Even before I started working in St. Andrews this May, St. Andrews has always been one of my favourite places to visit in New Brunswick, especially in the summertime! There is something special about spending time in a quaint little seaside town, and the novelty of spending the summer in St. Andrews is not a new trend.
People have been coming to visit St. Andrews during the summer since the town’s earliest days. St. Andrews from the end of the 1870s, through to the 1930s was one of the top summer destinations in Canada, as it was Canada’s first seaside resort town. At the peak of St. Andrew’s summertime success, roughly 70% of Canada’s wealthiest people were spending their summers in St. Andrews. Many of which were coming down to St. Andrews from Montreal, like the Van Horne’s. People took to coming to St. Andrews as it provided people with a break from city life. Being exposed to the sea breeze helped many people who were dealing with “hay fever” and other health issues from the poor city air. There were even advertisements and posters printed in the 1870s encouraging people to come to St. Andrews because there was “No Hay Fever.”
Many of the first summer guests who came to St. Andrews were those who were involved in developing the Dominion of Canada, from either political or business endeavours. The influence of these men helped encourage others to visit St. Andrews. Many summer visitors would have their own homes built in the town, like Sir Leonard Tilley and Sir Charles Tupper.
Van Horne first came to St. Andrews for a trip in 1890, to see the work on the railway in St. Andrews. During this trip he became captivated with the area, and by the end of his visit he had purchased his first parcel of land on Ministers Island for his future summer home. Van Horne along with his wife, son, daughter, mother, sister and mother-in-law all joined the trend of coming to St. Andrews for the summer months, and could be found at Covenhoven from the end of June / beginning of July until the end of October.
In 1889 St. Andrew’s most notable hotel, the Algonquin was built (for the first time). The Algonquin was built by a group of men called the St. Andrews Land Company who had all come from New England. The hotel opened on July 1st, 1889, and had 80 rooms for guests. Many guests would come and stay for either a month or the entire summer. It was most common for entire families to come and spend the summer at the hotel, there were even dining rooms for children! It was common for guests to bring their own private staff and even furniture with them. One fun fact about the hotel was that the bathtubs had four taps; hot and cold, fresh or saltwater! The hotel became known across the country, and was a popular destination. In a 1902 brochure, the CPR describes the Algonquin as, “an incomparable resting-place and retreat from the cares of business and the heat and dust and bustle of the city.”
During the summer months, the summer visitors took part in many events and activities including: golfing, tea parties, town festivals, tennis, lawn bowling, gambling at the casino, and swimming at Katy’s Cove. The best time to swim at Katy’s Cove was in the morning, so the beach was reserved for summer guests in the morning, and locals were only allowed to swim after 2pm in the afternoon.
There were various shops and restaurants for people to visit too in town, and a special hairdresser, barber and shoe shiner would all come down to St. Andrews for the summer. The American First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt would often be spotted shopping in town having come from their family summer home on Campobello Island which was 76km away.
St. Andrews would continue to be a popular destination until the 1930s for Canada’s elite. With the rise of the middle class, the Great Depression, later World War II, and the advancing technology in cars the days of St. Andrews being an exclusive resort town dwindled. Of course today, the town still strives on tourism, and many people come to visit St. Andrews in the summer months and to stay at the Algonquin hotel, however, they are visitors who are more likely to come for a weekend instead of an entire summer!