Content from: Diana Francoz,Ralph and Fran Hunt, Beth McCall,Kathryn (Hunt) McLeod, Betsy Ramsay-Currie,Steve Fleming

The Couchiching Hotel – Orillia’s First and Largest Summer Resort

Published in the Packet and Times, July 23, 1942
 An interesting oil painting has recently come into possession of the Orillia Public Library. It is a picture, the only one in existence of which we know, of the Couchiching Hotel, Orillia's first and most pretentious summer resort.
The painting is the work of Edward Scrope Shrapnel, R.A., C.A., a grandson of the famous General Shrapnel and an uncle of Mr. A.B.S. Webber. He was an art­ist of some note. It originally fell into possession of Mr. Harry Al­len, a well known Orillian of these days. He gave it to Dr. A. E. Ardagh, and it hung in the rooms of the Bridge Club for many years. When the Club ceased to operate, the painting was returned to Mrs. Ardagh, who has presented to the Public Library, where it should have a permanent public interest, as marking the beginning of Orillia’s fame as a summer resort.
The Couchiching Hotel was built in the early seventies of the last century, shortly after the Northern Railway reached Orillia in November, 1871. It was promoted by a company, known as the Lake Couchiching Hotel Company, composed largely of directors of the Northern Extension Railway Company, which was formed to extend the Northern Railway into Muskoka.  Shortly afterwards the two railway companies amalgamated. The capital stock of the Lake Couchiching Hotel Company was $19,500, held chiefly in blocks of $1,000. Among the nineteen shareholders were the Hon. Frank Smith (afterwards Sir Frank), W, D. Ardagh, the Hon. John Beverly Robinson and J. D. Edgar (after­wards the Hon. J. D. Edgar).
The hotel including the site and landscaping of the grounds, cost about $70,000 or $75,000. The site of 128 acres was purchased from Mr. J. Ham Perry, of Whitby, for $1,500.
The balance of the money seems to have come out of the Railways. When the hotel burned, in 1876, the hotel company owed the two railway companies $56,000. But only $10,000 was secured by mortgage, the remainder being considered in the nature of a subsidy. The insur­ance recovered on the loss of the building was $31,723, of which $19,700 went to pay debts of the hotel company and the remaining $12,000 was divided up among the share­holders. This transaction was af­terwards condemned by a Select Parliamentary Committee, which investigated the affairs of the Northern Railway and the North­ern Railway Extension Company. It is from the blue book reporting the evidence before this committee that this information is gleaned.
The Couchiching Hotel was the Royal Muskoka or Bigwin Inn of those days. Situated at what was then the northern limit of railway holiday travel, it was the fashion­able resort of the north. Lord Dufferin stayed there over the week­end, on the occasion of his visit to Orillia in 1574. In 1876, the then Lieut. Governor of Ontario, the Hon. D. A. Macdonald, and the Prime Minister, the Hon. Oliver Mowat, were among the guests, at the same time that the hotel was visited by a party of American generals, including Gen. McClel­lan, one of the Civil War Commanders. They came by special train from Cobourg, in a coach which was the last word in luxury in its day. The party was accompanied by the 46th Battalion, from Port Hope. About the same time, the Canadian Medical Association paid a visit to the hotel, travelling by special train from Toronto. The hotel guests, we learn from files of those days included a number of families from New Orleans.
The Couchiching Hotel was destroyed by fire on the 5th of October, 1876, after what was described as the best season on its history. The fire was ascribed to a defective flue. The manager, Mr. Scully, had left a fire burning while out for the evening. It is amusing to note that the Barrie Advance suggested that the destruction of the Couchiching Hotel opened the opportunity for Barrie to wrest from Orillia the title "Queen of Inland Watering Places." To which the Packet of those days retorted that altogether aside from the Couchiching Hotel, Orillia attracted ten tourists for every one that stayed in Barrie. The Packet also predicted that the hotel would be rebuilt. But it never was.


View of the Couchiching Hotel, from the north.
    Above:  Hotel's Summerhouse and Gazebo
   Right:    Hotel Gazebo

The Story of the Couchiching Hotel on Steamboat Point

Collection of newspaper articles obtained by Dana Francoz
The Northern Light, Sept. 23, 1870:  We understand that J.D. Edgar Esq., has purchased some 80 or 90 acres on Steamboat Point, and that a Company is now being formed to build a summer hotel there. The directors of the Muskoka Railroad propose having a station in the same locality.

