With rain in the forecast for the next 4 days, I decided to abandon the studio for a drive out to a couple of my favourite locations in north and west Muskoka. On the way, I picked my Mom up to show her the place that inspired last year’s “Old General Store – Swords“.
The clouds were moving in, bringing quick waves of bright sun and ominous dark shadows with the old spot of rain as we made up toward Parry Sound. It was exciting to see the first building come into sight. We walked the grounds of this beautiful white schoolhouse and discovered the old outhouses out back. One set was completely derelict, the other had a fresh pink toilet seat and toilet paper on the bench!
We arrived a little further up the road to the big imposing house on the side of the general store. This place is a beautiful one, the yellow and purple wildflowers pepper the grounds and bright orange day lilies were in full bloom. The sun broke through briefly lighting up this chaotic garden.
On Tuesday evening, I attended on of the lectures held at the Muskoka Heritage Center, Grace & Speed. The subject of this talk was the exceptional book by Maria Da Silva and Andrew Hind, Ghost Towns of Muskoka. There I learned that the fate of these two oldest remaining buildings in the ghost town of Swords are in danger.
The old general store is beginning to become quite derelict. The weight of the higher than normal snowfall has taken its toll on the roof and the spine is beginning to bend away from the main house. Vandals have taken to smashing a couple of windows and nearly set fire to the old front doors. It is one of the last on the old rail line of its kind and is occupied.
Last year, a couple of ladies attended my show, saw the Swords painting and told a story to Terry at Auburn Gallery. Back a little ways in the bush is the ruin of an old shack used as a brothel by the lumberjacks. The bugs were too bad yesterday to wander in and see if we could find it, but when they subside, we will try! The full history of Swords.
I also learned that the old schoolhouse which has been lovingly maintained by the community is struggling to get enough money to remain in such good condition. The community has appealed to the district, but, so far, to no avail. If anyone has any more info on this, or if there is a fundraising effort, please let me know! The next generations deserve to be able to see the fragile legacy of early Canadian settlers and the businesses that followed the rails in Northern Ontario.
**I have since learned that the Swords General Store is occupied and loved by the current owners. They have asked me to please ask visitors to respect their privacy and enjoy the house at a distance.**