By Jane Hobson
For as long as many Carleton Place residents can remember, the hotel on the corner of Lake Avenue East and Bridge Street has just been a heritage piece in the backdrop of the downtown core.
But that’s about to change.
The hotel is set to re-open at the end of May as a luxury wedding and event venue under the co-ownership of Rod Scribner, Steve Moodie and couple Janice Mathers and Joel Schramek. It will be called The Grand Hotel.
“This whole remake is about honouring the town,” said Scribner, who has been in the restaurant and venue management business in Ottawa for 30 years.
Mathers and Schramek own Evermore Weddings and Events in Almonte. The Grand Hotel will be opened as a sister-venue to Evermore.
“There are many beautiful bed and breakfasts in Almonte but there just isn’t enough room to accommodate all the wedding guests,” Scribner said. Instead of recommending hotels in Kanata or Ottawa, guests will have the option to stay in Carleton Place at The Grant Hotel.
Scribner said they bought the hotel from the most recent owners and well-known Carleton Place Seccaspina family for a seven digit sum — a great amount more than the $30,000 the Lemay family bought the hotel for in 1964.
The hotel has had many owners since it opened in 1872. Originally called the Mississippi Hotel, the building has been the hang out and home of many salesman, bikers, strippers and music lovers. The hotel, which became known as The Grand Ole Lady, was known for its country music and attracted the likes of Stompin’ Tom Connors in the 60s and 70s.
“We’re making sure everything we do is a real tip of the hat to the history of the place,” Schramek agreed. “This really is a grandiose, beautiful building and we’re paying homage to that.”
The full potential of the building has not been used in many decades, something the new owners are changing dramatically.
The Grand Hotel will offer a 1,200 square foot bridal suite with an en suite and two fireplaces, 15 tastefully designed hotel rooms, a large getting-ready lounge, and a ball-room, all with an elegant early-1900s vibe. “We’re going for a classic but timeless style that honours the beautiful and grandiose history of the building,” said Mathers who is responsible for the interior design of the renovation.
The insides of the building oozes a modern but old-time sophistication that matches the impressive architecture of the outside. Upon opening the large main door on Bridge Street, visitors to the hotel are greeted by a curved, carpeted staircase and high ceilings.
“What makes us really unique as a wedding and event space is that we will have a fully customizable menu thanks to our in-house chef,” Scribner said. The chef’s name is still under wraps until he finishes up at his current location in Ottawa.
Aside from the wedding venue, The Grand Hotel will be a perfect venue for corporate events, parties and other celebrations.
The venue will boast a public fine-dining room called The Grand Dining Room. The elegant space, which is close to being completely ready, seats 40 people in a spacious room where white tablecloths cover the tables and cushioned chairs beckon visitors to sit back and unwind.
“It will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday so people can come in to have a wonderful meal in a casual atmosphere at a great price,” Scribner said. He said they also plan to host a jazz night on the first Thursday of every month.
Scribner said the pub attached to the hotel will also re-open under the name Smith and Barrel, to honour the blacksmith and barrel-making industries that drove economic development in Carleton Place in its earliest years of settlement.
“We’ll put a nice twist on pub classics and it’ll be priced accordingly for the town,” Scribner said.
Mathers said the timeless 1900s style will continue in Smith and Barrel, which will be open 7 days a week. “I’ll be carrying chandeliers right through into the pub so it will still be very atmospheric, kind of a sexy room, really,” she said.
“Our goal is to bring this whole corner of the downtown back to life with a pub with great food, great live music, a fine-dining room and an opportunity to have the whole place to yourself for a wedding,” Scribner said.
Scribner said renovating the character of the building has been an amazing experience. “It’s had a really colourful, awesome history and what we’re trying to do here is bring out all the best in it so people can enjoy it again. It really is a renewal.”
An official grand opening date has not yet been chosen.
This article first appeared in the May issue of Hometown News.