The Northern Light, Sept. 29, 1871:  We understand J.D. Edgar and friends are determined to commence erection of a first class hotel on this Point immediately. The place is already beautifully laid out and we may yet hope to have a hotel worthy of Orillia next summer.

The Expositor, Oct. 23, 1872 - EXCURSION TO LAKE COUCHICHING:  The President and Directors of the Northern Extension Railway Company invited some of the leading citizens of Toronto to inspect the new works erected at the Junction of Lake Simcoe and Couchiching, and also the new hotel now in process of construction at Steamboat Point. The party, which numbered about forty, left the Brock Street Station, Toronto, on Saturday morning last at 8 o’clock, in a special train, arriving at Bell Ewart at about 10:30 o’clock. They at once proceeded on board the “Emily May”, which steamed rapidly up the lake. On board this good ship they partook of an excellent luncheon prepared under the direction of the well-known Stewart, who gives such universal satisfaction. Capt. Moe landed the party soon after noon at “The Narrows”. No less than three fine bridges now span the water at this point; all of them being of similar construction, namely, swinging, so as not to interfere with the steamers and sailing crafts which ply these lakes. Of the three, that of the Northern Railway is justly considered to be the best constructed. 
The party were conveyed in carriages from the landing to “Steamboat Point”, the neck of land which forms “The Narrows” on the western side. Here, to the surprise of all, the most wonderful progress was found to have been made with the new hotel, the roof being already up and shingled. The hotel is really of magnificent proportions, and speaks well for the enterprise of some of our citizens. It will have eighty bedrooms, billiard, dining, sitting, and other rooms in proportion. It has three stories and, the rooms being all lofty, it is a striking and imposing structure. It is T shaped, the upper limb facing north. There will be great facilities for boating, fishing, etc., and a wharf is to be constructed, at which steamers will call. The grounds are being tastefully arranged under the superintendence of Mr. Clarence Moberly, who is also, we believe, the architect of the building. It can hardly fail to be a great attraction to summer tourists. On the land adjoining the hotel there are about thirty villa lots, each belonging to one of the shareholders of the hotel company. On almost all of these, neat villas will be erected in the summer. The party having spent a most agreeable time in visiting the grounds and bridges, were conveyed to the Allandale station, where they sat down to a capital dinner in the worthy host’s best style. After dinner some friendly speeches were interchanged with the guests, Colonel Houlton and Mr. Noah Barnhart especially being in their happiest vein. A special train brought the party back to Toronto by nine p.m., all having spent a most enjoyable day. The weather, too, was fine, though cloudy.
The contractors for the erection of the hotel are Messrs. Sutherland and Oliver of Orillia, who deserve great praise for their energy.
Among those present were: Hon. Frank Smith, Messrs. C.J. Campbell, Noah Barnhart, Colonel D’Arcy Boulton (President, Midland Railway), Major Charles Reulten, R.M. Wells, M.P.P. Donald Mackey, Weir Anderson, George K. Hawke, Dr. Thorburn, A. Hugel, E. O Biokford, Clifton Shears (Rossin House), - McComber (Manager, Clifton House, Niagara Falls), K. Chisholm, W.H. Morris, - March, - Bouchier, Henry Hope, H.L. Hime, Alderman Turner, John Thompson, Willoughly Cummings, Hugh Sutherland, J. Cliver, J.J. Vickers, J. Vickers junior, Baron Gingras (of New York), Albert Jones, and others.

The Expositor, May 8, 1873 - THE LAKE COUCHICHING HOTEL, on Steamboat point, is approaching completion, and the contractors, Messrs. Oliver and Sutherland, will shortly be ready to hand it over to the proprietors.  A number of the Directors, including Lieut.-Colonel Cumberland, visited the place on Tuesday, and expressed themselves satisfied with the work, and the vigour with which it has been performed. Fifty men are to be employed at once in levelling the ground. The Railway Co. are to run a switch to the hotel, for the accommodation of visitor. The building will be lighted with gas, and the gasometer will be put in immediately. The hotel has an imposing appearance and will doubtless induce a large addition to our usual influx of summer visitors.

