The famous Waterloo landmark known as the Huether Hotel has a long and captivating history. The building dates back 175 years, making it one of the oldest breweries in Canada. Before writing this article I was lucky enough to be given a tour by one of the owners, David Adlys, grandson of John Adlys who purchased the building way back in 1953. On my tour of the hotel, I learned a lot about its rich past and what makes it so special.
The Huether Hotel in the 19th Century
Our story begins in 1842 when the brewery and inn were first established by Wilhelm Rebscher. In 1856, a German brewer by the name of Adam Huether purchased the business, naming it the Lion Brewery. Adam’s son Christopher took over the operations in 1860.
The Lion Ale became known as the “best beer in the country” and the inn was known to be an upstanding and comfortable hotel serving excellent food and beer for guests. At this time, there were also stables for the travellers’ horses, providing them with ample hay, oats, water and blankets, so the horses were cozy and comfortable too.
During Christopher’s time as owner, he dug out tunnels and caverns underneath the brewery for storage. He also added a Victorian facade and a tower with iron cresting to the building in 1880. You can see these features in photographs of the hotel any time before 1969, when a fire on the roof of the building destroyed these features.
In 1898, Christopher Huether Sr. died. His son, Christopher Jr., would inherit the business one year after his father’s death so long as he made each mortgage payment. If he missed even one, then Christopher Sr.’s partner William Young had the right to sell the brewery. Unfortunately, only nine days before the anniversary of his father’s death, Christopher Jr. missed a payment, and the brewery and hotel were sold to Theresa Kuntz.
The brewery and hotel underwent a few more changes in ownership. Albert C. Snyder purchased the building in 1934 and named it Hotel Kent to attract a richer crowd. Finally it was purchased by John Adlys in 1953 and has stayed within the family ever since.
The Adlys Family
Now our story takes us to the late 1950s, where a girl named Sonia Skrypec found a job as a waitress at the hotel’s coffee shop, still named Hotel Kent at the time. Sonia was 16 years old, a bright and lively young woman. The coffee shop was managed by John’s son Bernie. When Bernie and Sonia met, they quickly fell in love. One year later they were married. Sonia learned the business from her husband and worked lots of jobs all over the hotel. They became hotel managers in 1965.
In 1969 a tragedy was avoided – a fire caught in the hotel’s attic. Bernie and Sonia’s son David remembers the fire. The bar was evacuated. Luckily the fire was put out before it could do too much damage and the Victorian facades put in place by Christopher Huether mostly survived the flames.
Restoring the Past
In 1975 Bernie and Sonia purchased the hotel and brewery from Bernie’s father John. In the 1980s the two of them began renovating and restoring the old building with the help of their children. In 1984 the malt room in the basement was excavated. The malt room is where beer was aged in the original brewery of 1842, because the room is below frost level and therefore has a constant temperature. Since then, its use as a malt room ceased and it became filled with dirt and rubble.
David and his brother Kelly dug out all the dirt that was in the cavern with shovels. They dug 18 tonnes of dirt all together! David said they had to drive away truckload after truckload of dirt to the dump. But after lots of digging, the brothers managed to clear it all out and restore it, and it is now a cozy dining room.
In 1987 they renamed the building the Huether Hotel after the Huethers who owned it more than a century before, and renamed their brewery next door the Lion Brewery after the name Adam Huether had chosen for his own brewery. The family has been presented with a Waterloo Regional Heritage Foundation Award to recognise all their restorations on the building.
A New Generation
The Huether Hotel is now operated by Bernie and Sonia’s children. Their eldest sons, David and Kelly, take care of most of the business, with the help of their younger siblings Bernie II and Christina as well. David says the hotel has always been a part of their lives. He speaks about the business with so much pride and passion that it was truly a pleasure to hear his stories and plans for future. The hotel has a rich and interesting past between its walls. It’s a landmark in Waterloo, and continues to be a wonderful establishment for people to enjoy.