Canada was a brand new country when Ed Dean (1840-1898) built one of the first hotels in Old Chelsea, circa 1875. Dean’s Hotel, a small structure made of hand-hewn square logs was only 5 metres by 6 metres, but it was the original building that has survived in various incarnations for more than a century to become one of the oldest heritage buildings in the Municipality of Chelsea.
Within a decade, Dean’s Hotel underwent continuous expansion to handle its growing popularity. A framed barn-style front section was added, followed by front and side verandas. In 1893, the establishment faced a serious challenge that directly impacted the business. A local by-law limited the number of taverns to only one and Dunn’s Hotel, which was right across the street, was granted the ‘one’ license.
In 1907, things didn’t get any better. The municipality urged on by leaders in the Catholic Community, voted down all liquor licenses in a referendum… effectively putting an end to Dean’s Hotel. The building was acquired by John Grimes who owned it for a dozen years and rented it for family accommodation.
By 1920, the building had changed hands once more, becoming the home of William (Willy) Trudeau and his wife Felonise (Fanny). Over the next 20 years, ten of the couple’s thirteen children were born in the ‘homestead’. Eventually the family operated a store and offered full-service at their single gasoline pump.
In the early 50s, William sold the ‘homestead’ to his son Harold, the sixth child born to the couple. Harold (affectionately known as Red) and his wife Olga (known as Ollie) raised their three children there while expanding the operation to include a snack bar on the main floor. This evolved to also include a diner.
In an attempt to boost their snack bar/diner business, in 1969/70 Harold undertook major renovations to the building including an addition on the back as well as installing booth seating and stools that offered new counter service to patrons. Unfortunately, soon after completing the renovations, Ollie who was ill passed away, forcing Harold to resign from his mail delivery job to run the diner full time.
Throughout the 70s and 80s Harold also ran an ice-cream parlour in the front of the restaurant. An instant hit with the community, it became a tradition for families to stop by after church services on Saturday night or Sunday.
Never one to miss an opportunity, Harold purchased the adjacent property from the municipality when the Town Hall, which had stood there for a century, was moved in 1983. Eventually, this addition would serve as Chelsea Pub’s patio.
Within a year, Harold decided to sell the establishment to his next door neighbours Bob and June Dompierre who had operated the Parkway General Store, which also provided post office services. The Dompierres made further renovations while continuing to operate the diner/restaurant business until 1986.
That year, John Gordon, owner of Gordon Construction, came into the picture purchasing the property. With his avid interest in history, Gordon undertook a major overhaul and restored the building. Brick walls were sandblasted, verandas replaced, an upper deck was added and a patio was created where the old Town Hall had been, built around a surviving section of the basement foundation.
Gordon, proved to be a man of details. An antique ‘hoopskirt door’, still operating today, was installed in the entrance to add to the historic ambience he was creating. He completely gutted the interior highlighting the décor with furnishings and styles that reflected the past. A new bar was made from sections of old doors. Interesting accents such as an old-fashion walk-in freezer and an antique radio added to the atmosphere along with photographic memorabilia of village buildings.
Christened the new Chelsea’s Restaurant, its menu featured nostalgic items including ‘Ed Dean’s Hotel Sandwich’, ‘Dunn’s Daily Fare’, ‘Town Hall Triple’ and ‘Meech Lake Munch’ to name a few that offered tribute to the historic place. The west side of the building, adjacent to the new patio, continued its tradition as an ice cream parlour during the summer months.
In 1988, an Ottawa-based restaurant group, which also operated the Earl of Sussex and Patty’s (both pub-style operations) purchased the establishment from Gordon. With its ‘pub expertise’ the group took the restaurant in a new direction changing it to Chelsea’s Pub. Restaurant veteran Bill Price was hired to promote and manage the new establishment, which became known for its wing nights as well as lively St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
In the early 90s, businessman Paul Burke partnered with long-time friend and Chelsea resident Ron Humick, who ran the restaurant/bar. By adding live music Chelsea’s Pub also attracted great local musical talent, who were sometimes ‘discovered’ playing in Ottawa’s Byward Market and invited to entertain the growing patronage.
In 1998, an Ottawa couple experienced in the restaurant biz, Wally Eagen and Tammy Marcinov purchased the operation. They built on the pub atmosphere, expanding the draught beer selection to the widest variety in the Gatineau Hills and introduced several new brands. The couple brought a sports bar flavour into the mix by airing high profile sports events including NHL hockey and soccer.
Overcoming the challenges of the smoking ban initiated in Quebec in May 2006, Chelsea’s Pub continued to flourish and in 2007 was purchased by local entrepreneurs.
Special thanks to Missy Trudeau and the Trudeau family for sourcing historical dates and information from family recollections and the archives of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society.