Orillia Times, May 22, 1873:  Our readers will regret to hear that the directors of the Lake Couchiching Hotel Co., have decided not to open the hotel at Steamboat Point this season. The reason stated for this course is said to be the impossibility of getting the house and grounds properly prepared in time for the opening of the season. The contract for the building will be completed at least three weeks in advance of the time specified, but outside of this there are many things to be done before the hotel could be thrown open to visitors of the class for which it is intended. The grounds are still in their primeval state. A summer station on the Northern R.R. is indispensably necessary for the accommodation of the guests, and it is not yet begun. A gas-house with all its fixtures has to be provided, toward the erection of which no steps have yet been taken, and the carriage road leading to the Hotel will require to be graded and gravelled before the drive from the station will either be safe or pleasant. Besides these unfinished but necessary improvements, there is the house furnishing, which in this case is not the work of a day. All these require labour, money and time. The first two are of no consequence but the latter is inexorable.
It is thought that it would be impossible to have the hotel and premises in readiness before the latter end of July, when the season would be at least half over. Many of our readers who have been fondly anticipating the pleasure and profit of having a big houseful of “big swells” with no end of money, in so close proximity to them, will ponder over this announcement with feelings of unmistakable disappointment and vexation. Visions of Cleopatrian water-parties, on the moonlit waters of our beautiful Couchiching; of elegant and sumptuous picnickings in the cool shades of the grove, and of fashionable hops in the magnificent dining saloon of the hotel, will now slowly and sadly disappear from the longing eyes of the ambitious mothers and daughters of our village. Other visions too, of a grosser kind it may be, but till precious to those whose pillows they soothed at night and whose waking hours were rendered happy at the thought of them, will be rudely dispelled as the meaning of these words is fully realized. How our disappointed jewellers, druggists, milliners and physicians and a whole host of traders who hoped to make an honest penny by the summer residents of Steamboat Point, will gnash their teeth and tear their beautiful shirtfronts, we can easily conceive and easily pardon. For it is provoking to think of the unsold pills and laces, solitaires and tooth powders that will result from this decision of the directors of the hotel Co. We can only offer our sincere sympathy and counsel patience for another year.
The Expositor, Aug. 14, 1873 - HOTELS AND TOURISM: A visit to the Couchiching Hotel on Steamboat Point will repay the trouble and expense. The main building is completed with the exception of arrangements for the lighting, which are being proceeded with. The building will be lighted with gas. The grounds are levelled and laid out, but on account of the dryness of the summer, have not been sodded yet. Other buildings are being completed in connection with the Hotel such as bar-room, billiard and bowling alley, and boat-houses. The grounds have been divided by beautiful avenues, and altogether well arranged. There will be of course a large croquet ground. The main avenue will be the handsomest and most picturesque we might say in Canada. When this hotel is started, it will draw a large crowd.

The Expositor, Oct. 16, 1873:  Mr. Wm. Goodwin, son of Col. Goodwin, Toronto, was here yesterday to inspect Lake Couchiching Hotel. He is negotiating to lease it for ten years. Mr. Goodwin, in the event of closing the bargain, will at once enter into possession, and bring the principal employees from the United States. We may add that this gentleman has had large experience in the management of gigantic watering places in the neighboring Republic, consequently he is no novice in the business. He was highly pleased with the situation of the hotel and grounds.

