Morgan House Bed and Breakfast celebrates 25 years

6

 


THIS BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT SHINES ON

 

Brought to you by this community-minded organization because they recognize that
good business is good for everyone:


Long before there was Airbnb, there were—and still are—bed and breakfasts with hosts who welcome travellers into their own homes, providing a place to sleep, a home-cooked breakfast, and deep knowledge of local sights.

The prospect of being ambassadors for Muskoka is part of what drew hosts Pam Carnochan and Jamie Honderich to open the Morgan House Bed and Breakfast, just off Highway 60 east of Huntsville. Twenty-five years later, they’re still at it and still loving it.

Way back in the early 1990s, Jamie (known to most people as “Hondo”) was in town for an interview for a short-term occasional position at the high school. He felt good about it, enough so that he stopped in to ask a local real estate agent to show him some properties in the area. The Morgan House was the first place he saw, but when he took Pam on a tour of local homes a few days later he saved it for last. With its history and surrounding farmland, he knew she would fall in love with it.

Pam grew up on a farm. She was a cartographer by trade, and knew that her profession wasn’t transferable to Huntsville—she’d have to make her own employment if the couple moved here. She had already been investigating the idea of owning a bed and breakfast elsewhere, and so already armed with information about the best types of location and layout she knew instantly that Morgan House was it.

“This place had it all,” she says. “It had good bones and at a price we could afford.”

Morgan House as it looked when Pam Carnochan and Jamie Honderich purchased it (supplied)

Morgan House as it looked when Pam Carnochan and Jamie Honderich purchased it (supplied)

The Morgan House was built in 1903—”We believe it was the same builder that built the Anglican church in town. It’s the only other building around with the same pink mortar,” says Pam—and the surrounding land once settled and farmed by the family encompassed most of what today is the Hidden Valley subdivision, Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area and Hidden Valley Resort.

Morgan House Bed and Breakfast sits on 77 acres—47 of the farm’s original 100 acres, along with 30 acres from a property that was adjacent to the Morgan farm. All of it is accessible to their guests, including some woodland hiking trails and paths around the ponds and through the pastures. They fondly call one of the pastures Stanley Park, after their Norwegian Elkhound.

When Pam and Hondo first moved in, their elderly neighbour was Lawrence Morgan and he spent many hours sharing details about his family’s property, along with an album of old photos.

Members of the Morgan family, date unknown (Lawrence Morgan)

Members of the Morgan family, date unknown (Lawrence Morgan)

The new Hidden Valley ski area ca. 1965 was built on the former south half of the Morgan farm (Lawrence Morgan)

After a year of renovations, Morgan House Bed and Breakfast was ready to open.

They opened just after Labour Day and had guests almost immediately. There were 45 in the first month alone—at that time they operated with three guest bedrooms, and have since reduced that to two. “I had stupidly taken employment at Muskoka Heritage Place, demonstrating the heritage lifestyle, and I would dash home and change beds to welcome people an hour later,” says Pam. “The whole experience was a bit of a blur because it happened so fast.”

Pam’s farmer dad thought they were a bit crazy. “Farmers just invited people to stay so he didn’t know why anyone would pay to stay,” she says. Later he told her, “‘well, that’s as good as beans’ and if you’re a bean farmer, that is high, high praise.”

To add to the flurry of their new business, six weeks after opening Pam and Hondo learned they were expecting their first child. Eli arrived a month early and the night he was born they had a house full of guests. “Jamie had to knock on their doors and tell them they would have to get their own breakfast,” says Pam.

They raised two children at Morgan House—Eli and his sister Sadie are adults now—and it meant that Pam could have her own career at the same time. At first it was just the bed and breakfast and later she returned to her artistic roots as a fibre artist.

Within the first year of owning Morgan House they had acquired sheep, but with no barn as yet, they lived under the porch. Pam and Hondo later relocated an old barn from Burk’s Falls. “It was important to us to have something authentic to go with this historic home,” says Pam.

This old barn at Morgan House Bed and Breakfast was dismantled at a farm in Burk's Falls and painstakingly reassembled at its current home

This old barn at Morgan House Bed and Breakfast was dismantled at a farm in Burk’s Falls and painstakingly reassembled at its current home

The sheep were joined over the years by chickens—which provide eggs for Morgan House guests—horses and a donkey. Seasonal ingredients from the farm’s garden and apple orchard complement what’s on the menu for breakfast. They make their own maple syrup, too.

“We take great pride in making a great breakfast that is also customized for our guests,” says Pam. “I like being creative in the kitchen. I like to roll out a Canadian-style breakfast but with more seasonal products. It’s homemade and fresh every day.”

