This painting shows the vestiges of the old style cabin that I discovered near McKellar, Ontario. To be sure, this building is well past its “Best By” date. I noticed a real estate advertisement recently that proclaimed the virtues of “cottage” sites in this very area, so I guess if this log cabin is still standing, it won’t be for long.
Many changes in the bylaws and rules in the townships of cottage country have resulted in a new breed of vacation properties. There was a day when a person could buy a small piece of land beside a lake, and quietly and privately start to construct his own rural retreat. Weekend by weekend, holiday by holiday, the cottage grew.
Often the first version of a cottage improvement turned out to be less than successful and needed a replacement that would be more wife-friendly. Often a family-sized a porch was added to the building. With time, a dock and possibly an additional bedroom materialized. Electricity and water on tap were greeted with great joy by wives who had roughed it just long enough. The progress was slow and the results eccentric.
Many young fathers developed their construction skills with the help of a friend from work or a relative that knew possibly only a tiny bit more about construction, or thought that they did. The retirement of the back-house meant a certain sophistication had arrived. Much joy for the family and accomplishment for the builder resulted from these homegrown cabins. New friends who also had created new castles in the woods were met from the surrounding cottages and lifelong associations formed.
Alas, now with regulations and municipal laws, a family cabin cannot grow organically on a site. Plans, regulations, and permissions govern these new buildings. Safeguards for the environment and for the year-round residents shape the placement and the form of these new buildings that start to resemble more closely a house in a subdivision, with the same level of taxes, than a shack in the woods. Much of Muskoka seems to have turned into a Toronto suburb.