Cook's Tavern and Livery
In the earliest days of the province almost every settler took in travellers overnight, but as immigration increased, many took out inn licences so as to be able to charge their guests.
Michael Cook, a loyalist of German descent from the Mohawk Valley, obtained his first licence in 1804. His tavern was ideally situated to serve immigrants and visitors coming up the St. Lawrence River on boat; and to serve as a stopping place for stage coaches and carriages travelling on the King's Highway between Kingston and Montreal. As roads improved, and people began travelling more for business and pleasure, the need increased for decent inns.
As well as serving an increasing number of travellers, the better inns of a district became the focal point for local community activity. They were places to talk about news and the weather, to play cards and to contract business deals. Their ballrooms were used less for dancing than for political gatherings, lodge meetings, lectures, concerts and as courts of law. In the early days, church congregations would often meet at the local inn or tavern until a church was built.
In the inn yard, the large drive shed offered shelter for the horses and vehicles of travellers and other patrons of the tavern. It was customary for a traveller to buy feed and at least one drink from the innkeeper in return for sheltering his horse. If the traveller elected to stay the night, he could expect a comfortable bed, food, and a choice of rooms in which to meet fellow travellers. The retiring room provided a quiet place to sit and relax. Many people, however, chose to sit in the bar room, where they could drink, gossip and gamble. If the inn was crowded, people would share bedrooms, or sleep on straw pallets in the ballroom.
With the coming of the railway, traffic decreased on the roads, and this affected inns and taverns. Some reverted back to farmhouses, while others remained open, serving the local entertainment needs of the community.