Originally a historic Canadian hotel, one has only to take in the view of the beautiful Bras d'Or Lake surrounded by mountains in every direction to understand why H.F. MacDougall and Edward A. MacNeil chose this as the location for their new business venture in 1887 -- "The Grand Narrows Hotel".
Our once hotel was built in 1887 by H.F. MacDougall and E.A. NacNeil who were merchants from the local area. H.F. MacDougall was the local Member of Parliament during the time that John A. MacDonald was Prime Minister and he was instrumental in having the Inter Colonial Rail line, which was stretching from the West Coast to the East Coast of Canada, come through the center of Cape Breton Island and the communities of Grand Narrows and Iona.
In order to cross the deep and wide Barra Strait (named after the Isle of Barra in Scotland where most of the settlers of this area were from) a seven span iron bridge would be built and completed in 1890 with the first train crossing on January 1st.
Sir John A. MacDonald, famously known as the first Prime Ministry of Canada, once stood on the verandah steps of the Grand Narrows and pointing north declared "That is where the new bridge will go." Sir John A. was by no means the only person of great stature who had the opportunity to experience the grandeur of the "Hotel".
The Hotel served as an important stop-over for the many people who traveled by the newest means of transportation, the "Railcar". The train brought intellectuals and others of wealth and means from all corners of the world to Grand Narrows. One very famous individual, Alexander Graham Bell, had a summer home known as Beinn Breagh (Beautiful Mountain) in Baddeck. Bell was a frequent guest of the hotel staying overnight while waiting to catch the steamboat "The Blue Hill" to Baddeck the following day. Two original Guest Registers dating from the 1880's contain Alexander Graham Bell's signature more often than any. Several others that he was associated with such as Helen Keller, whom he befriended, often traveled with Bell. Local people could recall seeing Ms. Keller and her trusted companion a golden lab, swimming the waters of the Barra Strait.
Of course, many other famous guests frequented our historical hotel, including President William H. Taft & President Teddy Roosevelt (their signatures seen here in our featured photo).