And they love getting to know their guests.

“We get to have lots of fireside chats,” says Pam, adding that their guests have come from all over the world and appreciate the advice and insider information they learn about the area. “I’ve had several guest say to me that they purposefully choose to stay in a bed and breakfast so that they can learn what to do quickly and efficiently, especially when they are passing through for a short time.”

Guests at Morgan House Bed and Breakfast have their own entrance to the historical home

Guests at Morgan House Bed and Breakfast have their own entrance to the historical home

In addition to that local intel, bed and breakfasts like Morgan House offer a unique experience.

At Morgan House, guests can roam the property and add to their visit through Hondo’s adventure company, Find Your Wild. On the property he offers axe throwing and archery in the woods, as well as an escape room-type firefighter challenge. He also offers a variety of outdoor adventures in the region, including hiking, paddling, and snowshoeing.

And guests at the Morgan House are often intrigued by Pam’s art work. A fibre artist, she uses fleece from their sheep to create ‘watercolours’ out of wool. Thanks to the addition of a beautiful sunroom for the occasion of the Morgan House’s 20th anniversary—space that also functions as a gallery—Pam is now part of the annual Muskoka Autumn Studio Tour.

Now that their children are grown, the couple are also opening their doors to more events like weddings and anniversary parties. “We have the space here and with the beautiful landscaping, it lends itself to events,” says Pam.

There are four scenic ponds on the Morgan House Bed and Breakfast's 77-acre property

There are four scenic ponds on the Morgan House Bed and Breakfast’s 77-acre property

The advent of Airbnb and some of the controversy surrounding short-term rental properties hasn’t changed how B&Bs like the Morgan House operate, but Pam says it is important for people to know that a bed and breakfast is a legally recognized accommodation business. “We have to follow all of the codes—the fire code, the building code—we have to have our water tested, and we pay fees to be registered every year,” she says. “We are an established accommodation business and we are proud to be part of that.”

And they plan to welcome bed and breakfast guests for many more years. “We get to meet people from all over the world. It’s kind of like armchair travelling to hear their stories,” says Pam. “Twenty-five years in we are still happily hosting the world.”

Visit morganhousebedandbreakfast.com for more information or follow along on Facebook here.

Related stories:
Artist Pam Carnochan ‘paints’ in a unique medium: wool
Hondo’s post-retirement plan: helping you Find Your Wild

Don’t miss out on Doppler!

Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!

6 Comments

  1. Living here, I’ve never had the pleasure of Pam and Hondo actually hosting an overnight. I have, however, enjoyed several concerts there. Perhaps, they have discontinued this; as it wasn’t mentioned in the article. And Stanley is the most handsome, friendliest dog to complement the homey atmosphere. Congratulations to both of you: You are outstanding ambassadors for northern Muskoka.

  2. Interesting how a working farm has now been transformed to the beauty and success of what we know is the “Morgan House Bed and Breakfast and Wool Works Studio. The history insight particularly enriches this story. Well done Pam and Hondo, much fun and happy days in the future.

  3. This is wonderful story and reflects my own experience operating a true bed and breakfast with Breakfast, a raretiy today in the Airbnb platform. My experience meeting my guests from around the world is an exact reflection of this couple’s experience. It has been a wonderful education for me and made me a better person for it. My home listed under Brown Dog Manor is a 120-year-old farm home that me and my wife rescued from destruction in 1984 and provides our guest with a historic and beautiful place to say and relax on their journey. As Pam and Jamie do, I act as an ambassador for the regions and so happy to do so. Like them as well I hope to be able to continue into the future as long as the regulations coming our way will permit me to do so.

  4. Karen Wehrstein on

    Congratulations on the quarter-century, Pam & Hondo! The place is magical and so, Pam, is your art. I treasure my & Raphi’s visits.

  5. Thank you so much for keeping the Morgan name connected to your B&B my Grandparents Lawrence and Minnie Morgan would be delighted as we are. Congratulations on your 25th year anniversary.

  6. Hello, I love your story and the success you have had.

    My family purchased property in Scotia Junction in 1962, and permanently moved there in 1970.

    I was 16, and got a weekend job at Hidden Valley Resort, as a waitress in the dining room. The following summer worked full time, and my Mom had a hard time always driving me to and from work. I was told that I could stay at the ” Morgan House:. Which I did.

    My Mom wasn’t too crazy about the idea..as I was only 17, but all went well living there that summer.

    Hidden Valley Resort and Ski, and Morgan House, were a special time in my teenage years.

Leave a reply below. Comments without both first & last name will not be published. Your email address is required for validation but will not be publicly visible.