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Old 10-06-2010, 04:01 PM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
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Default Fire destroys cottage where Lightfoot penned tunes

Karen Longwell
Oct 06, 2010 - 11:49 AM
0 .Historic cottage destroyed by fire

COTTAGE DAMAGED. The interior of the Harraby cottage in Windermere was scorched by fire on Oct. 2. Submitted photo
MUSKOKA LAKES - Fire has damaged another historic Muskoka cottage with a colourful past and a multimillion-dollar price tag.

The 100-year-old cottage, known to locals as Harraby, was damaged in an electrical fire on Oct. 2. The cottage is owned by SmartCentres developer Mitchell Goldhar,

The blaze is one of several to occur in Muskoka Lakes in recent weeks. The Belle Isle cottage built in 1902 burned down Aug. 18. There were also structure fires in Bala and Port Carling recently.

Muskoka Lakes fire crews were called to Harraby cottage at the end of Rostrevor Road in Windermere just before noon on Saturday, said acting fire chief Jim Schneider.

There were no injuries in the blaze and the owners were not at home at the time of the fire.

Three stations responded to the call, he said. The initial call came in as an alarm call, but when Windermere fire crews arrived they saw flames coming up through the roof.

“We bumped it up immediately to a structure fire,” Schneider said.

Members of the Port Carling fire station and a fire boat from Minett responded.

The cottage’s main entranceway and roof were damaged in the blaze, which was difficult to extinguish.

“It was a pretty stubborn fire because it was up in the walls,” said Schneider. Crews were able to save approximately two-thirds of the structure after spending six hours on scene.

Schneider said the cause of the fire was electrical and not suspicious in nature.

“I believe the place was struck by lightning from that storm we had the week before,” he said, adding the cottage’s main feed lines were severed. Schneider suspects that the power wasn’t restored until many days after the storm and when it was restored the severed wires likely shorted out and ignited.

When contacted by this newspaper, Goldhar said he purchased the Harraby property in 2005.

He was sad to hear the news.

“Obviously, it is a terrible thing. I am still trying to digest it personally. It is obviously a favourite place … it is very sad,” he said while he was driving to the property on Monday. He hadn’t yet seen the damage. “I have to say I am not looking forward to seeing it in this state.”

The original structure was built more than 100 years ago, but has been renovated a few times. Goldhar said he made some changes to the interior. The famously pink exterior was changed to an evergreen colour.

The property was well known on the east side of Lake Rosseau for its superb gardens, arched bridges leading to three tiny islands and a fur trading cabin built in 1872, where Gordon Lightfoot was said to have stayed. The cabin, two boathouses and garage were untouched by the fire, Goldhar said.

Goldhar said the cottage is his personal place he uses year-round. He noted the special quality of the property.

“Everybody thinks of it as being kind of a magical place,” he said.

Multimillion-dollar price tag

In 2005 the seven-acre property broke a real estate price record when it was listed for $9.8 million, according to an article in The Muskokan.

Former owners Eileen and Bill Bartels purchased the property in 1991 after Charlie Moon and Shelagh Louise Martin Moon lost it in bankruptcy.

Charlie Moon renovated the buildings extensively and put in additions, said Bill Bartels.

Gordon Lightfoot was Charlie Moon’s brother-in-law and a frequent visitor to Harraby, according to a Muskokan article from 2002. Lightfoot was said to have written songs in the log cabin on the property.

Bartels confirmed the log cabin was an original Hudson Bay trading post built in 1872.

Bartels managed the extensive gardens on the property. A helicopter pad was added by the current owner, he said.

Harraby derives from the Greek word for pleasure, according to the 2002 Muskokan article.

The current cottage was built by the Mackenzie family of Hartford, Connecticut, who owned it for 38 years beginning in 1905.

Walter Howard Burgess and his wife owned the property from 1943 to 1984.

With files from Andrew Wagner-Chazalon
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charlene is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2010, 08:56 PM   #2
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Location: Little Rock,Ark, , U.S.A.
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Default Re: Fire destroys cottage where Lightfoot penned tunes

Cryin' shame, the loss of such a beautiful place.
Talk to me, run to me, whisper my name
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Old 10-07-2010, 02:03 PM   #3
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Default Re: Fire destroys cottage where Lightfoot penned tunes

ashame ...i wonder if he wrote many in his glass in porch (like here) on Beaumont or was he an office writer, or perhaps up in the turret
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Old 02-25-2016, 08:07 PM   #4
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Default Re: Fire destroys cottage where Lightfoot penned tunes

'I can't believe it's been 20 years'
The fire that destroyed Windermere House happened 20 years ago tomorrow - Huntsville Forester
By Paige Phillips

MUSKOKA – Twenty years ago, at 11 p.m. on February 26, 1996, the night sky was aglow in Windermere as the Windermere House was ablaze.

