Profile: The Waterford Arms, Harbour Grace

Waterford Coat of Arms outside the former Waterford Arms Hotel, Waterford, Ireland. (Source: Link)

As recorded in our ‘Harbour Grace Notebook’ project:

On February 3, 1832, the Association of Fishermen met at William Innott’s hotel, the Waterford Arms, and paraded with flags and banners to Bears Cove, then on to Samson’s Brook (often called Nichols Brook), the band playing their favourite songs the whole way. They circled back to the Waterford Arms, where refreshments were served and twenty-five speeches given. William Talbot stood as the chairperson, Robert Oke as the vice-chair.

Owned by merchant William Innott, the Waterford Arms was a popular hotel and community meeting place in the early part of the nineteenth century. It presumably took its name from County Waterford, Ireland, an area with strong migratory connections to Newfoundland. The hotel stood somewhere near the area of today’s LeMarchant Street (or Gas House Hill). A cooper’s shop stood near the rear of the hotel, as well as a stable built for Innott’s horses.

The will of James Cowan further details Innott’s property holdings in Harbour Grace:

The premises situated at Harbor Grace held under lease by William Innott consisting of the dwelling house and wharf lately held by Denis MacGrath deceased, a dwelling house also, garden in front thereof, and one at back thereof, with a Cooper’s shop in the rear of the Waterford Arms, together with a stable built by the said William Innott near thereto… And lastly I appoint James Bayly Gentleman and William Innott Merchant Executors of this my last will and Testament who shall with their heirs executors and administrators be at all times exonerated and indemnified in any acts matters or things to be done by them in the execution of such duty or trust.

Other groups which frequented the Waterford Arms include the Benevolent Irish Society, who held their annual anniversaries at the hotel every February.

Interestingly, Innott’s hospitality business brought him into contact with Governor Sir Thomas Cochrane. The two exchanged correspondence in the late summer of 1826 regarding the unpaid debts of Judge John William Molloy. A ‘Mr. Stark’ had arranged for several rooms to be rented by Judge Molloy from May 10 to July 13; the latter assured Innott that Cochrane would foot the bill. When the payment of £250 was not forthcoming, Innott promptly wrote the governor. E.B. Brenton replied to Innott on Cochrane’s behalf, stating that the governor was “wholly unacquainted with the circumstances you have state[d], and cannot therefore authorize payment prayed for by your memorial.” In further correspondence between the governor and the judge, the latter’s explanation for the expenses at Harbour Grace were deemed unsatisfactory; pointedly, Cochrane asked what authority Molloy thought he had to mention the governor’s name, or make implications that he could be drawn upon in payment of these expenses. Such “pecuniary embarrassments” occupied much of Cochrane’s time in the summer of 1826 and led to Molloy’s dismissal from office.

Tragically, on August 18, 1832, the Waterford Arms burned in the first ‘Great Fire’ of Harbour Grace, along with Keefe’s Hotel, the Commercial Rooms, and twelve public houses.

After this devastation, a public meeting was held at the courthouse to elect commissioners to planning the town anew. Where the hotel once stood, a firebreak, LeMarchant Street, was constructed.

No photo description available.
Map showing LeMarchant Street, 1879. (Source: Conception Bay Museum archives.)