Sunday, 28 December 2014

Buckingham Church & Cemetery

My pen & ink study of the Buckingham Church

Long before the days of social media, strip malls and Sunday shopping, churches were the hub of social and spiritual activity for many communities.  Churches come in many shapes and sizes.  In towns and cities they could be grand and majestic, and in the country they were small and quaint, but by far no less regal in stature.  

Many residents of Grey Highlands will no doubt recognize this beautiful little brick church which sits proudly on County Road #31 not far from the hamlet of Rob Roy.  It is known to the locals as the "Buckingham Church" in honour of the family who donated the land for it, and whose ancestors now lay quietly at rest in the cemetery grounds.  The parcel of land on which the church and cemetery sits was donated by pioneer farmer John Buckingham in the 1850's.  The first church on the property was actually constructed of logs and sat just west of the present brick church.  It was one of the first churches to be built in northern Osprey Township.  

Life in pioneer times in the country meant that there were few luxuries and churches were no exception.  The congregation sat on backless wooden benches, and as there was no organ available they began their hymnal singing with the assistance of a tuning fork.  In the summer of 1891 the construction of a new church was begun with great sacrifice of time and money.  Bricks were brought up the mountain from Collingwood by horse and wagon, and by the spring of 1892 the red brick church was finally completed.  One of the residents who had dedicated so much to the construction of the new church was Thomas Hawton. Unfortunately he passed away in 1892 and his was to be the last service to be held in the original log church on the property.  Three weeks later, the new red brick church opened for services.

The first minister was the Reverend Hugh Brown, and there was a rotation of ministers as the Buckingham Church was part of a group of five churches on the "Maxwell circuit."  There was a profusion of organists too, and Mrs. Robert Buckingham and Susan Hawton were among these.  As life in the early 20th century didn't have the luxury of central heating, young Norman Buckingham would stop by the church on his way home from school to light a fire so that it would be warm for prayer meetings.  For this he was paid the sum of five cents which was actually quite generous for the time period. 

Over time in the early 1900's, many of those who worshipped at the church began moving west in search of new land and new beginnings.  At the same time new churches were springing up in adjacent townships, and both of these factors served to draw membership away from Buckingham church.  By the early 1950's only a handful of parishioners remained, and the last regular service was held at the church in 1952.  Many of the intrepid pioneer families who were instrumental in the creation of this beautiful church and who once worshipped here now lie peacefully at rest in the cemetery in both marked and unmarked graves.  

This wonderful little church sits a concession over from our cottage and I have visited it many times over the years.  Twenty years ago the original pump organ still proudly graced the altar area, but it has since disappeared. It is a serene place to visit, to walk through the cemetery and ponder the lives lived and now resting in solitude amongst the cedars. We visited the church on Christmas Day, and I was pleased to see that not only had the ceiling been repaired, but that the overall condition of the church seems to have improved since my last visit a couple of summers ago.  As a tribute, Howard and I did an impromptu selfie sing-a-long of "Silent Night" as a tribute to the little church.  It has been the target of needless vandalism over the years, but hopefully folks will learn to respect this humble but magnificent structure.

Buckingham Church, front entrance.

An interior panorama.

Early 20th century central heating.

Windows to God showcasing Mother Nature and her glory.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Milton and the legacy of the Martin family

Martin's Mill, built in 1856

Milton may have been so named in honour of the poet John Milton, but also as a "mill town" that owes it's very existence to one courageous and industrious family, the Martins.

Jasper Martin and his wife Sarah left Newcastle, England on May 17th, 1818. They were both just 21 years of age, and with them were their 3 year old son John and his 4 month old brother Joseph. They arrived at York (now Toronto) in August of 1818 where they lived for three years.  In 1820 a third child - a girl - was born but died in infancy.  While they lived in York, Jasper received from the Crown 100 acres of land described as Lot 14, Concession 2,Township of Trafalgar, Halton County in the district of Gore.

On October 15th, 1821, Jasper, Sarah and their sons settled on the property allotted to them, and in addition purchased another 100 acres of land from one Joseph Whitefield who subsequently returned back to the Old Country.  Young Jasper was clever, industrious and far-sighted, and he realized almost immediately the need for a grist mill to serve the pioneer settlers in the district.  He was soon hard at work erecting a simple frame building, and by 1822 had a grist mill in operation.  In 1825, he followed this with both a sawmill and an ashery.

