15 Jul
2014
WITH:
25 Comments

Fairy Island

I have been cruising around Lake Joseph for the past decade or so always discovering interesting places. I find Lake Joe to have a lot of hidden areas especially the islands once you get towards the north end of the lake. I believe if my coordinates are right this place is Fairy Island.  Waterfront property is very expensive in Muskoka and you don’t often find places that are boarded up like this one. I suspect some time in the future we will see this place refreshed to something more beautiful.

FairyIsland_600



In: boathouses of muskoka, in and around muskoka ontario, on the water

25 Responses
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  1. Jane says:

    Looks like a beautiful island. I hope someone gives the buildings some TLC.

  2. Reid says:

    That’s a great shot of a little piece of muskoka history, an untold story….

  3. Ed Boutilier says:

    Update – I had an interesting conversation with someone with background knowledge on Fairy Island. The previous owners were the Pardoe family who have owned it since the late 1800’s. The late Mr. Pardoe who I think was the son or grandson of the original owners passed away at 92 years old and his son sold the island a few years back. It was purchased by philanthropist Richard Ivey who wanted to preserve the islands original architecture.

  4. Barb Stevens says:

    This is such a cute cottage and boathouse….exactly what a cottage should look like. It has so much character….imagine the stories it could tell.

  5. robyn says:

    I certainly hope that the new owner is true to his word, and fixes the buildings, rather than tear them down…. which is happening far too often. Where is our history going? so sad, no respect for the past. I would LOVE this place.

  6. robyn says:

    We went searching for this property today and found it! Docked the boat and went exploring. We were able to peak into a few of the rooms, and look through some windows…it was like looking into Muskoka gone by. Absolutely stunning! Mahogany floors and staircases. Old cook stove. The “bathroom” was outside, like an outhouse, but flush. With all the old notes in the bathroom as what to do with the TP. My favourite was ” 3 Peas to a Flush!” I wonder who was keeping track! hee hee. I took lots of pics. I hope they don’t tear it down. Not sure if the boathouse is repairable tho. I’ll keep my eye on this one.

  7. Ed Boutilier says:

    Hi Robyn,
    Sounds like you had an interesting visit. I just wanted to make mention that these properties that appear to be abandoned are still owned by someone and sometimes they are not too happy with people trespassing on them even though you have good intentions. This happened to me and I was accused of trespassing however I merely took photos from the road.

  8. robyn says:

    I agree with you, Ed, and we were very careful and just peeked in the windows! I was so afraid they were going to tear it down, so we wanted to have a look before it was gone. Sure hope Mr. Ivey will retain the beauty of the cottage. The inside looks in very good condition.

  9. robyn says:

    Hi Ed.
    I took a tour past the cottage this week and nothing has changed! When we were there last year they had a barge and some equipment on the island…now nothing. It’s still all boarded up and it looks like the front porch is still “listing” Have you heard any new news? BUT, I’m glad it’s still standing! The old boat house is gone tho.

  10. Ed Boutilier says:

    Hi Robyn,
    I passed by a few weeks ago and noticed that the boathouse and dock were gone as well. I have not heard anything about the island.

  11. Ellen Pardoe says:

    Hello Ed

    As you can see my last name is Pardoe. Your picture of Fairy Island is heart-breaking to me. Muskoka must of had a series of very hard winters to have the dock and boathouse be damaged so badly. In the 100 plus years that my family owned the island, there only a few times when the ice damaged so much.

    I would like to correct a few misconceptions about the sale of the island. First, the sale was a family decision due to the high cost of taxes, upkeep, and declining age of all us. My father, David Sr., who passed away in 2012 at 94, could no longer navigate the paths safely, and my brother, David Jr., who passed away very suddenly in 2008 at 63, as well as my sister and I, all agreed that the cottage was draining any and all financial reserves we may have. My family always joked that we were land rich and money poor.

    Many offers for the property were fielded over the years but Richard Ivey was the only person who did not want to tear the place apart and rebuild something new and disturbing to us. You see, for generations, we have spent our summers there. From 1895, when Avern Pardoe, the Parliament Librarian in Ottawa, bought the crown land for $5 per acre, the family has had a presence in Muskoka. Initially, Avern and his brothers purchased over 50 acres of land on Lake Joseph but slowly, as the family dwindled and aged, the land was sold off. And we kept Fairy Island. My first time to Fairy Island was in 1957. I was a year old. My father once told me that he had spent every summer there except for the time he was in WWII.

