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POSTCARD MEMORIES: Cottage offers a glimpse into Simcoe's past

Cedar View Cottage, built in early 1900s, was restored and donated to Simcoe County Museum
Donated to the Simcoe County Museum in 2005 and lovingly restored for a 2009 unveiling, Cedar View Cottage is a remarkable window into Innisfil’s time as cottage country.

For a time, Innisfil was part of cottage country, and a beautiful reminder of that era exists on the grounds of the Simcoe County Museum.

Innisfil’s rise as a vacationer’s paradise began in the late 1800s, when a number of resorts sprang up around the shores of Lake Simcoe.

By the early 1900s, with the improvement of roads leading up from Toronto and the rise of the automobile era, it became practical for people to visit the lake for weekends and, as a result, resorts gave way to cottages.

Between 1910 and 1940, cottage developments popped up along Innisfil’s shores. Though the cottages themselves were of modest size, little more than cabins by today’s standards, they were usually owned by well-to-do families from Toronto.

Over time, many of these cottages have been torn down to make way for larger, modern homes. A rare exception, Cedar View Cottage, now rests on the grounds of the museum, providing a window into Innisfil’s past.

Cedar Harbour was still a relatively new cottage development when John Bernard Knapp purchased a lot in 1922 as a place to escape to on weekends and summer holidays. Knapp built most of the cottage himself, though he enlisted the aid of a skilled stonemason when it came to building the stone fireplace and chimney.

The cottage was rather humble in size and form, and life there was far different from the privileged existence the family enjoyed in the city.

An Aladdin oil lamp hung above the table in the dining room, and by its dim light the Knapp family would gather at night to play board games and work at puzzles. When at last it was time to call it a day, the children climbed a ladder to a loft above the living room, where they crawled into their beds. There was no indoor toilet, so chamber pots were kept under the bed for children who weren’t brave enough to make a nighttime trek to the outhouse.

Similarly, there was no running water in the cottage. Drinking water was brought by bucket from a freshwater spring down by the lake. Since the cottage lacked electricity, perishables were kept cool in a box built around the spring.

Most meals were served on the screened-in porch, with the family gathering around a table reminiscent of a picnic table.

The Knapp family enjoyed their lakeside retreat for decades, but in 2005, John Knapp’s aging daughter decided the historic building would bring more pleasure if it was preserved in a living history setting and open for the public to view. She decided to donate Cedar View to the museum. After a four-year rebuild that included restoring the stone fireplace and removing modern additions that had been installed in recent decades, it was finally unveiled to the public on Aug. 3, 2009, as an almost exact replica of its original appearance.

Now, visitors can explore the building and peek into a bygone era.