Saturday was Doors Open Muskoka, 2008.
It is a part of the Doors Open Ontario program which allows people an opportunity to visit sites of historic interest that are otherwise closed to the public or are private residences. My time was limited, so I was only able to visit one community – Bala – one of my favourite towns in the region.
The first site we visited was the Dempster cottage. The building was originally the Big “B” camp, operated by the Wesley Methodist Church for 30 years beginning in the 1880’s. The Dempster family (the family gives the bread brand their name – even though the family has not owned the bakery for many years) attended the camp and later purchased the cottage. The building has remained in the family for nearly a century. A few changes have been made over the years in order to allow for more space and winter use – but the building is remarkably original. Thank you to the Dempsters for generously inviting us into their family cottage!
The second cottage we visited has also remained in the same family for nearly a century. Designed for the Smith family in 1917 by W.G. Burns, Lindermere is a beautiful building in the arts and crafts style. The cottage is also used in the winter, however, the upper floor is closed off because the roof is not insulated.
Lindermere boasts the first indoor tub and washroom in Muskoka. The first lady of the house suffered from arthritis and was unable to bathe in the lake, so the tub was plumbed and there is a separate little nook for the toilet with a direct access door to the outside!
In 2006, the cottage came very close to destruction. Tornadoes swept through Bala and knocked a huge white pine onto the the chimney stack of the building. Miraculously, the chimney held and the cottage was unharmed.
The image below is of the swimsuits worn by the current owner’s grandparents in the early days of the cottage.
The last building to see was the Trinity St. Albans Anglican Church. The church was designed and built in 1920 by the same architect as Lindermere, W.G. Burns. The stunning woodwork here is beautifully preserved. There is a small room off to the side called the Chapel of the Welsh Saints. This was to associate the town with its namesake that is also lakeside in Wales.
I look forward to next year! Doors Open Ontario is operating throughout the season at several locations around the province. To see what the program is all about and for a listing of the events for the rest of 2008, visit the Doors Open Ontario website