    In 2005, after fending off yet another purchase offer from a very rich celebrity, my family met with Richard Ivey over drinks on the slightly listing porch (listing so that the snows would melt away from the house) and agreed to a purchase price below that offered by the celeb so that the property and house would not be razed and the Ivey’s desire to reduce light pollution would not insult our love of Muskoka.

    Secondly, the toilet was added to the house in the 1940’s as my great-uncle, William S. Pardoe, was aging and could no longer make the trip to the outhouse in the middle of the night. It was restricted in its use to those in physical need only. The little sign in the toilet was a reminder to all that the septic system was inadequate and could not cope with tissue paper or overuse.

    The is much history in those walls, that boathouse, and the trees and stones, all of which were named by the numerous children who ran wild (but contained) on that small gem in a beautiful lake. If you are interested in more, I will be happy to share more. You can also check with Muskoka Life magazine August 2007 for an article by my father. You can also find an old steam powered water pump at the Port Carling Museum.

  12. robyn says:

    Ellen. Thank you so much for sharing your memories. I am obsessed with your island! I came upon it thanks to Ed’s blog here. I’m very happy to hear that Richard Ivey is not going to raze it! All those “rich celebrities” that come in and tear it all down…. breaks my heart. We had a boat house near us with an 1899 sign on it. It was in perfect shape…but the buyers just HAD to have it match their new cottage…. so down it went. I wish I’d taken a photo of it but had no idea someone would tear down a perfectly good building. There is no pride in ownership any longer, or pride in history.

    We took a drive by Fairy Island this summer to make sure the cottage is still there! and it is, in all it’s glory!

    I’m sorry to hear that you had to let it go.. but with the taxes such as they are, I totally understand.

  13. Ellen Pardoe says:

    Robyn – Thank you for letting me know the cottage is still there. It is always in its glory in my dreams. My family has dreams of striking it rich and buying it back but the odds of that happening are lottery high!

    Mr. Ivey may have to level the place one day if he does not maintain the house but I am so glad it is still there. I spent some time rereading my father’s article about the history of the place and some I either did not remember or never knew.

    The front house, the one with the cook stove you saw, was built first in 1895. If you walked around the island you may have noticed a small peninsula on the northeast side with a beach to one side. This is actually man-made by my great grandfather so that his wife who was wheel-chair bound could see a sunset. It took several years to create and my father had memories of helping when he was a child. The point is now an established portion of the island and can be seen on maps. My family spent 107 years in that place and my heart aches for it… But life goes on.

    Before my brother died he was able to find a cottage on Sharbot Lake that was on a spit of mainland that gave the impression of an island with the ease of access. Though it never can or will measure up to Fairy Island, my father was able to navigate the property and get to the water for a swim in the final years of his life and that made it worthwhile.

    My thanks to you and Ed for keeping an eye on the property. It means a lot to me to know there are people in Muskoka who remember the regal past of the area.

  14. Lilith Jones says:

    Hello Ellen, Robyn, Ed!

    What interesting timing!
    A number of weeks ago, out of the blue, I, suddenly thought to look for Fairy Island on the internet and found Ed’s lovely photo and the comments around it.

    As a child, I was blessed to visit the Pardoe’s on Fairy Island for several summers during the mid- 60’s and early-70’s. Our magical time there on that beautiful lake island, with the warm, fun and very gracious Pardoe’s gave me memories rich and delightful and a feeling about nature and life which I consider a deep and precious part of my being.

    When I first saw the post, I felt compelled to add to the conversation with some recollections, but, noting that the original post was over a year old and none of the Pardoe’s had commented, I refrained, thinking that perhaps they preferred privacy about the Island.

    What an incredible surprise that, on the very night on which I thought to revisit the post to show to a friend, Ellen posted her wonderful comments! Before scrolling down to the comment section, I told my friend about the house and boathouse and the faithful old pump housed in the little blue building to the right of the boathouse in the photo. I told her that, to me, the pump was like a being, like some sort of great, benign animal who lived there, churning away in its own little house. How sweet to read that the Pardoe’s “re-homed” the pump to a museum.