The Expositor, date unavailable - LAKE COUCHICHING HOTEL: This edifice is now completed. The site is in one of the most beautiful localities in this neighbourhood. Nature and art have combined to render it all that can be reasonably desired for a retired and convenient summer watering place. At present Orillia can only vie successfully with its rival summer resorts, Saguenay, Long Point, etc.; eventually it is destined to become the “Saratoga” of Canada, and in point of convenience, comfort and charges now eclipses all of them, as it possesses all of the requisites for a first-class summer hotel. The main building is, as we observed, complete and will be ready for the reception of tourists and pleasure-seekers by the ensuing spring. It will be capable of accommodating over 350 persons, without undue crowding or inconvenience. When finished, the Railway Station will be the prettiest Way Station on the American Continent. It will be octagon, 70x18 feet, 14 feet high, and 150 feet of platform will surround it. Mr. G. Newton, of this town has contracted for the painting and ornamentation of the building, which will be a unique piece of architecture. Within view of the station is the residence of Mr. J. Goodall, Gardener, and general superintendent of the grounds, gardens and pleasance. This cottage is two stories in height, contains six large rooms, and is 36x18 feet with a wing of 30 feet. On the premises are a capacious forcing or hot-house wood shed, driving house, etc. Nearly three acres of excellent land, well adapted for a vegetable and flower garden, surrounds the house, which is located to the east of Cumberland Avenue. The main entrance is approached by a Serpentine avenue, about three-quarters of a mile in length, through the woods. Here and there along the avenue, the Company intends to erect commodious and handsome cottages for those who desire to avoid the noise and bustle of the hotel. On the west side of the commencement of the avenue and close to the station, is a level field admirably adapted for cricketing, baseball, or other popular games and exercises. Winding walks and drives at intervals intersect at right angles the main drive to the hotel. They will no doubt tend to add to the general effect when the gravelling is all completed.
Around the west shore, opposite this village, is Edgar Avenue, another beautiful drive or walk, which passes by the bathing grounds, and intersects Cumberland Avenue a short distance from the Gardener’s Lodge. The Croquet Lawns and Fountains are situated on the north side of the hotel. Three pretty pavilions have been built in the vicinity, two of them constructed in rustic style. One commands an enchanting view of the surrounding scenery and buildings, and projects out onto the lake at the extremity of the point, about 50 feet; the other is built near the centre of the lawn. The Croquet Pavilion is at the east side next to the Narrows, and affords a very pretty view of the grounds and rose garden, which has a south-eastern aspect. Over half an acre between the two wings on the south-east side of the main building is reserved for the culture of hybrid, monthly and other roses, and rare flowering shrubs. Mr. Cumberland has exhibited exquisite taste, combined with good judgement in his grouping and selection of just such spots as are best suited for the growth and selection of just flowers etc. and Mr. Goodall has certainly carried out his suggestions to the letter. Adjacent to the Rose and Flower plots are the wood sheds, ice and coach house, which is 100x18 feet high, overhead rooms are being fitted up for the accommodation of the numerous retinue of servants which will be required about the place. Within a minute’s walk south-east from the hotel is the boat-house, 36x18 feet, with plank walks leading to it, and a good plank platform around it on all sides. Next we come to the Bowling, Billiard, Reading and Bar-rooms, which are all under one roof.  This building is situated on the lake about 100 yards from the hotel, slightly to the south-west side. It is 23x70 feet, height 20 feet. The Reading and Billiard Rooms are upstairs where a pleasant and agreeable prospect of the lake etc. can be enjoyed. A balcony runs full length and on the one end, affording room for over one hundred persons to drive away dull care.
We may observe that the sodding has been carefully done and presents a beautiful appearance. The work has not been accomplished without a vast amount of trouble and expense, and necessarily so considering the nature of the ground and surroundings. The designer seems to have an eye, critically speaking, which has beautified all the defects, and embellished the surroundings in such a manner as to improve by art without lessening the effects by detracting from nature.
Buildings to the value of $12,000 are now under contract, which soon will be finished by Mr. John McGirr, contractor, a gentleman who has spent over eighteen years in the service of the company. From what we have seen and heard of his workmanship, we have no hesitation in adding that the plans and designs of the architect have been faithfully executed, with credit to himself and satisfaction to the company. The proprietors contemplate numerous other additions and improvements.
We consider that when this hotel is in operation, Orillia will be greatly benefitted; our hotels will be crowded to excess, as numbers will flock here just for the notoriety of the thing and to be in the vicinity of a place of the kind; so that instead of being an injury, it will be of incalculable advantage to us, in a variety of ways. We understand that it is the intention of the promoters to have sketches of the hotel taken for the London Illustrated News, the Canadian Illustrated News and the U.S. Illustrated Newspapers. This of itself will be worth thousands of dollars to this section of the country.

