When Knowlton was the tourism hub of the Townships
Lorraine Briscoe /
Very few people remember the Knowlton Grove Hotel, a summer resort that rented guest houses in the 1940s and 50s on the land that is today’s rue Grove, off rue Conference.
Susan Green of St. Lambert is one of them. She worked there in the summer of 1952 as a waitress when she was 17. Her most vivid memory is of waking up to find a bat in her dorm room bed one morning.
The Knowlton Grove Hotel ad in the Sherbrooke Daily Record on June 19th, 1942, promised the best vacation facilities in one of the most picturesque settings. “Thrill to unrivalled panoramic landscapes. Stroll along bridlepaths, laze in the sun or join in the frolic at the recreation house.” The ad enticed readers with coil spring mattresses, running water, electric light, plus every kind of holiday fun; golf, riding, tennis, swimming, free boats, miniature golf, baseball, and excellent meals. In the ads from the 1950s, dancing, large lounge rooms and clock golf were added to the offering. What is clock golf, you ask? It involved putting a golf ball from 12 different points on the circumference of a circle to the hole at the center.
The history of the hotel is sketchy, with most of it gleaned from the memory of former staff, the Hugh McVittie Fonds at the Musée Lac-Brome Museum archives, and ads in the Sherbrooke Daily Record in the 40s and 50s. Local resident Jane Fisher, who worked there the summer of 1950 as a dishwasher, recalls the younger Mr. and Mrs. Hoff managing the kitchen and the dining room respectively, while a senior Mr. Hoff owned and managed it. She also remembers that the Hoffs spent the winters in Florida. Local realtor, Reginald Gauthier, checked land records and confirmed that the land belonged to Mr. La Verne Hoff from St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1960/61.
Susan McGuire remembers the hotel “as a big brown building at the top of the hill that was very busy in the summertime. Some of the cabins, part of the complex closer to the Boat Club, were popular; and eventually were sold off. It was a pretty big deal for some time in the then-small village of Knowlton.”
The last summer season for the resort was in 1957. We know this because the hotel placed an ad for an auction on May 17th, 1958, to sell three large wooden buildings, seven cottages, six cabins, furnishings, and equipment. The hotel was probably closed because of the economic recession of 1957.
Harty McKeown did not work at the hotel, but he and his friends liked to spend time with the female staff after their shifts, usually down at the Boating Club. He remembers senior Mr. Hoff driving his Desoto down the hill one night looking for his staff members. He did not notice the chain blocking the Boating Club driveway. His hood ornament got caught in the chain popping open the hood much to the amusement of the courting locals.