    Ellen, thank you so much for posting. What a joy to read!
    Indeed, we kids ran blissfully wild along the trails that circled and traversed the island. When very young, we had the shallow, rock-protected little cove called “Baby Bath” in which to splash about (at far left in the photo). When older, we would – alone or in groups and often wearing nothing but the mandatory vest life preservers – wander freely from land to water like otters, plopping or leaping in for a dip wherever and whenever the mood struck us. We mingled around the grown-ups, we wandered to pick blueberries for pies and morning cereal in enameled metal bowls; We yelled “ECHO” to the neighbor island’s mysterious little pavilion to hear it reply “ECHO, ECho, echo…”

    A special adventure would be an all-kid row out to “Devil’s Rock” where we would run around on its rough surface and wave back to the grown-ups who watched us from the docks.
    One year, when the visiting grownups pitched in to rebuild one of the boathouse docks, my two brothers and I made a raft from the old wood. It was a crazy, heavy thing but we circled the island on it with a picnic, taking turns at powering it with our swim-finned legs, lost to time.

    Rides to Foot’s Bay in the antique motorboats Mab or Puck were a thrill. I seem to recall Dave letting each of us kids have a hand at steering. He was such a kind and generous man! As I recall, we were allowed to roam the house freely. He made me feel like we kids were as natural and important a part of Fairy Island as the trees, rocks and water.
    One summer (or was it every summer?) every single person on the Island, young and old, had a train conductor’s hat from Mactier. It felt so cool to be wearing the same hats as the grown-ups, I guess because it at once felt adult for us kids to be wearing train conductor hats and playfully childlike for the grow-ups to be wearing them.
    I remember Fairy Island nights when some of us would gather to watch a raccoon family descend from its tree by the little guest camp, their eyes glinting in the flashlight, or go to the docks to marvel at bats and shooting stars over the serene, black water, and one year, the aurora borealis… Later, indoors, after time reading or drawing or playing games, we kids would float to sleep on the conversation of the grownups….

    I am so thankful for all of these times and the beautiful impressions, memories and feelings they have instilled in me. To me, Fairy Island exists eternally in my being, much like a song learned in childhood, humming in me on its own through the years, ever tuning me to its peace and richness, its sweet and wild way…

    Ellen, your very thoughtful sale of Fairy Island to a fellow true steward is heartening and inspiring. May he care for it as much as you all did (do!)
    I have a few photographic slides of Fairy Island taken by my father. They are in mixed condition. If you would like, I can scan and send them to you.

    Ed, please feel free to give Ellen my email should she care for it. I can send some photos to you and Robyn as well if you like. Thank you for this post about Fairy Island and for this blog to which I will return to enjoy Muskoka lake from afar!

  15. robyn says:

    OH my goodness, that was a lovely account of your visits to Fairy Island! I think, that Richard Ivy would love to hear these lovely stories. Perhaps it will inspire him to hurry up and renovate as nothing has been done since I ( trespassed) on the Island last year. There was a barge there and some equipment, but it’s gone now and nothing is “going on”.

    Ed, feel free to also provide my email to Ellen and Lilith. I would love!!! to see the photos. Perhaps if we pool all our money, we can buy it back! wink wink.

    We call it the pink cottage. I’m keeping my eye on it!

    Robyn

  16. Ellen Pardoe says:

    Robyn- It is SUPPOSED to be Barn Red! So the paint has faded. I will try to find pictures for Ed to post.

    Lilith – What a wonderfully serendipitous event! I was thinking about your family visits while reminiscing of Fairy Island and our summers of fun. Running free and playing for hours. Also of horrible puns committed by our fathers at the kitchen table. Dinners filled with noise and silliness. (Lilth’s father, Ed, and my father taught at the same high school in Syosset, NY) And picking blueberries, though in those days the bushes were sparse because of the residual fallout of DDT spraying in the early Sixties.

    Ed – Please send me emails for both ladies. How do I go about sending you photos for uploading? What is your take on this takeover of your blog?

  17. Ed Boutilier says:

    Sometimes I think that I should pack the blog in and then all of a sudden I see inspiring comments and beautiful shared memories like what we see here. All from a simple photograph. How amazing is that!

    Ellen, I will forward the email addresses as well as my own. I would be very happy to post and share your photos.
    Thanks to all of you.
    Ed

  18. robyn says:

    Ed! Please don’t pack it in! When I see an email notification that you’ve made another entry…I am excited to see what you have found in your Muskoka travels!

    Thank you for passing on our emails. I have some photos from my little adventure last year that the others may like to see!

    Robyn

  19. Lilith Jones says:

    Hello, Ellen, Ed, Robyn,

    Wow, yes this is wonderfully amazing – as Ed noted, all from one photo!
    Ed, I just enjoyed looking throughout this blog some and do hope you keep it going, unless it is burdensome. Your photographs (and videos) are stunning and your writing beautifully rounds out the experience. Thank you so much for sharing it all and, in particular, creating this post and “hosting” this lovely Fairy Island “appreciation fest” and chance for Ellen and me to connect.