The Expositor, Nov. 27, 1873 - LAKE COUCHICHING HOTEL:  Last Saturday afternoon the efficient Secretary of the Company, Mr. A. Jones, accompanied by the lessee of the hotel, Mr. Wm. Goodwin, of Toronto, and the Contractor, Mr. J. McGirr, visited this building, with a view to make some necessary alterations and improvements suggested by the lessee. We believe all that gentleman’s suggestions were concurred in and will be immediately proceeded with. The outdoor additions, alterations and improvements in out-buildings, pleasure-grounds, etc., will tend greatly to add still more to the beauty of the place. The gasometer is now completed and ready for the manufacture and distribution of gas all over the hotel. Pipes will be laid along the avenue to the railway station to light the drive and walks to the main entrance of the building. The total amount of the money expended up to the present time is over $75,000, and when the grounds are all laid out and finished it will be over $100,000. We learn from a reliable source that the Directory contemplate lighting the Atherley road to Orillia with gas, provided our people will place that section of our most important thoroughfares in a proper state of repair for travel. At present it is in a most wretched condition, consequently travelling with any degree of safety is rendered almost impossible. To repair these crossings and bad places on the Mara road properly, and ensure permanency for years, it will require fully $2,000. We understand that both the Railway Companies are prepared to supplement the efforts of the Councils and private subscriptions of our inhabitants, in order to assist in making a good road. It is for our own interest to secure this boon as soon as possible. At the same time we feel confident that gas could be procured for the use of our dark streets at a moderate cost, if it were applied for at once.

The Expositor, Dec. 11, 1873 – STEAM YACHT: A rumour is current, that a number of gentlemen, interested in the welfare of this town, contemplate the construction of a steam pleasure yacht, to run between Orillia and the “Lake Couchiching Hotel” and the time planned will be during the ensuing summer. The boat will be sufficiently large to accommodate about 200 persons, and so constructed that there will be no small rooms, but such as are imperatively necessary, to interfere with the space intended for passengers. It is also calculated to accommodate picnic parties to the different spots around our beautiful lake. The cost of such a steamer, with furnishings and fittings of a superior character, is variously estimated at from four to six thousand dollars. It is proposed to organize a joint stock company to build this desideratum. We also learn that the Hotel company will contribute liberally towards the project, which will prove a highly remunerative undertaking for all concerned.

The Expositor, April 30, 1874:  On Saturday last, a number of the directors of the Hotel Co. made a visit to Steamboat Point for the purpose of inspecting the premises. They expressed themselves pleased with the progress made and complimented Mr. George Newton on the artistic merits of his part of the decorations within the Hotel. The Way Station is a gem of architectural art, and the design is being faithfully completed under the superintendence of Mr. McGirr. We understand it is the intention of the directors to open the Hotel between the Queen’s birthday and the first of June, and that the management will be entrusted to Mr. Sheares, of the Rossin House, Toronto. It will be a matter for the immediate consideration for the Village and Township councils to have the road between Orillia and Steamboat Point sufficiently repaired to admit of at least a safe passage to and fro. If we expect to reap any benefit from the tourists who will undoubtedly seek pleasure and repose in that charming retreat, it will be necessary to afford them a thoroughfare over which they can pass without endangering their lives. At present the road thither is in very bad condition, and the proper authorities are expected to give their attention to the matter immediately.

Orillia Times, June 18, 1874:  Yesterday we enjoyed the pleasure of a visit to this fine hotel under the auspices of Mr. John McGirr. Orillia was ignored on Saturday in honour of the heavy swells from Toronto, which of course was correct enough. Our homespun and quiet ways were not considered to be of sufficient value to deserve the notice of the people who appealed to the four quarters of Heaven for encouragement and support. We did not the less however admire the appointments of the Hotel or the thorough character of the grounds and other necessary adjuncts of the establishment. The Manager Mr. Fennell was the first to impress us, and we have no hesitation in saying that he is likely to prove not only satisfactory to those more immediately concerned but immensely popular with those whose pleasure depends to a great extent upon his powers to do the agreeable to the fortunate ones who are committed to his care. Doing the manager, however, is only a small part of the reporter’s duties. The grounds, under the careful and vigilant supervision of Mr. Goodall, and the necessary accompaniements, such as billiard-rooms, bowling alley, pavilions, gas house, boat and bathing houses, and all others of that kind which have been entrusted to the careful management of Mr. McGirr, are all deserving of more extended notice than can possibly be afforded in a sketch of this kind. We shall endeavour on some future occasion, to do the Lake Couchiching Hotel and those connected with it more ample justice than our space will permit on this occasion.

