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Cherry Tree Lodge: A special place at Sturgeon Point

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Recently, members of the City of Kawartha Lakes’ Economic Development Department, senior City staff, and a City councillor paid a visit to Cherry Tree Lodge, a diminutive nineteenth century cottage located at 19 Third Street in Sturgeon Point. A few years prior, the Honourable Maryam Monsef, MP, paid a visit to the Olde Gaol Museum in Lindsay, where she spent some time admiring the beautiful paintings and drawings credited to the builder of Cherry Tree Lodge, William Alfred Goodwin (1840-1940).

Why has this tiny cottage and the unassuming artist who built it captured the attention of people over the past five years?

It may be that both W.A. Goodwin’s art and his summer home speak to the experience[s] of so many residents and visitors alike, who have flocked to this region for over 125 years to enjoy the many recreational opportunities afforded by the surrounding lakes and forests. Whether it be boating, camping, cottaging, fishing, or hunting, the activities Goodwin documented in his art continue to be a major part of the local, tourism-driven economy. Paintings like “Bald Lake, Looking Towards Bobcaygeon” and “Our Camp On Crab River” – not to mention reams of drawings depicting rustic campsites throughout Victoria and Haliburton Counties – speak not only to Goodwin’s talent as an amateur artist, but also to the importance he placed on how we use, and engage with, the land around us.

It is unlikely that the English-born Goodwin received anything in the way of formal artistic training as a young man. He was, first and foremost, a painter and decorator; his Lindsay-based art store and framing shop a forerunner of businesses like Scott’s Decorating and Galaxy Picture Frames. Enchanted by the Kawartha Lakes region from the time he first arrived around 1860, Goodwin would remain a lifelong advocate for the health benefits of the great outdoors. For him, a healthy and active lifestyle was the answer to recovering from serious health problems he encountered while in his twenties.

“I have refused any medical treatment for a contagious cold,” he wrote in 1927, “the best remedy I have for [the] same is to fast 2 or 3 days and drink water, [and eat] plain fruit…with no meat or eggs. At 87 people are surprised to see me at the work bench framing pictures. 6 or 7 a day is no load for me – ‘Health for all is the best for all.’”

This focus on the restorative benefits of nature led Goodwin, as well as plenty of other citizens, to Sturgeon Point, which was quickly gaining a reputation as “Lindsay’s Summer Playground.” By the mid-1880s, land was acquired by the Goodwin family on which Cherry Tree Lodge would be built in 1887. According to Jane Still, Goodwin’s great-granddaughter, the cottage was built to resemble the large tents in which he and his extended family and friends enjoyed so many camping trips in the years prior to its construction. (Ironically, Goodwin himself never owned the lot on which the cottage is situated; the deed of land was passed down through the female members of his extended family.)

For almost half a century thereafter, Cherry Tree Lodge became W.A. Goodwin’s summer retreat. Many cottagers, says Julia Harrison, a professor emeritus from Trent University who has studied Ontario’s cottage experience, see their cottage as their “spiritual home,” perhaps more so than their year-round residence. For W.A. Goodwin, the cottage was indeed a sacred space, one immune from the artificiality of modern living. “All to bed before Nine o’clock, up at 5.30 well refreshed and ready for ‘more of the same Sort,’ Goodwin wrote in 1910. “The peacefulness of the woods and the music of the birds surpasses the artificial pleasures of the town, ten times over.”

Starting in 1909 and continuing for almost 30 years, Goodwin recorded the day-to-day milieu of cottage life in his Cherry Tree Lodge Journal. No detail escaped his attention, from the annual Sturgeon Point sailing regatta to what the family ate for supper. Countless card games, croquet games, canoe rides, and hikes through the woods are documented – not to mention quiet time he spent in front of a canvas or sketchpad. For many years, a group of Lindsay young people calling themselves the “Wingtie Golly-Gosh Go-Longay Club” flocked to Cherry Tree Lodge for masquerade parties and square dances. It was truly the place to be during the summer nights of long ago.

W.A. Goodwin returned to Cherry Tree Lodge every summer well into his nineties. “It is a great pleasure to me…and my daughter[s] May and Tillie to visit this old play Ground of Sturgeon Point,” he wrote in 1937. “We hope to set good examples of living and to help make others appreciate the same.”

Less than three years later he was dead, a few months short of his one hundredth birthday.

In 2015, Goodwin’s great-granddaughter sold Cherry Tree Lodge to Meri Newton and Sherry McNaulty, of Toronto. It is now a treasured part of the Kawartha Lakes Arts & Heritage Trail, welcoming visitors and inspiring artists in the tradition of its builder. “When we purchased Cherry Tree Lodge, we fell in love with it far before we even went inside,” says Newton. “I am positive WA. Goodwin hammered love into each nail.”

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Ian McKechnie is a graduate of Trent University (B.A. Hons. '13) and a lifelong resident of Lindsay Ontario. He presently works as an assistant manager at the museum here in town, and is secretary of the Kawartha Lakes Heritage Network.

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