Chinese Immigrants Turn 116-Year-Old Fredericton Home Into A B&B

Image: Kurvin Silvio.

FREDERICTON – Hoa Hua had only been in Canada for a few hours when he spotted his dream house. 

It was midnight. He and his wife, Coral Shuai, were driving by Woodstock Road to their home when Hoa Hua saw it. It was love at first sight. 

“Why didn’t you buy that house?” he asked her.

“That’s somebody’s house, you cannot just buy it!” she replied.

But then he did. It was 2017 when the house hit the market. Shuai says Hua called to make an offer, “even with his poor English back then,” without telling her.

“I blame him for everything,” joked Shuai. “But it’s his dream, so it’s important.”

Hua, who was an engineer in China, says he felt motivated to buy the house by what he felt when he first saw it. 

“You cannot redo it again,” he said. “It’s unique.”

Shuai said it’s difficult to find old buildings in China.

A developer approached the couple and suggested they tear down the house and build apartment complexes, says Shuai. She thought it was a good idea financially, but it was Hua’s dream to keep the house, so she rejected the offer.

“He bought it because of the house, not the lot,” she said.

The couple invested more than $1-million dollars in the house, and it took them around a year and a half to renovate it. The house had been divided into three apartments, and they had to unite everything again.

The renovations took them longer than the three-month plan they had anticipated because they got misled by the first contractor they worked with.

They also faced the challenge of meeting modern day construction standards in a 116-year-old house, which meant tearing it down and building it again. 

“It’s a more than a hundred-year-old building,” Shuai said. “You don’t know what will happen when you open [the wall].”

Shuai says they also wanted to preserve as much of the house’s history as they could. It was part of the reason why Hua bought it.

“We tried to find a balance between these two feelings,” said Shuai. 

They renovated the building and opened a bed and breakfast called By the River.

Hoa Hua fell in love with the house from the first moment he saw it (Kurvin Silvio).

The couple has felt their community’s support during the renovations process – even from the competition.

Shuai is part of Ignite Fredericton’s HIVE program that helps entrepreneurs in Fredericton. She was assigned a mentor, who introduced her to Debra Quartermain, owner of the Quartermain Bed and Breakfast.

Shuai says half of their business now comes via referrals from there. Shuai says the Quartermain is a top-ranked North American best bed and breakfast.

Whenever Quartermain’s place is full, she recommends they go to By the River. Shuai feels moved that Quartermain is always helping her.

“[Guests] didn’t care if [our B&B was new], just because Debra said ‘that’s a lovely place,’ ” said Shuai.

Shuai says she has learned a lot from Quartermain, who has “given her every detail” about running a bed and breakfast.

“When you are first starting out it’s amazing to have another B&B in town, and I just wanted to support them, be able to recommend people and answer any of the questions she had about what is like running a B&B,” Quartermain said. “She’s very lovely and I know they’ll do very well, the place is beautiful.”

There are different rooms for all sorts of tastes. Each room has its own personality and New Brunswick related name. 

For example, the Wolastoq River room is the only room in the house with a river view.

The house features local artwork.

“We just try to tell stories to our guests,” said Shuai.

By the River also hosts recreational activities, such as yoga by the river. Shuai says they want to offer nice things to their neighbours.

“We want to share this house, share this part of history, with our community.”