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January 30, 2014

New Brunswick’s Iconic Hotel Gets $35 Million Refurbishment

By Chris Boyle

At the turn of the century some 120 years ago, a small town on New Brunswick’s southeastern coast on the Bay of Fundy drew titans of industry from New York, Boston and Montreal, government ministers and railroad barons like Sir William van Horne, the head of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Overlooking picturesque Passamaquoddy Bay, St. Andrews-by-the-Sea is now enjoying a second act as a summer resort. And when its iconic “Castle-by-the-sea” opens this spring, the resort town will draw even more visitors – although not necessarily only millionaires.

Originally built in 1889 to accommodate passengers from the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Tudor-style Algonquin Resort sits high above the town on 15 landscaped acres. A meticulous $35 million renovation included preserving architectural details, such as the half-timbered and stucco façade, 96 Juliet balconies and 16 second-floor patios.

The glass in the original 200 eleven-foot arched windows was replaced and air-conditioning was added, outdoor event spaces expanded, double-sided fireplaces were converted to gas and public areas were reconfigured. The hotel will be the first Canadian property in Marriott‘s Autograph Collection.

The 233-room luxury hotel has two restaurants: Braxton’s Restaurant and Bar and the Clubhouse at the golf course; a new indoor pool with a three-story water slide; an outdoor pool with two hot tubs; its own private beach; a fitness centre with state-of-the-art equipment; a children’s playground, and 19,300 square feet of meeting space with three ballrooms.

The resort’s award-winning, 18-hole championship golf course (7,000 yards, par 72) was redesigned by Thomas McBroom in 2000. A new 1,400-square-foot spa will offer treatments based on ancient techniques of the native Algonquin people using seawater and honey from the resort’s beehives.

Braxton’s Restaurant and Bar will serve three meals a day with seasonal menus featuring local produce and the rich bounty from the Bay of Fundy. By day, the Clubhouse will be the perfect spot for a casual lunch, and by night, an elegant restaurant where guests can dine on seafood and steak.

In addition to room service, The Algonquin will offer “Anyplace Dining”, allowing guests to dine in many public areas, including the lobby, the resort’s spacious veranda or by the pool.

While the 216 guest rooms and 17 suites have been carefully restored to their Victorian splendor, they also boast every modern convenience, including flat screen TVs, MP3 players, pillow-top mattresses, radiant heat bathrooms and plush bathrobes. In-room movies are complimentary. Some guestrooms and suites feature balconies or patios, and suites also have private seating areas. WiFi is complimentary throughout the property.

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Pets are welcome and for only $35, they receive a walking map, a souvenir collar tag and access to pet bowls. And for pet lovers missing their faithful companions, the Algonquin’s canine ambassador is available for walks.

“We like to say, deciding to make history, takes time,” explains General Manager Tim Ostrem. “It is an accurate assertion, for The Algonquin has not only undergone a refit, but a complete transformation.”

One of New Brunswick’s oldest settlements, St. Andrews was founded in 1783 by Loyalists from Castine, Maine. It is a classic example of a colonial town with broad straight streets in a regular grid broken by open squares for public buildings and a market. For 50 years, the town prospered as a merchant settlement.

Its location at the mouth of the St. Croix River was perfect for supplying lumber and fish to the West Indies in exchange for rum and molasses for the British market. However, in the 1830s and 1840s, when hostilities between the British and Americans ceased and the colonial preference was withdrawn, the town’s economy crumbled. Economic relief came at the turn of the century with the building of the railways and the desire of the rich to come north to escape the summer heat.

Half the town’s buildings (about 550) pre-date 1880 and they encompass a wealth of architectural styles ranging from Norman farmhouse and Georgian to Gothic, Queen Anne and Greek Revival.

Visitors can take a walking tour passing by the Pagan-O’Neill house dating from the Loyalist era and relocated from Castine; the 1824 Greenock Presbyterian Church copied from a Christopher Wren church in Scotland; an 1840 Gaol, and the Charlotte County Courthouse, the oldest in Canada in continuous use.

In the 1890s, when railroad baron van Horne decided to build his summer home, Covenhoven on Minister’s Island, he hired Edward Maxwell, the designer of Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts. Later, Maxwell built his own summer home there.

The Ross Museum, housed in Chestnut Hall, an 1824 neoclassical townhouse once belonged to a relative of an early executive at Dunn & Bradstreet. It contains one of the best Victorian and Empire collections in Eastern Canada.

The Fundy Discovery Aquarium is a state-of-the-art facility boasting a 40,000-gallon habitat devoted to species from the Bay of Fundy including sturgeon, salmon and stone crabs. A 30-foot-high display illustrates the tides of the Bay.

St. Andrews offers plenty of active options. Whale sightings are almost guaranteed and sea kayaking amidst dolphins on the world’s highest tides is a daily occurrence.

Lying in the Bay are the Fundy Isles: Campobello, Grand Manan and Deer Island. Historic Campobello Island, the summer White House for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, offers an experience called “Tea with Eleanor.” Biking around Grand Manan is fun, and you can watch the fishermen gathering dulse or opt for relaxing at the beach.

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