Early settlers to this area endured many hardships, and the Martins saw more than their fare share.  Only the bare details exist, but the sad facts were that Jasper and Sarah had tragically short lives. Sarah passed away at 33, and Jasper at 36. During the short span of their lives, to them 5 children were born.  The aforementioned John and Joseph,  the infant Hanah who passed away, and two more boys - Edward and William, both born here in Milton.

During his lifetime, Jasper was responsible for damming the creek and creating an artificial mill pond.  The work for this was done entirely by hand, but as the need for depth increased ox drawn barges were employed to remove the mud and silt.  According to one local story, during a flood one season the bank of the pond gave away.  Living close by was an old woman who kept pigs, and as the waters swirled and rose, the old woman,pigs and buildings apparently went floating on the pond together.

When Jasper Martin died, the grist and sawmills were carried on by his sons.  The mill building pictured in my sketch was built in 1856, the year before Milton was incorporated as a town.  This mill operated under power derived from the mill pond and Sixteen Mile Creek which fed it.  For all the prosperity that the pond and the creek brought the Martin family, it also brought them tragedy.  In 1846, youngest son William was drowned in the pond, and eldest son John drowned in the Martin Street creek in 1871.  At some point in time, Joseph Martin went to Australia and the mill was operated by local man John White and John Martin.  The mill was in operation from 1856 until 1963 when it was destroyed by fire.  Occasionally during this time others may have operated or rented the mill, but it was always owned by the Martin family.  

The Martin family are rightly regarded as the founders of this town, for if it were not for Jasper's ingenuity, the mill pond and mill town - "Milton" - would never have saw existence.  Although the mill itself is now gone, you need not look too far to see reminders of the Martin Family.  The mill pond and it's grounds sit in the centre of the old town, a beautiful area now called Centennial Park and frequented by many.  Adjacent to the park is Martin Street, named for the family. And sitting proudly on Martin Street facing both the pond and the park is the stately Martin family home, built in 1860 by son Joseph.  If you walk a short distance down to Main Street and head east, you can also see our magnificent original town hall, also built by Joseph in 1865 for the princely sum of $5,000.

While the mill that created it is now but a distant memory, the rich legacy of an intrepid pioneer family, the Martins, will live on forever in this wonderful town which we now call home, Milton.

The Martin family home, 57 Martin Street - built in 1860

Milton Town Hall & Market Building, built in 1865 by Joseph Martin

Dr. McKay's home, 242 Third Street .......

As a young boy growing up in Collingwood , I was blessed to have Dr. Donald McKay both as a doctor and a dear family friend.  It was he who was responsible for bringing me into this world (yes folks, blame him), and he would always refer to me as "his boy."  He was the last of a breed of family physicians who cared enough about their patients to make house calls, doing this this often with his "black bag" at his side. It was he along with my grandparents who fostered in me my lasting love and passion for the heritage and history of our wonderful town.

In addition to loving history, I was also obsessed with the McKay's beautiful home.  To the younger me, it represented a "Gone With the Wind" fantasy brought to Collingwood.  I was ever so fortunate enough to have a personal tour of this wonderful house so long ago, and the McKay's kindness left a lasting impression on me.  Although the family have called this beautiful structure home since 1952, theirs was not the first "physician family" to reside there.

242 Third Street came into being as the ornate excesses of the Victorian era were fading away.  The early 20th century saw a renewed interest in the solid respectability of architecture in the Classical tradition.  Thus, this beautiful 2 and a half storey home in brick is a remarkable example of the style  known as "Colonial Revival." Built in 1907-08, the 6 bedroom home was designed by Collingwood architect John Wilson for retired lumber mill manager Charles Pitt.  Mr. Pitt was an avid hunter, and his primary specification was that there be a space sufficient enough on the second floor landing to display a moosehead with a sixty-six inch antler span.  Not only did this request produce a magnificent central staircase that splits into two at the central landing, Mr. Wilson also included a ram's head motif in the design which is repeated throughout the house - in the capitals of the ionic columns on the portico, the interior front door surround, and the oak octagonal columns surrounding the staircase.  

