Old Muskoka: Century Cottages and Summer Estates


176 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55046-285-7
DDC 971.3'16





Reviewed by Sarah Robertson

Sarah Robertson is the editor of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


An 1897 pamphlet titled Muskoka, Land of Health and Pleasure captured
the eternal appeal of Ontario’s premier vacation destination. This
well-written, handsomely produced book profiles more than 40 cottages
that were built on the “big three lakes”—Muskoka, Rosseau, and
Joseph—in the late 1800s and early 1900s. “These century
cottages,” the author notes in her introduction, “are important
because of their age and architecture, but they are also rich with
stories about their builders, summer happenings, visitors, excursions
and boats.”

Notable cottage owners included Dr. Emily Stowe, the first Canadian
woman to practise medicine in Canada; Grand & Toy founder James Grand;
and self-taught astronomer John Brashear, who had his wife’s tombstone
engraved with the epitaph “We have loved the stars too fondly, To be
fearful of the night.” The cottages themselves ran the gamut from an
austere dwelling referred to by its owner as a “22 by 44 foot barn”
to a seven-bedroom Dutch Colonial cottage equipped with a swimming pool,
steam launch, sailboat, diving tower, toboggan slide, tennis court,
bowling green, and croquet lawn, among other amenities. The emphasis on
“common simple wants” that characterized the early years gave way to
a trend to comfort, as noted in a 1900 issue of The Canadian Architect
and Builder: “People have discovered that all the joys of an
out-of-doors life are possible without dispensing with the niceties of
ordinary refinement.”

The book is generously illustrated with period and contemporary
photographs. Liz Lundell’s previous works include Algonquin: The Park
and Its People; Great Camps of Algonquin Park; and The Estates of Old
Toronto, which won the Toronto Historical Board Award of Merit.


Lundell, Liz., “Old Muskoka: Century Cottages and Summer Estates,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 19, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/17545.