Getaway and Stay
Thomas Aitken, who moved to Canada from Scotland in 1860, only came to be on the site of Windermere House after his first property further inland proved unsuitable for farming. Moving to the Lake Rosseau waterfront gave Aitken inspiration to venture into another growing industry. In the decades that followed he expanded the house to accommodate guests. By the 1890s, Windermere House was able to hold over 200 guests, and a night’s stay cost $1.50.
On February 27th, 1996, Windermere House was destroyed by a fire, leaving only the stone verandah behind. Though the fire took place during the filming of the Hollywood movie The Long Kiss Goodnight, the building was luckily empty that night. The Lady of the Lake, as the building was also called, was immediately rebuilt, incorporating much of the original stone, and was reopened for guests the summer of the following year. Though it has changed ownership over the years, Windermere House maintains its historic charm, and stands as a pillar of the tourism in Muskoka.
Highland Inn Algonquin Park
The Highland Inn was built and operated by the Grand Trunk Railway in Algonquin Park from 1908 to 1957. As this resort fell right along the train route, it is said that the Highland Inn was the introduction for many of the upper class to the serenity of our forests.
In 1954, a policy was put in place that required Algonquin Park be returned to its original state. The Ontario Government purchased the Highland Inn in 1956, and the following year it was dismantled and apparently burned. After its deconstruction, the location of the Highland Inn was filled with pine trees that are now tall enough to walk under. There are still hints of the hotel’s presence to be found though, as there remains an old staircase and small remnants of foundation hidden beneath layers of pine needles in the park.
The Waterhouse family was responsible for shaping Deerhurst Resort for three generations. An English entrepreneur named Charles Waterhouse opened the lodge along Peninsula Lake in 1896. During their first season open, guests paid $3.50 per person for a week’s stay.
Guests could enjoy fishing, swimming, rowing, and tennis, and some stayed for several weeks at a time. Over the years, they made upgrades and renovations which would allow them to become a year-round operation. Today, their Lakeside Lodge sits on the site of the original main building. This brochure is from 1952 and outlines the experience one could have while staying at Deerhurst. 2021 was Deerhurst’s 125th anniversary.
It remains one of the few Muskoka hotels that did not fall victim to a shifting economy, ownership changes, or the most common form of destruction for Muskoka businesses, fire.
Another of the original large Muskoka hotels, Clevelands House is the only which showcases its original structure.
In 1869, Charles Minett built his family a log cabin on the shore of Lake Rosseau. Outgrowing the original building, Minett built another structure which would become the main hotel. From 1869 until 1953, they ran Clevelan’s House themselves. This pamphlet is dated 1982, when Bob and Fran Cornell owned the resort.
Clevelands House was given its name as a tribute to Minett’s home in Bishops Cleeve. However, it is said that the hotel’s name as we know it is due to a printing mistake, as it was intended to be called Cleeve Lands but was never corrected
Dating back to 1935, Limberlost’s first building was put up by Jack and Bess MacDonald. This was where their family would stay, while their guests would sleep in the separate main lodge they built in 1940. As years passed, they continued building small cottages along the property and the ownership changed hands.
Today, the location of Limberlost Lodge is known as Limberlost Forest and Wildlife Preserve, a destination to explore some of Muskoka’s most beautiful trails free of charge, with the opportunity to rent one of these historic cabins or simply travel in for a day of outdoor activities all year long