On the exterior, the monumental portico is supported by two impressive ionic columns and shades a semi-circular second storey balcony with vase shaped pickets.  There are also a liberal scattering of Palladian windows decorating the side and rear facades which was also a detail quite popular at the time.  One particular detail of note is the side "porte cochere" where  buggies and coaches could be safely parked for easy entrance. Capping off the structure is an original slate roof which is also indicative of the style of the era. 

Construction of the home commenced in October of 1907, and according to "The Enterprise-Messenger",  the handsome home would be completed at a cost of $20,000 and include 5 fireplaces, leaded glass, French doors, and a bell system for summoning the servants.  The home is surrounded by an original cast iron fence, and there is even a very rare and unique cast iron "horsehead" hitching post still standing watch at the bottom of the walkway.

After serving on town council for several years, Charles Pitt passed away from typhoid fever in 1927. The following year his widow Ella sold the home to Dr. Alexander McFaul for $6,250.  Not only was Dr.McFaul a gifted surgeon, he also served as Mayor of Collingwood and Chairman of the Board of Education. He passed away in 1951 at the age of 89.

The McKay's - Donald and Frances and their four children moved in a year later, and the home has remained in the family ever since.  One lasting memory I have is of the annual Christmas tree that Dr. McKay would put out festively lit on the upper portico.   Sadly, the elder McKay's are no longer with us, and their son Ian who inherited it passed away in October of 2015.  The house has now passed on down the family tree to Ian's children Jenn and Andrew who are committed to breathing new life into this very special family home.


A 1960's image of the McKay family at the bottom of the central staircase. From left to right, Dr. Donald McKay, daughter Nora, son Don, wife Frances, and sons Ian & Stuart.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The first time we went for a walk through town here in Milton, we passed by this home at 296 Pine Street and I have been captivated by it's beauty ever since.

It was built on the west bank of Sixteen Mile Creek by Cornelius Foreman in 1855. It was financed by James McGuffin and sold to industrialist Samuel Morse on June 22nd, 1857 who at the same time was busy constructing a foundry not far away on Commercial Street.  From there he sold and manufactured ploughs and other farm implements.  

Samuel was active in local politics and represented the East Ward on Milton Council from 1867 to 1870.  He passed away in 1870, and the home remained in the family until 1890.  Subsequent owners also included local retired banker James Mogridge who in addition to being a golf enthusiast was also an active member and chairman of the local library board.  

The current owners have updated the home, but it's unique charm and history are still very obvious in this wonderful property.  

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Indian Hill Farm

Indian Hill Farm

Indian Hill Farm is located on Osler Bluff southwest of Collingwood and was the weekend retreat of our wonderful neighbours, John & Carol Rykert and their children. This beautiful farm style home is comprised of three floors, the first and second constructed of beautiful rusticated brick built into the side of a natural hill, and the third level and garage of traditional board & batten. A wonderful trellis style porch completes the package and gives the home a marvellous finishing touch.  

Indian Hill Farm is so named as a result of an ancient Indian burial ground that was discovered many years ago when construction work was being done on Osler Bluff Road. When we moved there in 1970, the road was still very much a country gravel road.  It is rumoured that the reason why the hill leading to Osler Bluff was never levelled out was due to the fact that a portion of the burial ground lay beneath it.   This area was once home to the Huron and Petun Indians, and if you ever have the chance to visit Scenic Caves you can learn more about these tribes.   What I can tell you is that I vividly recall the Rykert children showing me a basket full of arrowheads and other stone artifacts they had found on their property, mostly in the field surrounding their home.  As Silver Creek bisects this area and runs though my folks property down the road, I have found many small bones and fragments while playing in the river over the years.  One of my more "interesting" discoveries is what I believe to be a tooth that I found while playing in the river with my ducks a long time ago.  

The drawing above was done by  a 16 year old me on July 13th, 1981 as I sat on a rise across the river from the house.  I remember that summer well, for two weeks later I would be watching a very young Lady Diana Spencer marry her future "prince." There's more to my Diana reference, and I will definitely share that in a future post. 

