Since ancient Roman times, people have been enjoying the benefits of sulphur springs-bathing in the warm healing waters to cure any number of ailments from rheumatism to dermatological conditions. The thermal trend had been popular in various European cities for centuries, and with a rise in the middle class and travel for touristic purposes, the craze followed to North America.
Entrepreneurs in small communities jumped on the thermal therapeutic band wagon, and one such place was in Preston, Ontario (now amalgamated as part of Cambridge). In the 1860’s the Hotel Kress opened its doors to a public eager to indulge in the sulphur rich mineral waters which bubbled naturally up from the area’s core, at the base of the Niagara escarpment. While the hotel managed to attract a clientele, it wasn’t until the Del Monte Hotel was built by resident Robert Walden in 1890 that Preston became a spa destination. Built as the biggest hotel in the area, it’s majestic presence emerged from it’s prime location at the foot of a hill, surrounded by beautifully ambling gardens and with the mineral baths enclosed within the hotel premises.
The Del Monte ran successfully until the effects of First World War slowed business down until it was eventually sold in 1920. But it was not to remain idle for long, and a pair of enterprising young doctor brothers (Gordon and Edwin Haigmeier) transformed the hotel into a sanitarium/hotel retaining the first two floors as a hotel, the third as a clinic complete with x-ray room and operating room with the fourth floor a recovery ward. The hotel renamed Preston Springs, enjoyed much popularity and purported to host such celebrities as Babe Ruth and Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Over the next 50 years the hotel saw a number of incarnations including as a Canadian Naval Wren training facility, to a Lutheran retreat and a retirement home. After a slew of owners the building fell into disrepair. It was was vandalized and was the victim of arson as well. Finally in 1999 a massive restoration project was underway but again fell under receivership. It was finally sold again in 2013 where a development company, seeing the potential, is slated to retain most of the facade and turn the structure into condos.
Throughout the past 15 years while the Hotel remained empty, it was basically stripped and gutted of all it’s original fixtures and furnishings. The one thing that remained (due to the bulk and weight) was the beautiful white Carrera marble that was installed in the basement as part of the sulphur mineral baths and shower rooms. Post+ Beam is excited to have had the opportunity to save these majestic pieces from the wrecking ball and subsequent landfill. The marble evokes a wonderful sense of a bygone era of health and wellness travel in the early 20th Century.