In its few short years of operation, Hamilton’s Bellwether House – a gorgeously renovated 1870s townhouse on Park Street – has turned into a uniquely attractive destination for Hamilton explorers, professionals, and ‘staycationers.’
Operated by Allan Glanfield, the creation of this local furnished rental has become a labour of love, attempting to stand out through a commitment to thoughtful interior design that blends old and new world touches and turns the space into not just a place to stay, but an experience of its own.
The steps to getting there, however, have been far from linear.
Allan’s first exposure to the world of real estate and house flipping came around this time when he purchased a house with his cousin in Hamilton’s east end for the bygone price of $160,000, transforming the space and later reselling it for nearly $100,000 more.
Turning a profit helped fund Allan’s new pursuit of an education in menswear design, which took him to F.I.T in New York City and a 3-year stint living in Brooklyn. While there, he took notice of an entrepreneur named Lyon Porter who had done something Allan hadn’t really seen in the same way before: he opened an Airbnb called Urban Cowboy that put design and experiential elements at the forefront.
“That was the first person I noticed who was creating unique spaces in residential areas that weren’t just accommodation, but a place you wanted to photograph and be creative in,” Allan recalls, adding that this was also the first time that infrastructure like Airbnb allowed any individual to launch a hospitality business outside of a large company.
“It really, in my opinion, pioneered that sort of ‘Instagrammable’ moment that people try to create now through AirBnbs.”
Inspired and driven by his own love of design and aesthetics, Allan made it a goal to open a space like that of his own in an up-and-coming locale; which, of course, turned out to be Hamilton.
After finishing school in New York, Allan moved back to Canada, living in Toronto while working with Danier Leather. Eventually, feeling stifled in his career, he made the move back to Hamilton around 2014; just as the city’s ‘boom’ was beginning to occur.
Back in the Hammer, Allan opened his own brand and marketing consultancy, Bellwether X, while pursuing talents like photography and videography as side businesses. It wasn’t long before the Park Street property would continually catch his eye and, when the historic home went up for sale in 2018, Allan jumped at the chance to purchase it.
“I saw this unique property as my first opportunity to do my own version of what I was seeing in Brooklyn,” he says. “I saw Hamilton as a place where there weren’t a ton of unique places to stay.”
Since the home had already been newly renovated, much of Allan’s vision came down to furnishings and decoration, sourcing pieces that were simple, minimalist, and modern while complementing the historic touches inherent to each space.
Bellwether House can be rented as an entire townhouse with room for up to 8 or 9 guests in total, but the accommodation is also available broken up into separate suites – affectionately dubbed The Aberdeen and The James, after the well-known Hamilton streets – both with their own unique, charming characteristics and aesthetic appeal.
The Aberdeen takes a mid-century approach to its décor, with 1960s furnishings and artwork that give a cozy, transporting feel. By contrast, The James is more of a 1970s and 1980s inspired space, accented by a palate of inviting pastel colours as well as touches like a pink neon sign for an extra unique and playful feel.
The suites all have their own kitchens, bedrooms, living spaces, and – in the case of The Aberdeen – a private outdoor courtyard. Bellwether House is also conveniently located in close proximity to some of Hamilton’s most sought-after spots for tourism, including Hamilton Harbour, Bayfront Park, and the shopping and food districts along James North.
These spaces aren’t just for overnight accommodations, either; in fact, Allan is very intentional about making Bellwether House into its own creative hub, and a space where artists and innovators can find and follow their inspiration.
“I think that’s what I’ve always wanted to do: we want to stand for creativity and dreaming and entrepreneurship,” Allan says.
“To this day, when a local photographer or entrepreneur is looking for headshots or wants to do branded content, whenever possible we let them use the space for free. We’re always looking for ways to give back.”
Some rental property owners would be content to stop there, but Allan continues to make additions and improvements to Bellwether House; including a transformation of the adjoining coach house, which has been named Blind Bellwether and turned into its own private accommodation inspired by the industrial nature of our city combined with the slick style and feel of a Roaring ‘20s-era speakeasy.
This particular space is unique for being one that Allan got to design himself from the ground up. Unlike the suites inside the townhouse that were freshly renovated before he took ownership, the coach house was a total blank slate that really let Allan flex his fullest design muscles on a space that will also serve as a spot for small-scale, private creative events such as workshops with chefs and mixologists in the future.
Allan has even expanded Bellwether House outside of Hamilton by picking up a small old duplex in Port Dover just last year that has been named SwellHouse, and he’ll continue to make changes and adjustments to the existing Hamilton suites so that even returning guests can find a new, different experiences at his furnished rentals with the hopes to elevate with hospitality that goes above and beyond your standard overnight stay.
The road to opening Bellwether House hasn’t always been the smoothest, but Allan is nonetheless quick to express how excited he is to pursue this particular dream here in Hamilton.
“I was excited to move back to Hamilton. It can feel lonely in such a busy place like NYC; when everyone is so focused on their own achievements, building genuine community can be a challenge,” he says.
“I found Hamilton different. Because so many people are coming here to take risks, open a business, and try an idea out, I found it so much easier to build that community, join others, have a bit of camaraderie and network easily with all the business owners trying to bring something interesting to the city.”
Images courtesy of Bellwether House