The ghosts we wear 'round our hearts: a tour of Leaside Manor

A gothic angel from the graveyard which borders Leaside Manor and is the final resting place of the Parker family matriarch.

Leaside Manor, kind sponsor for VO's Junos 2010 coverage, was built in 1921 when Newfoundland was still part of Britain.  It was built by the Parker family as a replication of the royal Dalton mansion in Scotland and the patriarch who built it remains there, in some form, even today.

Elaine Hann was fresh out of the army, single and with two daughters, when she moved to St. Johns.  Her brother Danny had just died of AIDS and she knew she needed a change in her life in order to support her family and feed her soul.  She waited diligently for the right house so she could open up a bed and breakfast: she haunted the real estate agents, short on cash and heavy on hope.  At the right time, the universe made its move and all barriers vanished, enabling Elaine to turn the historical Parker family mansion into the 11-room B&B it is today.

Elaine designed each room herself, alternating between original restorations and modern upgrades, bringing in animal prints and Jacuzzi tubs to complement 4-poster beds and embedded wood flooring.  The four and a half star accommodation draws all sorts of travelers of the heart: from the young, ambitious event-seeker to the weak-kneed lover-boy with a ring in his pocket and a promise on his lips.

It’s easy to romanticize the heritage-rich home but at the end of the day, it still exists in time and space and has to fit in with the community.  Elaine respects the neighbourhood, shying away from too many summer weddings or late night events.  On top of it all, Elaine has yet more plans in store for the ever-expanding B&B: “I sent an email to the Daltons in Toronto…I see the royal Dalton business having a plate rail exhibit in my house, in their home replicated in Newfoundland.  Poor old Michael Dalton doesn’t even know what’s gonna hit him.”

As we toured the rooms and learned the history of their transitions, it became more and more clear that Elaine’s work stems from deep longing and respectful admiration.  The care with which she’s restored Leaside Manor’s antiquated narrative shows her attachment to the home, to its legacy and to its future.  Guests have often reported seeing or feeling the ghosts of residents past, and Elaine believes that “the grandfather is here and the maid is here.”  However, despite her guests’ “many experiences” with the paranormal, Elaine has never seen a ghost.  She believes that because the former owner – whose death led to her acquisition of the property -  knew that she loved the house and that a sighting would “alter the way I feel about the house,” she is somehow protected.

Leaside Manor is full of stories, tales told without words or image, but felt in the spirit.  Perhaps it’s the graveyard next door which houses the Parker family matriarch, or the once-secret passageways where Elaine was convinced she’d find a treasure – and did, if her children’s pleasured hours of play count – but something lingers on in those hallowed walls which speaks clearly. 

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