We Made Hartney

We Made Hartney

Housing Services

Boarding House Owner Tena Hopkins



MISS TENA HOPKINS, by 1891 a resident of Hartney, was influential in Hartney in her boarding house that became a social centre for the school teachers, bankers and unmarried business people of the town.

When Dr. McEown left Hartney to practice is Souris, Miss Hopkins and her mother secured his house on Spencer Street. It had four rooms on the second floor and, besides the kitchen, dining and living rooms on the ground floor, had a large room with separate entrance from the veranda, Dr. McEown’s former office. For many years this extra room on the ground floor was used by two or more young men as a bedroom. At one time the Parham brothers, owners of a general store, lived there, and later bankers and store clerks and school principals were its occupants. The female teachers, Miss Hopkins and her mother occupied the upstairs rooms. Besides those who lived in the house, there were several men and women with sleeping quarters elsewhere who took their meals at the long table in the dining room.

The lawn at the south of the house was laid out as a tennis court and there Miss Hopkins, who herself played better than average tennis, the boarders and their friends spent many pleasant summer evenings playing or watching the games in progress. 

Miss Hopkins had a maid to serve at table and assist her in keeping the house in faultless order, but she herself did all the cooking and baking. She loved to cook as much as she loved to paint pictures. She liked what she cooked to appeal to the eye as well as the palate. Her dining-table, set with snowy cloth and dainty china was centred by an artistically arranged floral centre, in winter as well as summer.

No matter how many men and women there were at her board all were her friends. When a newcomer arrived among them, Miss Hopkins made special efforts to make him or her a part of the family. If one were not well, he received special attention and if any had problems that worried them, they brought them to Miss Hopkins for advice and sympathy. Her boarders looked upon themselves as a social unit, gave themselves the name of “Hopkinites”, and became friends with a special family feeling for one another.

After almost forty years in her boarding house, Miss Hopkins, in 1940, the year before her death, found herself unable to continue her household duties and closed the house that she had made a home for the many young men and women who remained her staunch friends.

Adapted from The Mere Living


A Day in the Life of a Boarding House

By the 1880s, boarding was an established way of life in many North American communities. Private boarding houses typically kept several boarders, generally single, unrelated individuals. For many women, keeping boarders was a readily available way to earn money that permitted a flexible schedule. A married woman's income from boarding was often more reliable than her husband's income, and could well be the primary income for the household. Keeping boarders was also a source of income for some widows and mature single women.

For many landlords and boarders, the household intimacy of boarding was part of its appeal. Boarders not only took their meals within the household, but often participated in family activities. Boarding house residents met daily in the shared spaces of the dining room and the parlour. Late-nineteenth-century reformers approved of the family environment of boarding houses, which they felt acted as a welcome social restraint on boarders.

The decline of boarding could be seen as parallel to the transformation of the semipublic “parlour” into the twentieth-century private “living room” in which boarders would seem to be strangers.

Douglas Knox

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