 I hope you enjoyed this little story, and as always - thank you for reading! 

Indian Tooth?

Monday, 24 November 2014

Mrs. Rykert's House

A classic example of an ornate Victorian Regency cottage circa the 19th century.

We moved to Osler Bluff Road way back in 1970 and the Rykerts - Carol, John and children Elizabeth, Pam, Serena and John were our "weekend neighbours" from Toronto at Indian Hill Farm up the road. The Rykert family were wonderful, generous and kind folks, and I have many fond memories of time spent playing in the woods and river surrounding our properties. The family were frequent travellers, and I remember well some of the great gifts that they would bring back for me. Among those that I recall the most were a very powerful slingshot with lead bullets that my grandpa Neil once 'accidentally" shot a hole through the neighbour's screen door with while scaring squirrels, and a great pair of English Wellington boots that were identical to the ones a very young Lady Diana Spencer was wearing when photographed fishing with Prince Charles on the River Dee in 1981.  In addition to these, my other great memory is of the delicious crates of oranges and grapefruits we would regularly receive at Christmas while the family was on holiday in Florida. For a young boy I always found these thoughtful gifts both exciting and somewhat exotic.

After Mr. Rykert passed away in 1981 Mrs. Rykert - Carol - became a more welcome and regular presence next door. Eventually as her brood grew older, she moved from the larger farm next door at Indian Hill (so named because of the Indian burial ground under the hill on Osler Bluff Road), and into Grandma Morrison's smaller Victorian era brick cottage atop the hill across from the Buckingham Farm.  She did a wonderful renovation and restoration of this beautiful home and added a very seamless addition to the original structure.  When I was still living at home I would often pop in for a visit with her, and we would discuss books, her trips and architecture, while her dog Cosmo and my dog Lady played in the yard.  

Carol was a wonderfully kind lady, and we were so blessed to have her as a neighbour.  She was a patron of the arts and very much an active part of Collingwood life.  When I moved away from home, there were many things and people I missed from home and she was definitely one of those folks. This past summer we were passing by and decided to drop in for a visit as it had been so long since I had seen her.  We ended up having a very wonderful chat capped off with a goodbye hug.  In retrospect, I'm so glad I decided to stop in for it was to be the last time I saw her. Carol passed away on Tuesday November 18th, and with her an integral part of the tapestry of our neighbourhood. She will truly be missed.

Carol and her son John on his wedding day

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Hamilton House

For many years this beautiful old home sitting just outside of Collingwood on Highway #24 fascinated me.  As my grandparents Neil and Reba lived in Nottawa, we passed this house very frequently, and for many years it sat vacant shuttered in by trees and surrounded by farmland. It wasn't until the early 1990's that the home finally saw the love and attention it so deserved when it was purchased by a fine gentleman named Raymond Greer who saw it's potential and brought it back to life.

The home itself was constructed in 1912 by the descendants of one William Hamilton, a former "wharfinger" or warehouse worker for the Northern Railway. The Hamilton family once resided in a stately home at 227 Minnesota Street in town, but in 1882 ill health prompted the decision for him to quit his job and move his wife Annie and their eight children to a 170 acre farm outside of town. Mr. Hamilton passed away five years later, but the property remained in the hands of his wife and children. 

This splendid home is a great example of "Edwardian Architecture" (1890-1916) which followed the ornate romanticism of the Victorian period preceding it.  The Edwardian period is associated with the reign of King Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria who reigned between 1901 and 1910.  As the reign of Victoria wound down, so to did the ornate architecture that came to be associated with her. The Edwardian style was a precursor to the more simplified styles of the 20th century. Many Classical elements such as colonies and keystones are present, but in a much more simplified and understated presence.  The architects and designers of most Edwardian homes created beautiful designs with a rural coziness that is so lacking in 21st century houses.  The exteriors are rather unassuming and humble compared to the extravagant signs of the Victorian era.  The interiors are where all the elegant paintings, fine telework stained glass and ornament inspired by Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts can be found.

