On a block bursting with head-turning homes, the Victorian at 220 Hibernia Street stands out.
Set back from the street on a grand corner lot is Hughson Hall Bed and Breakfast, a stunner of a house set in an asymmetrical triple-brick building with more features than you can take in at first glance. Built in 1875 in the picturesque style—an architectural concept popular at the time that valued variety, irregularity, and interesting textures—the structure has been in place since before Stratford was incorporated as a city.
Over the past century plus, the building has changed hands numerous times, but in all its iterations it’s attracted attention. The front hall and winding staircase were featured in the Hollywood movie, One Foot in Heaven, which was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar in 1941. In the years following the 1953 opening of the Stratford Festival (which put the region on its path to being internationally regarded as a haven for theatre-lovers), the house on Hibernia hosted actors like Christopher Plummer and Gene Saks.
In 1984, Eugene Bannerman and his wife Iris, then famous as Elizabeth Taylor’s body double in Cleopatra and now on the faculty at the Canadian College of the Performing Arts, moved in. The same year, it was designated a Heritage Home.Of all the changes, perhaps the greatest was its purchase in 2008 by Clinton Hughes, an interior designer, and Ross Hodgson, a drama teacher. The two combined their surnames to create Hughson, and shortly thereafter opened Hughson Hall as a luxury bed & breakfast. There are two (naturally) marvellously appointed suites available—the handsome and bold east wing and the lacy and genteel west wing—and guests also have access to a lounge and dining room on the main floor. Loaded with art, collectibles, and antiques, the hallways and parlor spaces of Hughson Hall are part gallery, part museum.
If that’s the bed part, the breakfast part is just as pleasing. The morning meal, which is prepared using fresh ingredients sourced locally, includes a sweet starter—think warm crumble smothered in fresh whipped cream—followed by the main course, and served with juice and coffee on a perfectly set table (a scene Clinton refers to as a ‘table-scape’). On the second floor at suite-level, guests can find a variety of snacks and drinks in the butler’s pantry, and a tray of chocolates from local chocolatier Rheo Thompson is left on the pillow at night.
Ross and Clinton’s penchant for play extends to the holidays, most notably to Hallowe’en and Christmas, when they transform Hughson Hall into a theatrical set.
“Both seasons enable us to play with the house in very different ways,” Clinton explains. “The house can be dark and ominous or dripping in fir boughs and glitter.”
Stratford trick-or-treaters of all ages have learned to anticipate a spooky display, which typically appears just after Thanksgiving. From the beginning of December, visitors can expect an all-out Christmas spectacle. Clinton’s attitude is simple: “I decorate for Christmas with the same philosophy I decorate houses. Combine the old with the new with fearless abandon.”