All County, All the Time Since 2010 MAKE THIS YOUR PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY HOME...PAGE!  Tuesday, July 16th, 2024

Great-niece pleads with province to spare homes; Hyatts and MacDonalds intertwined in business and in love, for generations

To the Editor (and Greg Walsh, Ontario Park’s Greg Walsh, Parks Operations Manager Southeast Zone, Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks and Bay of Quinte MP Todd Smith).

I recently became aware of the efforts of Heritage Conservation Architect Philip Evans, to safeguard two iconic, heritage homes in Prince Edward County: the Hyatt House (aka Lakeview Lodge) and The Lakeland.

I urge you to take a few minutes from your incredibly busy agendas to consider the value of these buildings and request your support for a pause in further action on the properties.

These homes have for decades been overlooked by those trusted to protect them and now face demolition by the Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Violet welcoming guests – Photos from the collection of Sarah Sinclair

My family once owned the Lakeview Lodge. My great-aunt Violet Hyatt (b. 1907) grew up running the trails back and forth along the shores that connected her Lakeview home to her grandfather’s busy Lakeshore Hotel, an iconic hotel visited by people from around the globe for nearly 100 years.

It was the home her great-grandfather envisioned when he bought the land in the 1820s, a home constructed at the time of confederation that housed three generations of the Hyatt family and countless guests from around the world. Violet eventually took ownership of the home, running a working farm and popular tourist spot until she sold the place to the province – a sale she was told would ensure her family’s home and legacy would be honoured and remembered as a key component of the Sandbanks community and Provincial Park.

– 1893

But those promises were never realized and these homes that once united the community have been left to decay along with other iconic properties throughout the Sandbanks Provincial Park (The Lakeland Hotel once owned by the MacDonald family; The Lakeshore Hotel initially run and built as a joint venture by the Hyatts and MacDonalds).

I can imagine that you’re wondering why it matters – why the loss of a few more old houses and hotels should cause anyone to pause on their way to sunbathing on the beach.

The reality is that these homes were also places of industry, activism, political engagement, religious freedom, community and love. The families were instrumental in saving the dunes from erosion, establishing trade markets with the US, advocating for safety on our waterways, serving in public office, tending to the religious needs of the community, and embracing love laughter and family throughout that time.

The Hyatts and the MacDonalds are intertwined in business and in love. Their stories span generations and encompass the fallout of the American Revolution and the United Empire Loyalists, the tragedies of the world wars, the thrills of the twenties, the depression of the thirties, and, yes, the tourism booms that came and went throughout those eras.

These were homes where the young Merry brothers worked and fell in love before they left for war and never returned. These are homes where young entrepreneurs were born and raised before they became founders of the Hyatt Canning company. These are homes where political advocates wrote letters begging the province to safeguard sailors by constructing lighthouses (following the sinking of the Jesse) and planned forestry initiatives to save the sandbanks from erosion. These were homes that filled with laughter when guests arrived, and smelled sweetly of the maple syrup they collected and the vegetable they harvested.

I have no ideas if it is possible to rebuild theses homes. That is not even what I am begging of you.

I am entreating you only to pause.
To listen.
To ensure transparency and community input.
To allow for a full discussion of all of the issues and potential opportunities posed by this property – opportunities that have been overlooked and pushed aside.

Lakeview Lodge 1950s

I plead for your help to request a pause to allow for full investigation by ERA architects who are leading a group of investors interesting in conserving what is left of this area.

If we lose these properties, I fear that we will lose the heartbeat of the County. We move closer to the erasure of what makes this area special in order to make way for day trippers who have limited opportunity to invest in our community’s past which is integral to the ways in which they will invest in our future. We lose the differentiator that makes PEC a tourist destination steeped in history and not merely drifting sand and wine glasses.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to your response and support.

Sarah Sinclair, MA, OCELT
Professor, Communications and Literary Studies

Concerns can also be emailed to Greg Walsh, Parks Operations Manager Southeast Zone Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks and Bay of Quinte MP Todd Smith

The Hyatt and MacDonald Houses at Sandbanks Provincial Park, March 2020. – Sue Capon photos

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  1. CountyProud says:

    Ms Lepage, thank you so much for your heartfelt post and the link to the article. It made for wonderful reading and helps to remind us of our proud history all around The County and especially here on the South Shore. Perhaps that article should be required reading for our Council to refresh their understanding of our history.

  2. JennyD says:

    Thank you Petra! Very insightful and worthy of deeper review and investigation. This is our chance to get it right and acknowledge the former inhabitants.

  3. Petra Lepage says:

    Dear Ms. Sinclair,

    I too was born into the legacy of the Hyatt’s and MacDonalds. Growing up, I loved my Hyatt homestead and played on our acreage with pride. As I got older, I was able to ride my bicycle and play in the ruins of Lakeshore Lodge. My heart sank the night my family and I were driving home from Picton and we saw the fiery, orange glow off in the distance. When I learned that it was my beloved Lakeshore Lodge that went down in flames that night my heart truly sank!

    However, there is another history about the land that Lakeshore Lodge was built upon that has been kept hidden. Sometime in the early 1980’s there was an archaeological dig at the Lakeshore Lodge site. Evidence of the land’s first inhabitants were found there and included pottery, implements and arrow heads. I know this because I frequented the area and was told not to disturb the researchers. I know this happened because the inquisitive youth I was, went down to the rocky shores after the researchers left to look for myself. I only found the ropes left from the research area- all artifacts had been removed and presumably bagged and articled. After reading your article I wanted proof of what I know to be true. Interestingly enough, a Google search of this event proved fruitless. I was able to find one article from 1910 that made mention to the first inhabitants of the area:

    I still travel to the site of Lakeshore Lodge a few times each summer and walk the grounds as I did in my youth. Each visit, I stop and read the sign which proclaims the history of Lakeshore Lodge. On each occasion, I also talk to tourists who read the sign in awe and wonder of an age gone bye. They “oohh and awe” over my heritage and then I tell them about the area’s first inhabitants. This typically leaves them bewildered as there is no acknowledgement of their history mentioned. It isn’t in any newspapers, or magazine articles written to lure tourists to the area. However, the plight of Canada’s Indigenous people is far less glamourous than drifting sands and clinking wine glasses. Whatever the plight of these two historic homes, it is time for acknowledgement of the land they stand on.

    Petra Lepage (nee Hyatt)

  4. Hedy says:

    I want to thank Ms. Sinclair for that eloquent letter about these properties that are not only historically significant but are dear to many in the PEC community. It is a wonderful letter that merits consideration by the province and all concerned parties.
    I also thank the architect and lawyer Gillespie for their efforts to protect this part of our heritage.

  5. Teena says:

    A heartfelt thank you, Ms. Sinclair.

  6. KB says:

    Undoubtedly the government offices have passed several administrations since the sale and agreement making it easy to lose focus on the committment to preserve these homes/sites. Nonetheless, it does not negate the government of their responsibility and accountability to uphold the terms. Otherwise what will come of this? Another expansion to accommodate visitors and tourists with little regard to hour history and local preservation.

  7. Dee says:

    Thank you Ms Sinclair for your eloquent and heartfelt letter to our community. Your initimate knowledge of these homes and their owners puts such needed perspective into their importance as part of our cultural heritage.

    There are many people here who celebrated special events at Lakeshore Lodge or worked there or at Lakeland Lodge, who worked for the Hyatts and the MacDonalds. These families were truly icons in our local economies and in the history of our community.

    Without these families who lived in these homes, the Sandbanks Provincial Park would not be what it is today. It is important that we hold the province accountable to their original commitment to protect these homes.

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