Building on History: The Frontenac Club

By Lexy Correa

We all know Kingston is steeped in history, but have we ever thought about renovations? Maintaining and restoring our iconic limestone buildings is no easy feat – just ask Sean Billing, whose team has been updating the 174-year-old Frontenac Club since December 2018.

From uncovering stonework and cisterns to plans of a bar and rooftop patio, read on to discover the changes happening to this historic inn.

LC: Can you talk about the biggest changes happening to the inn?

SB: We’re transforming the space from a traditional B&B to more of a boutique hotel. Expanding 16 bedrooms to 20 all without changing the footprint of the building. We’re creating a bar, lounge, licensed patio, and rooftop patio as well. We’re looking forward to welcoming both guests and the Kingston community to experience these amenities.

The main goal is updating the interior to be more contemporary. We’re working towards the happy medium between maintaining the historic look and feel and including present-day amenities that guests come to expect.

A rendering of Frontenac Club from Ontario Street.
A rendering of Frontenac Club from Ontario Street.

LC: Did you uncover anything interesting during this process?

SB: We found some interesting artifacts! The building in its 174 year history has been renovated countless times. We found old coins, newspapers, magazines, and uncovered beautiful stonework – we even found a whole play written out by a professor at Queen’s University!

When it comes to the physical structure and piecing together how the club has been used over the years, we discovered a lot. In one room that we know was originally built in 1907 as a kitchen, we found 5 door openings! Over the history of time, that space has seen so many changes.

In the basement, we uncovered an old limestone cistern – a beautiful one with an arched ceiling that currently sits about 10-12 feet under our parking lot. There’s not a way to use it but it’s incredible to see that level of craftsmanship.

LC: What can visitors expect when they return to the Inn?

SB: We want to represent Kingston. The Frontenac Club is really of Kingston and we strive to have a high level of service and attention to detail. We have such a great story to tell and look forward to welcoming members; giving them the opportunity to become part of the story.

When I think about our loyal guests who are excited to be back… I hope they’re surprised by the new spaces and say, “I can’t believe you found that!”. We also hope they enjoy the functionality. We did listen closely to what our guests have requested and incorporated their suggestions.

“The best way to experience the city is to stay in a space that has a bit of history; a place that’s part of Kingston’s DNA.”

For new guests visiting the inn, we’d love for them to think this is a product that Kingston needed and they didn’t know existed. The sort of boutique hotel we’d see in Toronto, Quebec City, or New York – they get to have that experience in Kingston.

LC: Can you discuss why visitors should consider staying at a historic inn?

SB: It’s such a different experience. The melding of history and progressiveness is part of the reason why somebody would get hooked on Kingston. There’s a certain renewal each year that comes with new students at the colleges and university. We have beautiful structures, great stories and history, and outdoor festivals and events. The best way to experience the city is to stay in a space that has a bit of history; a place that’s part of Kingston’s DNA.

LC: Is there anything else you’d like to share with your guests?

SB: I believe that we have an opportunity to set the standard for service. When people think of the Frontenac Club, we want them to think of a level of hospitality that comes with joining a club. Although we’re keeping the name Club since it’s part of its history, you don’t have to be a member to visit and stay with us. We want people to feel like it’s their club. Whether you’re a resident or visitor, we want you to feel like a member of this community.

The Frontenac Club will welcome guests back in late Summer 2019. Keep an eye on their website for updates! More photos of the renovation below.

A rendering of the new bar and lounge.
A rendering of the new bar and lounge.
construction worker on rooftop overlooking Lake Ontario
What could go here? A rooftop patio, perhaps?
Rendering of the updated exterior on King and William Street
Rendering of the updated exterior on King and William Street