It’s Wayback Wednesday, sponsored by Jamie Lockwood, broker/owner of Sutton Group Muskoka Realty!
Do you recognize this location? The cabins may be long gone, but it remains a popular park where the Muskoka River meets Fairy Lake.
In 1920, town councillors decided the Town should buy property to the south of the Muskoka River to establish a public park. The problem: taxpayers couldn’t afford it. Enter the Huntsville Club, a group of public-minded citizens, who offered to raise funds by public subscription.
Charles E. Paget spearheaded the fundraising, and in just three days in the spring of 1922, signed up enough subscribers to purchase the land, which cost $2,500, and also an additional $700 to build a bridge over Cann’s creek. (The creek now runs through a buried culvert next to the high school.)
Memorial Park opened on July 2, 1923, a memorial to the men who had died in World War I.
In 1923, a parks commission was formed to look after the park. Paget was its chairman. In 1924, the parks commission purchased the point at the mouth of the river, where the Camp Kitchen park is today, for a safe bathing beach and a scenic drive along the river.
The parks commission built an access road alongside the river, constructed a new kitchen, and (in 1925) added more campsites to the park for motorists. By July of 1929, six furnished cabins had been added to Memorial Park and record numbers of people were camping overnight.
But the park’s history goes back even further. The Fairy Lake Camp Association was formed in the early 1890s by Jacob H. Johnson. He saw the potential for the land surrounding Cann’s Mountain (the Lookout). The land was leased by the Good Templars fraternal society for $25 per year, and by 1897 Johnson had become the camp’s manager. The camp earned revenue of $74.19 that year. The society’s option to buy the land expired at the end of 1898 and Johnson encouraged council to purchase the 140-acre property. (The property encompassed what today is the lands containing Huntsville High School, the Canada Summit Centre, Muskoka Heritage Place, and the Lookout.) It would take them until the 1920s to follow through on that suggestion.
Memorial Park also almost became the location of Canada’s first tuberculosis sanatorium. It was endorsed by the Medical Association of Parry Sound and Nipissing, and, in 1895, the then-village of Huntsville entered discussions with William Gage of the National Sanitorium Association. But Gravenhurst offered a $10,000 bonus to the association to build the sanatorium there; Huntsville chose not to follow suit.
Photo courtesy of Vintage Muskoka/Facebook. Details from Huntsville: With Spirit and Resolve.
See more Wayback Wednesday photos here.
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