Since 1950, Ward Strickland has admired the stunning skies over Stony Lake from the same spot.
The 240-degree vista gives him a great view of storms, brilliant sunrises and sunsets, plus the friendly waves from long-time neighbours, some who have been here almost as long as he has. But his roots go back much deeper.
The Stricklands owned much of the land around lower Stony Lake from the middle to the late 1800s. Col. Sam Strickland, often credited as the founder of the Village of Lakefield, had 13 children with his second wife, Mary Reid, including Ward’s great-grandfather John Percy in 1840.
The island slipped out of the family’s hands in 1911 when the owner, who resided in Chicago, sold it off. When it came up for sale in 1950, Ward’s father Gerald (son of John’s son Walter) snatched it up for $2,000.
The cottage has sat on the same chunk of rock – a forested postage stamp of an island – since 1894. Ward, 73, considers it priceless, based on its history and its location on a deep channel with a great view.
“For me, that area is my roots on my father’s side,” says Ward. “I have lots of memories on Stony.”
Originally, the cottage sat on a 1.5-acre peninsula of Fairy Island. Then the Trent-Severn Waterway was built, raising the water levels around 1904 and filling in the low area with more than four feet of water.
Now it is an island with the main cottage and an onshore area with two guest cottages, built in 1945 by the Dunfords and 1964 by Howard Hamilton. Both are accessible to the island via a footbridge.
The cottage started out as a one-room getaway with open verandahs on all four sides. Over time, its owners have added rooms inside those spaces, but it remains intimate and cozy.
Early in the 20th century, it was known as Honeymoon Cottage for the newlyweds who would come up on the steamer ships to vacation there after their weddings. Subsequent owners Dr. McWilliams and the McKibbons called it JanJuli.
Ward’s family calls it Sepi-Mikwam – home by running waters – as a tribute to the indigenous heritage of the area.
One of the most striking parts of the structure is the pink granite and quartz chimney, built by contractor Orville Bolton in the late 1930s, using local stone.
A coal-miner-type crank phone once connected the mainland cottages, but a windstorm three years ago took out a big red pine, knocking the lines beyond repair.
Old lamps remain hanging from the ceiling of the main cottage, casting warm light on the wooden interior.
This summer home is a piece of heaven for Ward, his wife Leesa Knott and his daughters Morgan, Alexandra and Bethany. They are surrounded by cottagers whose connections to the lake also go back three to five generations.
“I love everything about the place – the people, the scenery, the heritage and the freedom of being up there and in a relaxed state,” Ward says.
“On arrival, my shoes come off, and I breathe deeply the essence of pine and water. For these things, I am forever grateful.”
By Lois Tuffin