Historic Ipperwash hotel lives on for tourists and community
If you live in the Ipperwash area you probably have a story about the old hotel. It became a landmark in the 1920s and there are countless stories to tell. It has been Wallygators for the past few decades and now that name and facade will change but the charm of the past will remain.The Ipperwash Beach Club (IBC), operated by Jim and Grace Dekker, will be a place where tourists, day trippers and cottagers can come for coffee and pastry in the morning, ice cream and french fries in the afternoon. As a former hotel it served the community since the early 1920s and operated a dance hall beside it.The hotel has been an important part of the Ipperwash history and has been part of several budding romances at the soda fountain. Truly a place for people to connect, Grace Dekker tells the Lakeshore Advance.
The Ipperwash Hotel was built by Nathaniel Dailey and Col. John Ross.
“They built it with cement blocks, they made them by hand with a cement block machine that they had,” explains Wayne Daily, Nathaniel’s cousin, in a letter to Forest historian Don Milburn.
“The hotel was actually two separate buildings. The one on the road side was a two-story building. The bottom floor was a large dining room with a kitchen at the back. The second floor was where the Dailey family lived during the summer. The hotel itself had three floors with 20 or more small rooms. Of course there was no running water and no inside toilets. They operated the hotel for about three years until the depression hit about 1923-24. They had built a clientele of people who used to come from the States – mainly Cleveland, Ohio. The season of 1923-24 opened as usual but no one showed up. This caused a complete disaster, ending up with Dad selling his interest to Mr. Ross and moving to Sarnia.”
In the 1920s a single-story dance hall built on Ipperwash Road across from the Ipperwash hotel served as a focal point for an evening of square and round dancing. The dance hall was later converted to a bowling alley. In 1929 the Ipperwash Casino opened as Ipperwash joined other summer resorts up and down Lake Huron that hosted popular bands of the day. In 1968 the Ipperwash Casino burned to the ground.
From 1930 on to approximately 1950 George and Edna (Watson) Price operated the hotel for some time and lived in the house immediately to south of hotel and also operated the old the bowling alley. After this there was several owners; among them George Price, Bill Dinyer, Bill Protopapas over a period of several years until it was purchased and named Wallygaters.
From Wallygators to the IBC, Grace Dekker they chose a name that “reflected our location and desire to be an amenity for the Ipperwash community as well as those who visit and a name that reflects we offer more than just dining.”
In collaboration with the vision of the property owner, the Dekkers say they want to be an “amenity to the public community where you can stay overnight, perhaps rent a kayak, bike, launch your boat, relax with a coffee, grab an ice cream cone and watch the sunset, and feel like you are home even if you are visiting the beach for just a day. As one or perhaps the only such facility in the community, you shoulder a lot of responsibility when serving the public and it is our hope that we can restore the greatness of the old hotel that used to be here.”
The property owner is a third generation cottager and life long member of the Ipperwash community. The Dekkers have lived in the area for 37 years, the last 10 years in Ipperwash.
“We are both realtors with Keller Williams Lifestyle Realty and Jim also owns and operates Lakeshore Painteriors which is a painting and renovation business. Grace is currently the Co-chair of Communities in Bloom for Lambton Shores. Leading their team to win Nationals, Class of Champions and Internationals. Past President of the Port Franks Garden Club and now both of us are Life time members, as advisors on Center Ipperwash Community Association executive, an executive for the Forest Curling Club. A member of the Lambton Shores Trails Committee and an advisor on a steering committee for St Clair Conservation Authority. Jim just finished a term as treasurer on the Lambton Shores Police Committee.”
Grace Dekker tells the Lakeshore Advance they were approached by the property owner and asked if they would be interested in this new venture.
“We knew that Ipperwash was in need of an establishment serving good food, that would cater to the needs of the tourist and a place for the locals to gather. We have a passion for hospitality and great food, we feel that this is our calling, to serve the public in a meaningful way.
“Tourism plays a big part in the Ipperwash community,” she added. “It’s a seasonal cottage community with a strong and growing year round population. There are lots of weekly rentals as well as daytrippers. We are confident that this will become a tourist destination, so we will be marketing to the larger community.”
The Dekkers explain that the restaurant has been in operation since the 1920s under several different owners.
“The building and restaurant had become very tired and was in need of a major facelift. Thankfully the new property owner has a great love for Ipperwash and has been moved to rejuvenate this grand old building. There’s not a sit down restaurant in Ipperwash and this will offer a café for coffee and ice cream as well as inside and patio dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Meanwhile, the Dekkers are currently looking to hire all positions at this time. Line cooks, servers, bartenders and dishwashers. Apply in person with your resume at 6543 West Parkway Dr., Ipperwash, or e-mail your resume to firstname.lastname@example.org