Edwardian homes such as this splendid example are characterized by a gable front, three or four bedrooms upstairs and a porch of generous proportions. Not only is there an ample sized porch with multiple white columns, but as an added bonus - this one comes with a dramatic sunporch above.  This style also featured a smooth brick surface cut with many windows with generous sills.  Capping it off was a gleaming slate roof - although this one has since been replaced with red tile.

I have sketched and photographed this home several times over the years, and was fortunate enough to spend time in it as well.  The pen and ink study above much like the home itself has been altered several times since it's creation. The love that gave both it and the home life has not diminished.

Thank you for looking and for sharing an interest!

Sandy .......

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

"Casper's House"

This beautiful abandoned farm home sits at the corner of County Road #31 in Grey Highlands - just before you turn to head towards Singhampton. We drive by it every time we come back home to Milton, and I have always been enamoured with it.  It is quite typical of the farm homes of it's era, most likely constructed during the latter half of the 19th century in both board & batten with cedar shakes over timber construction. Quite a few folks have told me that this home was actually occupied back in the 1980's, but today the house is open to the elements and usually surrounded by cattle and horses as we pass it by. I have always referred to it as "Casper's House" after one of my favourite cartoon characters - "Casper the Friendly Ghost." It most certainly looks as though Casper could live here, and I was inspired to illustrate him doing just that.

The first image here is a pen & ink sketch I did of the home while out for a ride on my mountain bike.  The second is how I would imagine Casper sleeping, um floating peacefully by a wood stove in the back corner room of the old home. 

The bottom image is a panoramic shot I took one evening while driving home. This beautiful shot captures not only the mystery of the home, but the stunning sunset as well.  I certainly hope you enjoy this post, and thank you so much for looking!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Jardine Sideroad

This wonderful example of the classic "Old Ontario Farmhouse" once sat on the northwest corner of the Jardine Sideroad just off Hwy #24 on the way to Duntroon.  For many years I was fascinated by this gem, and it commanded a prime piece of farmland with a stunning view towards the panorama of Blue Mountain. 

The home itself way typical of the centre floor plan style. It had a central stair hall with an ornately carved walnut banister, and four rooms downstairs. The rear portion of the home was also cast in brick giving it the traditional "T" shape and was occupied with the kitchen quarters. Attached to this was a wooden back shed, also typical of these types of farm homes. Upstairs there were 4 bedrooms of generous proportions along with a solitary bathroom, also typical of the era.

This wonderful home was blessed with a wealth of ornate detailing, from its buff brick surrounds, carved roof supports, gable details and most impressive - it's detailed front porch.  I visited and photographed the home many times over the years, and simply had to sketch it and capture it's beauty.

Sadly, after sitting vacant for many years, this beautiful symbol of a bygone era was torn down and replaced by yet another soulless piece of modern architecture.  The only reminder of the glory that once stood here is the still beautiful barn in the back of the property, missing some of it's cladding but still a glorious reminder of what once was.

I searched through my photo archives folks and found a few photos I took of this beautiful home. The first shows the exterior in all it's glory with the rear kitchen and a peek at the rear shed as well. I collaged the second image, and it is of the beautiful walnut banister that graced the centre stair hall, replete with ornate carving. The third is of course the beautiful barn which still stands proudly overlooking the fields.

I hope you enjoy these images, and thank you for looking!

Monday, 10 November 2014

"The Birchs"

Growing up in Collingwood, I was so fortunate to surrounded by a town steeped in tradition, history and blessed with a wealth of beautiful historic homes.  The home pictured above has always been one of my particular favourites.  "The Birchs" as it was affectionately named was designed by English civil engineer Richard Palin and constructed in 1861.  It is somewhat of an architectural curiosity as it is built in the unusual "sawmill plank" method of construction, that being that the individual planks are laid on top of each other, plank on plank.  This beautiful home has always reminded me of an English farmhouse, and even though it once sat on a rather generous 2 acre lot - I have always pictured it in a country setting.