A piece of Muskoka gone
'It will rise again'
The cause of the fire remains undetermined, according to current shareholder and director Russ Boychuk.

There is a persistent rumour that it was caused by the production lights in use for the filming of the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight, starring Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson.

“They had lit up the inside of the hotel to make it look like it was occupied when they were filming some scenes on the frozen Lake Rosseau right in front of the dock,” said Boychuk. “The myth is that it started when a sliding door was left open and some of the lace curtains blew onto one of the big powerful search lights but the official cause of the fire has been undetermined.”

“It was sleety and raining and freezing rain that night so all the fire trucks and all the equipment and everything else and all the people they were slipping and sliding all over the place. It was hard to get the hoses hooked up. All the extras, almost the whole town of Windermere were extras, they were all huddled in the basement of the United Church all dressed up waiting for their scenes to be shot. So everybody was up, everybody was there, everybody witnessed it," Russ Boychuk, Windermere House shareholder and director.
By coincidence, Boychuk was in the company of Samuel L. Jackson the day of the fire at a different filming location.

“I was hanging out with Samuel L. Jackson on the set of the movie because they were filming in Hamilton at the old CN Train Station,” said Boychuk. “That night I had heard about it because everybody started calling….”

The fire proved to be totally destructive, due to the wooden framework and the inclement weather, which prevented effective response times by first responders.

“It was sleety and raining and freezing rain that night so all the fire trucks and all the equipment and everything else and all the people they were slipping and sliding all over the place,” said Boychuk. “It was hard to get the hoses hooked up. All the extras, almost the whole town of Windermere were extras, they were all huddled in the basement of the United Church all dressed up waiting for their scenes to be shot. So everybody was up, everybody was there, everybody witnessed it.”

Boychuck said he was told the fire erupted so quickly there was no possibility of anything being saved.

“It was really sad. The only thing that survived was all of the stonework, the veranda, all the stone pillars and the foundation,” said Boychuk. “It was all wood and there were no fire stops. The first, second and third floors there’d be long vertical beams with nothing in-between to stop. These days, there’s fire stops every eight feet. When the place went up, it just travelled the whole three stories and skipped from room to room through the rafters. Nothing could be saved.”

Boychuk said that at the time of the fire, Windermere House was under the ownership of 17 different shareholders who had bought the house out of bankruptcy a few years prior.

“They knew that they’d have to rebuild,” said Boychuk. “When it was rebuilt in 1996-97, it was decided to rebuild as an exact replica except it was built four feet deeper so that bigger bathrooms could be put in all of the rooms.”

The Long Kiss Goodnight was forced to complete filming at another location.

No movie has since been filmed at Windermere House.

Boychuk said that in addition to The Long Kiss Goodnight, scenes of Anne of Green Gables were filmed at Windermere and Christopher Reeve also shot an undetermined movie at the hotel.

“I think too that there were a bunch of film clips after the First World War with Billy Bishop, the flying ace,” said Boychuk. “He had his seaplane docked at Windermere and used to stay there all the time and take people for sightseeing tours around Muskoka.”

Boychuk spent a summer in the 1970s working at Windermere in the kitchen and said he can’t believe 40 years have since passed.

“I remember that Rush, the band, they were up there that summer doing a recording in the one of the out buildings that we had as a recording studio at the time,” recalled Boychuk. “At the same time when the Good Brothers were staying down in the front in some of our cottages right on the lake and so I thought that was kind of cool. I was just a kid back then and I just thought that it was so great to work in Muskoka. There were so many different resorts then, everybody went up there to work.”

The history of music at Windermere doesn’t stop at Rush and the Good Brothers, Gordon Lightfoot also has some roots at Windermere.

“Gordon Lightfoot, whose father used to operate a laundry in Gravenhurst and Bracebridge back in the ‘60s, he used to come by boat once or twice a week with all the fresh linens,” said Boychuk. “He’d come up to the dock and all the young staff would come down and bring a guitar down and he would serenade the staff before he went on his rounds. He was only in his late teens at the time.”

In memory of the total destructive fire of 1996 Boychuk, along with his son and friends, is going to stand out on the stairs of the front porch of Windermere and toast to the old Lady of the Lake and to the new one.

“I don’t know what Muskoka would be without the Lady of the Lake sitting there on the hill when everybody is going by on their boats and everything like that,” said Boychuk. “It does have an iconic, demanding presence over the lake.”

Paige Phillips is a reporter with the Huntsville Forester. She can be reached at . Follow her on Twitter and Facebook
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