Thursday, January 9, 2014

Millionaires' Row

Tourists enchanted by Muskoka often bought land – even entire islands – and built summer homes ranging from simple cabins to sprawling mansions. Around Beaumaris on Lake Muskoka there was an influx of wealthy Americans, especially from Pennsylvania, so this area became known as “Little Pittsburgh” and Millionaires' Row. A million dollars bought a lot in the days when the average wage in North America was $490 per year! Women teachers in Canada were paid only $246 annually, while male teachers earned nearly double that.

Photo copyright Gabriele Wills

This rambling cottage on Buck Island has 14 bedrooms, 8 baths, many of them en suite, and 8 fireplaces, while the entire top floor was a miniature playhouse for the children. The renowned gardens were maintained by 10 full-time gardeners.

Photo copyright Melanie Wills

The president of a Pittsburgh bank built this spacious and luxurious cottage in 1902 on nearby Belle Island at a cost of $80,000. It had a 90-foot long veranda across the front, and the generous interior spaces included a billiard room and several bedrooms with en suite bathrooms and private balconies. A system of bells throughout would summon one of the 26 staff. It also had a private tennis court. Unfortunately this beautiful century cottage burned to the ground during renovations in 2010.

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