Several well known Collingwood families have called this gem their home, but during my youth I always referred to it as the "Harvie Home" as it was now occupied by Dr. Douglas Harvie and his wife Madeline. If your ever fortunate enough to be in Collingwood, the home sits at 227 Minnesota Street and is definitely worth a drive by as the entire street is blessed with a wealth of great architectural gems.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Cottage

Over the years I have dabbled in many "Folk Art" projects. As a young boy, I was obsessed with building things - in particular - small houses out of lumber, and I was assisted by my beloved late grandfather Neil. We spent many hours in the basement creating small houses for my favourite toy Snoopy based on drawings I had created. Many years later after he retired, my grandpa loved creating many of his own folk art projects, and I was only too happy to assist him. Many folks were amazed by his handiwork, and my grandma used to tell them he got lots of practice building things with me when I was little. Sadly, my grandpa passed away in 1992, and to this day whenever I create something I wish he was around to see my work.

The picture you see above is definitely "folksy" in feeling and media. My mom and I were gathering leaves one day and she remarked how interesting it would be if I painted something on a leaf since there were so many very generously sized specimens. We gathered a few, and then I set out to find the perfect subject. I did not have to look any further than our own family cottage in beautiful Grey County. Based on a drawing by yours truly and built by McIntyre Brothers and my father in 1987, the cottage truly is my home and haven. My inspiration was my home base.

Starting with a leaf of ample proportions, I first varnished it to prepare the surface for painting. I selected the image from a photo my mom had sent me one winter when the weather kept me from home more than I was happy with. Then with the utmost of care, I painted the image in acrylic paint hoping to capture just the right balance of warmth and home in a winter setting. I must say, I was pleased with the result. A final coat of varnish to seal the surface and then I carefully glued the delicate work to a piece of 100% organic paper made out of plant matter, leaves and flowers. After that, all that was needed was a nice frame and I was good to go! Since there was so much texture in the organic paper, I found it unnecessary to use a mat as the picture already had enough points of interest.

It definitely was an interesting study, and one that I most certainly will be revisiting.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Buckingham Farm

For many years the Buckingham Farm occupied the tract of land on the north side of Osler Bluff Road. The Buckingham's had a long history in the county. It is recorded that their ancestors had settled into the area as early as the 1850's, and if you ever get chance to pay a visit to the pioneer church not far from Rob Roy, the cemetery is dotted with stones bearing the names of their kin.

I was fortunate enough to grow up across from this beautiful farm which was now in the hands of John Buckingham and his family. I spent many hours assisting these folks in cutting and baling hay, milking - yes, milking cows, and even churning butter. As the elder Buckingham's passed on, the farm was eventually sold and sat vacant for a number of years. The beautiful farm home was eventually torn down in the early 1990's.

I did this pen & ink with watercolour study to capture and immortalize it and their memory. The home itself was the classic "Old Ontario" farmhouse based on the centre hall floor plan and back kitchen. Except for the scattering of lilac bushes that graced the rise from which the house once stood, the farm property itself has now been taken over by the luxury homes of the Windrose Valley Development.

The image is 9"x12" on 100% rag watercolour paper, acid free and is available to purchase. Please contact me for details at  or at 416.827.5324 if you are interested.

Thanks for looking!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Natures Sentries

The Tree

Standing tall, standing proud
Mother Nature's majestic soldiers
Markers of time and space
They shelter us with their leafy canopies
Dazzle us with brilliant colours
Asking nothing in return
Yet, we ravage their lush forests
Plunder their woody bounty
How on earth does man not see
The magnificent noble value
Of the humble tree?

Osler Castle ....... A tribute to love in bricks, mortar & stone.

High on top of beautiful Blue Mountain in historic Grey County sits the ghost of a monument to love and devotion. Osler Castle was not a "Castle" per say.  It was however a grand country manor in the style and grace of a generation who valued quality craftsmanship and most of all, romance.

Britton Bath Osler (1839-1901), the namesake and the creator of this magnificent landmark, saw his humble beginnings as the son the Reverend of a pioneer Anglican Parish near his birth place of Bond Head.
His studies began in Barrie in 1844, and continued in both Bradford and Bond Head before he became an apprentice in law at Dundas. From there he advanced a law office in the burgeoning metropolis of Toronto, and this set off a brilliant and lucrative career as both a criminal and corporate lawyer. His criminal claim to prominence was in securing the conviction of Louis Riel on charges of treason during the North-West Rebellion of 1885.

