By Craig Cole
Port Stanley’s first summer cottage was built in 1883 on Orchard Beach, according to an article by Hilda North in the London Free Press, on Saturday, February 23, 1963. Orchard Beach is of course the area to the east of the village, on the other side of what used to always be referred to as Schoolhouse Hill. And thereby hangs a tale for another column.
The original Orchard Beach cottage was a one room shed, built by two clergymen brothers, one from London and one from St. Thomas, and was located just west of Little Creek, illustrated in the accompanying photograph.
In 1907 the property was bought by my grandfather’s brother John K. Darch. The “cottage” has been rebuilt several times and moved repeatedly (family myth says seven times) as erosion relentlessly ate away the land on which it stood.
In the 1940s, when I came down from London in the winter with my parents to check on our cottage, we could never be sure if the road to Orchard Beach was going to be plowed. In those years the Orchard Beach area consisted almost entirely of summer cottages.
Having said all that, I will readily admit that the claim that this was the first summer cottage in Port Stanley can be questioned. Certainly, there were homes, such as the Bostwick House in the Hillcrest neighbourhood, which were built in the early 1800s and used as permanent residences. Some of these became summer cottages and then, as the years passed, turned back into year-round homes.
Port Stanley is indeed a very “changeable” little village.
If you are interested in the history of Port Stanley, please consider attending the first post-COVID-19 meeting of Heritage Port Stanley, the village’s historical society. The meeting will be held on September 20, 2021, 1:30 p.m., in the Port Stanley Festival Theatre building, 302 Bridge Street.
We do not take ourselves terribly seriously as historians, but it is fun to sit around a table and discuss the days Away Back When. I would urge all the readers of this web site to consider attending. Newcomers to Port Stanley will be doubly welcome.
Dr. Cole has been a summer resident of Port Stanley for the last 80 years. He was a medical researcher, teaching medicine and physiology at McGill University for many years. About 20 years ago, he and his wife retired to the old family summer cottage on Orchard Beach. He is the co-author, with Robert Burns, of a book entitled Port Stanley: The First Hundred Years.
Other posts by Craig Cole.