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The ruins of the notorious Atherley Arms Hotel

December 2021

Anyone from the Ontario cottage-country town of Orillia will know the notorious Atherley Arms Hotel. Also known as The First, it has the Tudor-style building has served many functions in the century it has stood at the corner of Highway 12 and Creighton Street.

From a hotel for weary travelers and workers in the local lumber industry, to a popular music venue for bands, including some Canadian legends like Gordon Lightfoot, to a strip club by the 1990s, the Atherley Arms was always a popular spot for food, alcohol, a night’s rest, and various adult activities.

Prior to 1955, it was the only place in the area that served alcohol, due to the alcohol prohibition in nearby Orillia.

Although it may have been a respectable place at one time, as respectable as any place that served alcohol could be, its final decades saw it descend into a sleazy and dilapidated watering hole. Even the rooms upstairs, frequently occupied by the strip club dancers, were quite poor, with shared washrooms facilities.

The end for the Atherley Arms came in 2010, in the wake of a $3 million dollar judgement against the owners the previous year, the result of a wrongful death lawsuit filed in the wake of the death of dentist Dr. David Dumenucu, outside the Atherley Arms Tavern on 16 July 2004.

Reportedly a scuffle had broken out in the strip club between employees and D. Dumenucu. Adam Holland, a bouncer and DJ at the Atherley Arms, was charged and later acquitted of manslaughter.

With the opening of the nearby Casino Rama in 1996, the Atherley Arms Hotel could have been transformed into a “respectable” budget hotel, either before or after 2010, a decade of abandonment has turned the building into a wretched mess. Any hope that a new owner could restore the building and re-open it as a lively business has long passed.

While the wood and stucco exterior isn’t too bad, the wood floors are rotted and collapsing, the plaster walls are crumbling, the basement is completely flooded, and the mold contamination inside the building is horrendous. Whatever historical value the original building had has been negated by its severely deteriorated condition.

Apparently, the Atherley Arms had the best hamburgers in the area in its day, so the memories of this notorious hotel aren’t all bad.

An interesting fact is that the basement still has the horse stalls, from back when stagecoaches used to travel through town, where the horses would rest for the night. 

Update November 2022:

The infamous Atherley Arms was demolished on 27 November 2022. While the heritage building will be missed by some, it had become such a dilapidated eyesore, this was the inevitable end, and many more will be glad to see it gone.


Sources: www.kinmount.ca/media/oct_2016_gazette_for_web.pdf, Prohibition in Canada – Wikipedia, Jury awards dentist’s family $3.1-million in bar death case – The Globe and Mail, Widow’s search for justice goes on (insidehalton.com), DJ cleared of manslaughter in slain dentist case (simcoe.com), the Atherley Arms… | the Adventures of a Burgeoning Stripteuse (wordpress.com), Abandoned Atherley Arms Tavern – Abandoned Urban Exploring & Urbex Photography (riddimryder.com), https://web.archive.org/web/20140325020409/http://www.thebarrieexaminer.com/2010/07/09/century-old-atherley-arms-goes-up-for-sale, https://www.barrietoday.com/local-news/an-eyesore-storied-atherley-arms-building-torn-down-6167155?utm_source=Villager&utm_campaign=Content&utm_medium=Facebook_Graph&fbclid=IwAR16HMh65HRbLHp0Es5o3lRJpH6UUNKK6GYozGNhr6kBihhXbJYIfMLp0k4.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/the-ruins-of-the-notorious-atherley-arms-hotel/

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