Spotlight on heritage: Kemner Hall

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A sketch of Kemner Hall. The real thing can be viewed at 535 St. Lawrence Street in Winchester

What better way to commemorate Heritage Week than by exploring the rich history of one of North Dundas’ historic buildings? North Dundas has many homes and other buildings with stories that date back more than a century. For this year’s heritage issue of the Times, we put the spotlight on our past, including the history of Kemner Hall, the elegant white building on St. Lawrence Street in Winchester that now houses two local businesses – EcoShire – your planted friendly store, and The Planted Arrow Flowers & Gifts. 

Records indicate that Kemner Hall was likely constructed around 1870. Its design is an example of Second Empire architecture, which reached the height of its popularity in that era. By the early 1900s, it had become one of Winchester’s original private banks, owned by Daniel F. Sutherland, who also used it as his residence. 

Sutherland passed away suddenly in 1913, and his wife, Sadie Angus Smith, then took over running the bank, something very unusual for women of that era. Daniel is buried in the Maple Ridge cemetery between Winchester and Chesterville.

In the 1930s, the building became a “tourist home”, at which time it got the name “Kemner Hall”. People would stop on their way through Winchester to visit the famous Dr. Mahlon W. Locke at his clinic in Williamsburg. 

“This house was built based on a replica of the Governor of California’s home, and was considered the party house while Mr. Sutherland was alive,” said Kelly, citing information she has received from locals over the years, as well as from the Angus family, who formerly owned the building. “Sutherland would hire all the horses and buggies in town to pick up his friends on Friday at the train station, and trotted them back on Sunday.”

Daniel’s daughter, Piney, is also said to have become the active manager of the 25 Canadian banks bequeathed to her upon her father’s death. “Using her wealth, Piney organized recreation centres for Canadian soldiers on furlough,” Kelly added. 

The original bank vault door is intact to this day in what is now the lower level bathroom of the building. An original bank note is also preserved in the Hall, a reminder of the days when the building was a bank.

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