Caroline Osler nee Caroline Smith (1836-1895) was the daughter of Captain H.Smith of the East India Company.  Britton and his beloved "Carrie" had met in 1859 when his father Featherstone was engaged to marry caroline's sister Henrietta in the year 1861. At this time the Smith family was living in Ancaster, and much later on in time the Osler's would come to build a home in nearby Dundas called "Staplehurst." Caroline and Britton were married in 1863, and from this union sprang the involvement with Collingwood , our beautiful Blue Mountains and the "castle" at Deer Park.

Mrs. Osler suffered greatly from a severe case of arthritis and was confined to a wheelchair in the later years of her life. As a symbol of his undying devotion and to hopefully ease and alleviate her pain, Osler searched the countryside for an attractive location where they would be surrounded by natural beauty. He came to discover the ideal place in Collingwood Township a few miles west of Collingwood. He came to purchase an expansive tract of land some 330 acres in size on a wooded hillside cleft by Silver Creek and overlooking a large pond from which the creek was born.

The mansion itself was inspired by many of the homes in the Tuxedo Park area of Upper New York State, and architect E.B. Jarvis was commissioned to prepare plans for a large home set up upon a rise of land on the north side of the stream.  The front of the home faced south-east giving a panoramic view of the southern hills and the rock face which came to be known as "Osler Bluffs" and the spreading flatlands of Nottawasaga Township. To the eastern horizon could be seen Nottawasaga Bay, and I would assume on a clear evening - the faintly twinkling lights of the port of Collingwood.

Construction on the home began in 1893, and a Mr. Robert Burdette of Collingwood was listed as the contractor. The building itself was built on a full basement with a home containing 15 rooms above it. A rambling verandah encompassed the front and eastern sides of the home with a massive freestanding stone archway at it's forefront.  No expense was spared in constructing this grand manor, and only the finest artisans and craftsmen were employed. Much of the stone was quarried on site by stone masons James Ball and John Homes of Barrie, and their work still endures today - a testament to their craftsmanship. The interior woodwork was of the finest quality featuring mahogany, birds eye maple and oak. Frank and William Bryan, the "Bryan Brothers", were master craftsmen and responsible for many of Collingwood's grand homes. They were entrusted with the the design and installation of all of the interiors, and the interior beauty reflected the beautiful work these gentlemen and their company were well known for.

The mansion was completed in 1895 and Mr. Osler chartered a surrey to bring Caroline to her beautiful new mountain retreat. She named their new home "Kiononta" which was Petun Indian phrasing for "Top of the Hill." The locals also came to know the estate as "Deer Park" which they affectionately gave to the home as Mr. Osler raised a small herd of deer on a farm there. Mr. Osler had many grand schemes for the property including stocking the lake with trout, and the construction of two dams, the remains of which can still be seen if carefully searched for.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Osler was unable to enjoy her wonderful new home for very long as she succumbed to illness soon after taking residence.  Mr. Osler did remarry, and he did spend several summers in the home before he passed away in Atlantic City, New Jersey in 1901.

After this time, the castle sat alone and neglected. Over time, vandals and the elements ate away at the structure. The furnishings were pilfered, the interior woodwork stolen, and even the plumbing fixtures stripped away. The structure was still fully standing in the 1930's,  although the interior was now barren and devoid of any of the luxury and opulence that had besot it early in it's life. The remainder of the home was apparently consumed by fire - the exact date not being accurately recollected - and all that remained of this beautiful landmark was the hearty permanence of the stone that encompassed it's once grand interior. 

 Today that stone still stands as a testament to an enduring romance, and a grave marker to those who gave it life.

I have updated my blog here with some new photos for you. The beautiful new header picture which I absolutely love was given to me by the son of my dear late doctor, Donald McKay. Like myself, Dr. McKay was an avid history buff and also fascinated with our beautiful "castle." Much thanks to Ian McKay and to my father Brian for speaking with him about it and getting me some more wonderful photos.  This view is actually rather rare as there seem to be very few images showing the eastern side view of the home.

The second photo is a pen & ink study I did of a rarely seen east side view of the "castle." I have sketched it many times, and hope you enjoy this unique view.  Thanks for reading!