayfield in 1930 to a house on Clan Gregor Square. Mrs.
Little took paying guests in the summer and served meals to
a limited number of people. When they took over The
Lakeview in 1941, they renamed it The Little Inn
and Mrs. Little continued along the lines established in her
home. Her reputation for good cooking and well-served meals
in a quiet, restful atmosphere went far. She was assisted by
her husband, who was constable of Bayfield. George made
changes to both the inside and outside of the hotel during
the years, including removal of the decorative verandah when
it began to rot. When Mrs. Little became ill, the Littles
were forced to sell the business.
When the current
The Little Inn in 1981, it was comprised of two
separate buildings: the original Inn and the coach house
next door. The Inn had 10 bedrooms with two and a half
shared bathrooms, while the coach house had three bedrooms
and one bathroom. In the summer of 1982, the Innkeepers decided
to restore the original verandah based on a 19th century
photograph. At this time,
The Little Inn was designated a heritage site. During
the winter of 1983-84, the coach house was restored and
carefully joined to the original Inn with the addition of a
new dining room whose large windows overlook Bayfield's
Heritage Main Street.
Known as the "Carriage House" wing, the upper level saw
an addition of eight bedrooms (with private baths!) and a
spa room with a sauna and whirlpool big enough for four.
Five new rooms on the main floor became the first, and only,
wheelchair accessible rooms. Renovations continued through
1984, with care to preserve the integrity of the original
Inn, adding private baths to the original bedrooms, and in
many cases making one room out of two. During these
renovations, the third floor Widow's Walk was developed into
a guest room.
At its largest, the Inn had 22 bedrooms. Now reduced to
18, some of the smaller carriage house rooms were combined
to form the larger, more luxurious suites that are in demand
today. With the addition of gas fireplaces and double
whirlpool tubs in many of these suites, the original spa and
sauna were decommissioned.
The Little Inn of Bayfield
experienced further expansion in 1987 when the building
known as the "Guest Cottage" was built adjacent to the
Martha Ritz House. Designed with a large comfortable common
room suitable for corporate retreats and 10 luxury suites
with private verandahs, the Guest Cottage is nestled into a
beautiful walnut grove across the street from the original
Inn. Open year round,
The Little Inn is known for elegant accommodation,
fine dining and old-fashioned hospitality. It has been awarded the CAA Four Diamond rating for over a decade and is a founding member of Ontario's Finest Inns and Spas.