Orillia Times, June 3, 1875:  This popular summer resort was duly opened for the season on Tuesday, the 1st. The opening consisted of the usual preparations in the way of fixing up unused rooms, the laying of carpets, the making of beds, the proper disposition of furniture, the supplying of ewers of water, clean towels and highly scented toilet soap, the laying in of a generous stock of provisions, the burnishing up of cooking utensils, the necessary fixing up in the dining room, the stocking of the cellars, the furnishing of the bar, the putting things to rights of the billiard room and the bowling alley, the cleaning up of the walls, the dressing of the flower beds and lawns, and the throwing open of all the doors and exclaiming “Now gentlemen, here we are, come right along”. In addition to all these was a little opening dinner, but we are left to hopeless conjecture as far as it is concerned. Soups, fishes, roasts, fricassees, tempting entrees, inimitable pastries, hock, Moselle, Moet and Chandon, booziness, imbecility, sleep. City reporters were present no doubt, in exchange for a good feed, they are expected to give a good puff. The Hotel this season will be under the management of Mr. Scully, late of the Queen’s, Toronto. We don’t know much about him, but he appears to be a thorough going sort of chap, and is likely to conduct the establishment in first class style. Last year, the hotel had a good run, and under improved management it ought to have a better season.

The Expositor, Oct. 5, 1875 – TRIP TO COUCHICHING:  Those who availed themselves of the generous invitation of Mr. Hugel, President of the Midland Railway, to visit Couchiching on the excursion from Lindsay last Thursday, could not fail to be much pleased with the trip; it was one of the most enjoyable of the season. The party of about thirty got to the Couchiching station about 4 p.m. and the handsome drive thence through the extensive park to the hotel was much enjoyed. The winding gravelled way bounded on either side by tall forest trees was so attractive after confinement in the car that some preferred to walk to headquarters. After a sumptuous dinner the part moved off in twos and threes to view the beautiful grounds, which are laid out with the most exquisite taste, leaving one much to admire. There are here and there several flower beds affording a rich contrast of colour, and in the centre of the grounds to the front there is a pile of rock-work with a fountain jet in the middle; and then there are rustic seats in quiet nooks where lovers may sigh, or smokers may contemplate, and besides these there are three spacious ornamental arbours or pavilions jutting over the lake at opposite points. As a whole, the place and scenery are magnificent.
Standing in front of the hotel, to the left, about two or three mile across the lake can be seen the picturesque village of Orillia, man of its handsome residences dotting the hill sides. Directly forward a few pretty islands appear as if reposing at eventide upon the placid waters; while to the right, between two of these, a glimpse of the distant spire of the Rama church is obtained in the fading sunlight. These, with the clear water of the lake, make the natural landscape the most attractive imaginable.
The hotel itself is quite spacious, affording accommodation for two hundred and fifty or three hundred guests. Its table is first-class with other corresponding appointments. About twenty or thirty yards from the main building there is a fine bowling alley, and in an upper story of this is a billiard-table and a well-supplied bar, where whoever desires “to see a man” can always find him. Indeed Couchiching is destined to become a fashionable place of very great resort. The enterprising company who have provided this beautiful retreat deserve the greatest success in their undertaking.
It is needless to say that one and all enjoyed the occasion. Mr. Thomas Harris, of Lindsay, volunteered, I understand, to accompany the excursionists with his fine quadrille band. Dancing was kept up until the usual small hours, and next morning, notwithstanding, all appeared at the breakfast table with smiling faces and excellent appetites. After this nearly all of the part went out in the fine yacht belonging to the hotel and had a sail of about two hours among the islands.
Before the Lindsay party left the hotel a unanimous vote of thanks was tendered to Mr. Hugel for his great kindness and attention. No one could be more deserving, even the ladies present were almost clamorous for a “hip, hip, hurray”. On leaving Lindsay, the excursionists were shown into a very handsome car provided by Mr. Hugel for their exclusive use; and they had the same accommodation on their return. Mr. Hugel, in a few chosen sentences, thanked the company for their appreciation of what he had done. He regretted that so few were present, notwithstanding this, he generously offered to provide an opportunity for a similar excursion whenever a sufficient number of his Lindsay friends shall express a desire to visit Couchiching.
Taking it all in all; the excursion and Mr. Hugel’s courtesy will be things long bringing a pleasing remembrance.

