Lake­hurst Na­tional His­toric Site

Grand Magazine - - FEATURE -

>> 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 >>

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