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A New Century (1900-1920)

Weston Price's Tourist Lodge

Tourism Established

Artifacts from Bon Echo Inn, built 1899

In the late 1800s, fishing lodges sprang up on the many lakes in the north, catering to people looking for rest, relaxation and good fishing. Bon Echo Inn on Lake Mazinaw was a variation on the theme of tourism, with wealthy patrons from Toronto, Montreal and the United States arriving to marvel at the sight of "Canada's Gibraltar" and to enjoy the splendors of the lake. A dentist from Cleveland named Weston Price, who had grown up in the village of Newburgh in Lennox & Addington County, built the Inn in 1899. He and his wife ran the Inn until 1910, when the death of their only son so disheartened them that they sold the Inn to Flora McDonald Denison. DISCOVER MOREReadmore Arrow

Born on the Bridgewater Road south of Flinton, Flora became a suffragette, businesswoman, writer and now owner of a tourist lodge. She probably didn't think of Bon Echo in those terms, however, but rather a spot to which she hoped to attract scholars, philosophers and artists. Her vision, inspired by her admiration of the late American poet Walt Whitman, was to create a circle of freethinking people who would further Whitman's concepts of a life built on democratic principles. She did indeed establish the Bon Echo branch of the Whitmanites. Her early death in 1921 meant the end of the Whitman preoccupation, but not the end of the artist visitors.

Her son Merrill succeeded her in the business. Because of his contacts in Toronto in the arts community, Merrill was able to attract almost all of the Group of Seven over several years, with the result that there are many spectacular advertisements for Bon Echo, all done by members of the Group of Seven. 1936 saw fire destroy the Inn. By the late 1950s, Merrill Denison had entered into negotiations with the Ontario government to take over the land for a park. Merrill and his wife continued to keep a building on the property for their own use, where he wrote many of his plays and corporate histories.

This photograph combines the beautiful tablecloths and napkins from Bon Echo Inn with two of its early advertisements and two artifacts spared from the fire. The man in the canoe is believed to be Johnny Bey, a native Mohawk originally from the St. Regis reserve near Cornwall, who was famous locally for his carefully crafted canoes, baskets and paddles. The brass bell is the one used to call guests to the dining room, and the copper kettle would have stood on the mantel of the fireplace in the lounge.

From the native pictographs on the rock along the water's edge to the 1,000 year old cedars on the rock face itself to the well known paintings of the landscape by Canada's Group of Seven, Bon Echo has been, and continues to be, a premier destination for tourists and a magnet for lovers of history. In 1965, negotiations had been completed and the former site of Bon Echo Inn became Bon Echo Provincial Park.

Submitted courtesy of The Pioneer Museum, Cloyne and District Historical Society.

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