The Expositor, Oct. 5, 1876 - COUCHICHING HOTEL IN RUINS:  On Thursday evening last at half-past nine o’clock, an alarm of fire was sounded from the town bell, when it was found that the Couchiching Hotel was on fire.  The fire originated in the reading-room, it is surmised through a defective flue, and made such rapid headway before being noticed by the caretaker that he was unable to do anything with it, and before any help arrived from outside the whole building was enveloped in flames. When the alarm was sounded the fire company with their engine, and the engine belonging to the Northern Railway company, arrived at the Northern station and were speedily conveyed to the hotel by rail, and with the help of others, who had crossed over in boats and otherwise, they succeeded in saving the outbuildings, bar and billiard rooms, gas works and servants’ apartments, the hotel itself being totally destroyed. A quantity of the furniture was saved, but it was a good deal damaged in the removing. The building and furniture were insured in the sum of $36,000, but it is said this amount does not nearly cover the damages. Mr. Sully’s loss is about $800, with no insurance. It has not been ascertained here whether or not the company intends to rebuild the hotel.

Glass bottles retrieved from the site of the Couchiching Hotel fire, warped from the heat
Property of Ralph and Fran Hunt


After the hotel fire, the grounds were used for a park until 1880, when the land was purchased by Andrew Tait for development as a housing subdivision.  The following is the text shown below, under the picture of the "Pleasure Yacht Gypsy":
This Park, containing 87 acres, has recently been purchased from the Dominion Government. Laying out the grounds and forming the gravel roads and walks cost $12,000. Nature and art have combined to make this the most beautiful spot in Canada. It would be difficult to find in any country a more delightful and healthful place to spend the summer months. It is a long narrow peninsula, extending nearly a mile into the clear waters of the romantic Lake Couchiching, consequently the Park is nearly surrounded by water. Every breeze, come from whatever quarter it may, reaches the Park, while the lake on the one side or other being protected by the point, boating in safe and calm water can at any time be enjoyed.
The land is a rich loam, slightly rolling, and wooded with a great variety of original shade trees, which, fortunately, have been well preserved throughout this picturesque Park. It is reached by both the Midland and Northern divisions of the G.T.T. which runs across the corner of the property. It is 89 miles from Toronto, and less than 2 miles from Orillia.

Survival of the Hotel Bowling Alley

The bowling alley, which survived the fire, was used as a play house for local boys for many years.  It was eventually repaired and converted by George Moase, who was a groundskeeper for the Kilgour family, into a regular residence in 1920. The home is the oldest building on Couchiching Point, located at 750 Broadview Avenue. George Moase raised his family in this residence until 1957, when he moved into the small bungalow beside it (754 Broadview).   

George Moase's son, Bruce, at 750 Broadview Avenue, in about 1948


750 Broadview Avenue in 2015

750 Broadview Avenue

This home was on the 2015 CFUW Orillia Homes Tour, and the following description was provided in the passport:

This beautiful two-storey home began as a shoreline bowling alley for the Couchiching Hotel. The second level at the time was a billiards room and bar.

Enter into the sunroom, a room filled with antique furniture and memorabilia, including a massive buffet. The photo by the door to the workshop is a copy of a painting of the hotel, below is a painting of the house. The workshop is a bright and cheerful place to pot plants and repair items.

The kitchen in the middle of the house has the original wainscoting. On the walls are many implements used back in the 1800s and, you may be able to make out the
faint lines of bowling lanes.  

It is interesting to note that the four oak bowling lanes are still part of the foundation of the house. The photo to the right shows where they were sawed off.

Howard and Beth McCall bought the home in 1968.  They used it as a summer residence until 1992, when it became their permanent residence.  Included in the purchase of the house were items from the Kilgour home, including a beautiful oak sideboard and rocking chair, shown below, which were restored by Howard.  Howard also initiated the research that was carried out by Dana Francoz, to obtain the newspaper article information about the hotel.

It should be noted that the rocking chair pictured here was used in the "Restless Spirits" video on the home page of this website.