Every so often, I have the privilege of visiting a place that seems frozen in time, where the voices of guests still echo through the halls and the warmth of summer memories never seem to fade.
Originally named the Vanomi Hotel, Sparrow Beach Lodge is a privately owned 100 year old resort that has only recently closed its doors. From vacationing fishermen, to an escape from the smogs industrial America for businessmen and their families; to a comfortable retreat for young musicians, Sparrow Beach Lodge has long been the grand lady of the northern part of Sparrow Lake in the most southerly part of Muskoka. It now serves as a private retreat for the family and their guests.
It was almost exactly a year ago that I posted my fantasy of visiting this ‘castle’ on the point (See “Sparrow Lake Castle“). It was a cool and sunny autumn day when I finally had my chance. I asked my friend, Bev McMullen to accompany me and the two of us met Walentina and Taras. Walentina was wonderful and enthusiastic host and was caught up in our excitement about seeing the lodge. Waletina ran the hotel after purchasing it from Stanley Socha and his wife in the 1970’s. (See “Chance Meeting“) Our visit began with a quick tour of the hotel that acquainted us with the different sections, floors and rooms. Some of the rooms were used for storage – rooms of sinks, laundry and one room was filled with beautiful, old and slightly tarnished bed frames.
Given permission to wander the hotel, I spent most of my time on the top two floors. The second floor was set up for guests. There were several rooms on each side of the hall and on two wings. Each room had a bed, a dresser a chair and a porcelain sink. Toilets and baths were at the end of the hall and opposite each other. The golden light of the sun came through the gauzy curtains on the lakeside of the building, illuminating the teal colour of the walls which cooled it ever so slightly. On a warm summer day the walls would have the effect of the ocean and a soft breeze was not difficult to imagine, in spite of the early October chill that came with the reality of the day. Where teals and pinks were found in the rooms facing the southern lakeside, yellow paint covered the doors on the landward side, as if to balance out the sun itself.
The solid wood staircases in this building were impressive. The wood barely showing the wear of 100 years of hands and children sneaking slides down the banisters. The windows flooded them with natural light that was warmed by the bare wood paneled walls. The entire building was wood, from the walls to the floors to the ceiling, some painted or stained, some not, giving the air on the second floor the smell of my grandmother’s hope chest.
The stairs ended on the third floor landing. French doors with delicately frosted glass and old brass hardware opened up to a massive hallway that was not fully closed in. Stanley had once told me that he did not like it up there and rarely ever went. Due to the prohibitive cost of insurance, the third floor was never used. It was colder than the lower floors and the walls were mostly unfinished. Three partially finished empty rooms waited at one end of the hall that perhaps, one time in the long ago past, may have been used to for staff. Old furniture and miscellaneous objects filled the remaining spaces making it a colossal attic.
After leaving the building, Bev and I were told about an old boat hull that sits on the other side of the point. The story goes that it was once owned by Walt Disney. All that remains is the metal hull, rusting with holes where rivets once split away from the weary weight of Muskoka snow. We wandered around it, stepped inside it and talked about our passion for the treasures and secrets that this place keeps.