Lakehurst National Historic Site
>> strong and well-seasoned. The walkways remain, leading from one copse to another.
Nearing the house, the view is camouflaged by the presence of a towering stone wall. It’s all that remains of Dodge’s greenhouse.
“It’s called a heat sink,” Kosoy explains. “The stone would gather heat during the day to help heat the greenhouse at night.”
Now thickly covered with ivy, the wall features a low rounded archway that leads towards the house.
In summer a wide perennial garden in front of the stone is a riot of colour. Beechcroft’s gardeners have insured that the flower species mirror those traditional Victorian ones planted in Dodge’s day.
Set against the deep blue of Lake Simcoe, Beechcroft at 144 years of age remains stunning.
Like Beechcroft, the privately owned garden at nearby Lakehurst was also designated by Parks Canada as a National Historic Site in 1978.
But while Beechcroft’s Dodge drew his fortune from the dense forests, the businessman who built Lakehurst, Capt. Isaac May, saw dollar signs in the clear waters of Lake Simcoe.
May, a veteran of the Napoleonic wars, moved his family to Upper Canada in 1864. Opportunity flourished. May found his in Roches Point.
A number of thriving settlements had sprung up around the lake: Orillia, Keswick, Beaverton, Jackson’s Point and Roches Point. Settlers and goods, including mail, needed to move between them.
May purchased a small fleet of lake steamers and soon was shuttling several times each day between communities.
Local lore paints Capt. May as somewhat of a character as well as an entrepreneur. It seems that nude bathing stops were, when the spirit moved him, part of his itinerary.
With business robust and money flowing, May purchased 97 acres of lakeside property adjacent to Anson Dodge’s Beechcroft.
Built in the Gothic Revival architectural style, May’s house design incorporated a rarity in Ontario house-building — a “widow’s walk” on the top floor of the home gave a bird’s eye view of the lake.
Traditionally built in seaside homes, the widow’s walk invited sailors’ families to watch for the return of their loved one from a voyage. Or in Captain May’s case, from shuttling the mail to Jackson’s Point.
An expansive garden would complement May’s estate. While local history remains uncertain if Lakehurst was constructed before Beechcroft or after, one fact is certain. Lakehurst’s gardens also bear the unmistakable stamp of Frederick Olmsted.
Olmsted favoured the more formal and showy “gardenesque” landscape architectural style for Lakehurst. Among its defining features, “parterres,” or symmetrical formal gardens edged in stone, were separated one >>