The Prince George Hotel, a downtown Kingston, Ontario landmark, began its life as an elegant residence. Since then, it has anchored Kingston’s historic Market Square and been part of the city’s rich history and folklore. It was originally a family home owned by Lawrence Herchmer, built between 1817 and 1820 adjacent to Kingston’s City Hall on Ontario Street.
Lawrence’s widow, Elizabeth, moved into the home upon its completion in 1820. In 1840, their son, Charles Herchmer, took over as owner and rented it to his son-in-law, John Macpherson. In 1846, merchant William Henry Alexander leased the building and converted it into commercial shops and warehouses. Two saloons, one owned by James Elder and the other by William Alexander, opened on the ground floor.
A fire damaged the businesses in 1848. Shortly after, William Alexander began constructing a new building on the property, designed by William Coverdale. According to the Ontario Heritage Foundation, in 1892 the two buildings were unified with the addition of a full width verandah and balcony and a Second Empire style mansard roof, creating the distinct facade we see today. The Prince George Hotel opened in 1918.
Ghostly activity in the hotel centered on the third floor, particularly Room 304. According to Glen Shackleton, proprietor of Canada’s original haunted tours, staff reported electrical disturbances and doors opening or closing on their own. Guests spotted the shadowy specter of a woman and an adolescent girl. In Room 304, one elderly couple complained that the second bed in the room was floating three feet in the air!
“The hotel is no longer operational but when it was, cleaning staff would see and hear strange things coming from the rooms – lights and radios turning on and off or doors slamming shut behind them,” Morgan Anderson, tour manager for Haunted Walks Kingston, told Hollie Pratt-Campbell of Kingston Heritage.
According to legend, the ghost of a young woman named Lily Herchemer haunts Room 304. Storytellers say she carried on a forbidden romance with a sailor. When it was safe to visit, she would hang a lantern in the window. Unfortunately, she fell asleep one evening and the lantern blew over, causing a fire that took her life. To this day, passersby will sometimes see an orange glow in the window at night.
Both patrons and staff have whispered about strange activity at the Tir Nan Og Pub (Gaelic for “land of youth”), including furniture and doors moving on their own, silverware and glasses falling to the floor, and being touched by unseen hands. One person reportedly had a conversation with a woman no one else could see.
Today, the Prince George Hotel no longer functions as a hotel, but its 28 rooms are rented as condos and loft apartments. Haunted Walks Kingston, Canada’s original haunted tour, has its office on the ground floor. In addition to the Tir Nan Og Pub, Monte’s pub also occupies the ground floor and has outdoor seating at the corner of Clarence and Ontario streets.