    Ellen, I missed your second post on the night that I posted (seemingly due to the fact that we were writing at the same time!)
    It was very moving to read!!
    Is the point of land to which you refer the one we called “Little Ontario?”
    Reading about your father as a child helping his uncle build a point created to lovingly provide access to his wheelchair-bound aunt, and then in his own elder years enjoying a Canada-lake swim from a little peninsula is ineffably poignant… I loved reading your reminiscence about the shared dinners and silliness! Being a few years younger than you, I think the pun stuff went over my head I do remember the feeling of it all and the laughter – can hear in my mind the distinctive laugh of each of our fathers.
    To this day, when I smell low bush blueberries or wet cedar, I am for a moment, transported to Fairy Island, and am filled with elemental peace and joy…

    I sure do hope that Richard Ivey attends to that beautiful old house so that it may remain. Even more so, Ellen, I hope you and your family CAN buy it back one day!!

    If not, then maybe Robyn’s plan will work 🙂 Robyn, I am so happy that you have a special affinity for Fairy Island and trespassed accordingly. Perhaps you picked up on all of the good energy in addition to the natural and architectural beauty of it.. I would love to see what photos you may wish to share!

    I need to scan the old slides, so I am guessing that I can share them some time next week.

    Again, Ed, THANK YOU for bringing us together and providing a means by which we may all be in touch and share photos. I will put my scans up in Drobox and send a link to all three of you once I have your addresses.

    Until then, may you all enjoy these sweet autumn days!
    Ed and Robyn, are you actually in Muskoka?

    Lilith

  20. Ed Boutilier says:

    Hello Lilith,
    Thanks again for your kind words and shared memories. I have sent Ellen both yours and Robyns email addresses. Ellen please feel free to share my email as well so that we may share the photos. And yes I am here in Musoka right now just a short boat ride from Fairy Island.

  21. Lilith Jones says:

    Great, Ed, thanks!

    I am signed up for Facebook, but not active.
    I did click the link which you provided here and the resultant page read “content not available” – figured I should mention. I will try it again in future.
    Please say hi to Lake Joseph and its dragonflies for me – and Fairy Island next you pass!!

    Lilith

  22. leslie says:

    oh it is soooo great hearing about the “old” muskoka. I am a huge fan of the old cottages and have had the privilege of working on some of them to restore them.

  23. Dr.C says:

    EB Do you have any Shots of Flotsom Bay on Lac ST Joseph????? located near Billionaires Way?/

  24. Marion Pardoe says:

    Mrs. Jones-
    (And everyone else)

    How wonderful to read all your stories! I have heard so many from my mom (Ellen), her siblings, my older cousins and the Wilsons of the wonderful parties, and packed summers. I have heard so much about your family. I too came across the photo about a year ago but couldn’t bring myself to comment.

    I spent every summer from 1989 to 2005 at fairy island, but my memories I’m sure are much quieter. As an only child, I spent most summers alone with David and Ruth(grandparents). I found solice in the solitude and spent the summers learning to cook with my grandmother or learning to build/fix everything with my Grandfather. At the starts of each summer, Ruth would hand me a list of things (a syllabus of sorts) that I was expected to know by the end of the summer. As I got older I would bring friends with me, though they rarely stayed the whole summer.

    In 2007 I made my final trip to the cottage. It was Late September, but I forced myself to swim and enjoy it as I always had. I was a college freshman and my world was changing. It was a tough reality to realize that I was leaving my home forever. There’s a photo in the Muskoka Sun of my mother, my grandparents and myself of that final day. We are smiling, but our eyes are empty. I expect they were lost in memories as we closed the final chapter of a Centuries Old Novel

  25. Lilith Jones says:

    Hello, Marion,

    Your words about your many summers on Fairy Island with and Dave and Ruth filled my heart.
    I think you were very,very blessed to have a childhood in which every summer was spent on Fairy Island with your wonderful grandparents. What a rare and precious way to spend so many days on end, year after year. What a beautiful formative experience.

    I am sorry that you had to say goodbye to your home. I hope that both Fairy Island and the love and care of your very special grandparents remain vividly alive in you forever.

    If you ever feel inclined to write more about your experiences and memories of Fairy Island and care to share it, I would love to know.
    Thank you so much for sharing what you have here!

    Lilith

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