Description of Historic Place
Stephen Leacock Museum / Old Brewery Bay National Historic Site of Canada is located on the shores of Lake Couchiching within the city of Orillia, in Ontario. Set on almost four hectares of land, the property is oriented towards the water and is set in a flower-bordered lawn which gives way to the shoreline along Brewery and Barnfield bays and to a naturally wooded point of land, known as Leacock Point. The two-storey house, once a summer home for humorist Stephen Leacock, features whitewashes walls, and a pillared verandah from which the lake may be viewed. The site includes reconstructed arbours, a boathouse, and a visitor’s centre. The formal recognition refers to the house and the lot on which it sits.
The Stephen Leacock Museum / Old Brewery Bay was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1992 because:
- it was an inspiration to Stephen Leacock, among the most celebrated of Canadian authors and humorists, and both an extension and a reflection of his life and personality.
The heritage value of the site resides in its associations with Stephen Leacock as illustrated by those elements of the house and property that reflect his occupancy during the first half of the 20th century. Leacock (1869-1944) was a major literary figure, humorist, academic, lecturer, radio personality and best-selling Canadian author. Between 1915 and 1925 he was the best-known humorist in the English-speaking world, and his works inspired a generation of Canadian and American authors. Leacock was the author of more than 60 books, including his masterpiece, ‘Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town’. After his retirement in 1936, Leacock spent most of each year at Old Brewery Bay, until his death in 1944.
Christened ‘Old Brewery Bay’ by Leacock after a former 19th-century brewery nearby, the property served for 28 years as a summer retreat for the Montréal resident, his family and his friends. It was at this property that Leacock indulged in his passions for leisure activities, creative design and building, and hosting family and friends. Over the years, the property was the site of many structures and landscape features built, designed or supervised by Leacock. The only extant building, a large house, was built in 1928 to designs by the Toronto architectural firm of Wright and Noxon. Leacock heavily influenced the layout of the house to accommodate his houseguests, as well as his writing schedule, and insisted that materials from the previous cottage be reused. His personality is reflected in the present residence.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1992.
The key elements that relate to the heritage value of Stephen Leacock Museum / Old Brewery Bay include:
- the orientation and setting of the house on a broad expanse of lawn overlooking Lake Couchiching;
- the wooded nature of most of the site, particularly the wooded point;
- the naturally evolving shoreline;
- the house on its large footprint, reflecting success and status with its form, fabric and massing dating to Leacock’s occupancy;
- the layout of the 1928 house, reflecting Leacock’s input and its use as a seasonal home for family and guests;
- surviving interior design elements, finishing and detailing of the 1928 house, including the doors, windows, panelling, builder’s hardware, trim, and peep holes;
- the archaeological ruins and remnants of the first cottage and its additions;
- the archaeological ruins and remnants of outbuildings or structures dating to Leacock’s occupancy, including the greenhouse, the ice houses, the boathouse and the arbours;
- the landscape created by Leacock, which includes gardens, pathways, lawns, and surviving landscape features;
- any remaining moveable objects directly linked to the Leacock occupancy, including furniture and furnishings, books, archival material, tools, boating equipment, photographs, and architectural plans and construction details of the house and references to associated buildings;
- reciprocal viewscapes to and from Lake Couchiching, Brewery Bay, the house, and the boathouse.