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"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope

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Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Goodbye to the Quinte Hotel

On Monday Nov. 5, a decrepit and seedy stripper bar in Trenton, Ontario was completely destroyed in a blaze that closed downtown Trenton for most of the day. It was big news in this small Eastern Ontario town, home to Canada's largest Air Force base. The Sherwood Forest Inn, as it was called, was once known as the Quinte Hotel, and was the subject of a famous poem by local poet Al Purdy, who grew up in Trenton and lived most of his life in nearby Ameliasburgh.

Purdy wrote his famous poem At The Quinte Hotel in 1968. He had a gift for finding drama in small town life, and in this poem he describes a night of drinking, fighting and poetry reading in the hotel's bar, which was fairly close to his home. The poem is beautifully rendered in this video featuring Gord Downey of The Tragically Hip and the voice of Purdy himself:


The hotel was notorious in Trenton for decades. It probably won't be missed by most of the locals save for the strippers that worked there, the drunks that hung out there and the teenagers who used to sneak in and drink there underage. Here's a comment from a YouTube viewer who was a resident of Trenton:
I grew up in Trenton in the 70/80's. Most of the bad influences on us was because of the Quinte Hotel. The first time I drank a beer was at the Quinte, I was 15. Saw my first stripper at the Quinte. Saw Varouge, Helix, Max Webster and many more at the Q. I even had a gun pointed at my head one cold January night in '79/80 by an undercover police officer. They were getting ready for the first of many big raids in Trenton. It didn't seem like it then but looking back it was a scary fucking place.
It's hard to tell by looking at it in these photos (taken in 2011), but underneath all the aluminum siding and brick accretions was a structure almost 120 years old, one of the few surviving original commercial buildings in downtown Trenton.

Here's a photo of the fire from the local paper, The Trentonian:

and a photo of the charred ruins taken this morning:

Purdy's boyhood home at 134 Front Street in Trenton was torn down in 2011, and there isn't much left in the city from the years he spent there.  His home in Ameliasburgh is still standing and has been recently sold to a preservation group that is planning to turn it into a writer's residence for young poets. He would have been saddened to see the old hotel destroyed, but it lives on in his wonderful poem.


onefineguy said...

Strippers are doing fine, and keeping warm at the nearby Tim Horton.

Anonymous said...

the sherwood cant be dead, it cant be! lived in trenton for 2 years. it was the only establishment worth dropping money in.
first an obummer victory and now this.

brad maynard

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful (and sad) reminder of a place and time so many of us loved and appreciated. Ah the memories of all those so-called seedy, sexual and all too boozy nights.

Thank you for creating this page and putting it up on BT. Still have at least one book of Al's poems on the shelf and recently read in a west coast paper that his A-frame cabin in the County is now being preserved.


Anonymous said...

this lace holds lots of memories for all whoever lived in trenton at one time or another i think we have ll been their <3