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November 16, 2007

More House History-The Hillcrest Cabins


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about people researching the history of a house or property.  Sometimes professional "house detectives" or "house genealogists" get involved for a fee.  Sometimes newspaper columnists have fun doing a search.  I wrote about the abandoned Spetz house on Alsace Road last week and have a couple of new requests beside the previously mentioned couple.  I will write about one of them today - the old Hillcrest Cabins property on Lakeshore Drive in North Bay at Nipissing Junction which is now up for sale. 

Postcard of Hillcrest Cabins courtesy of vintagepostcards.org

The request for information on the Hillcrest property came from vintagepostcards.org which has the postcard shown opposite.  The name change from J.D. Lindsey to J. McLeod was on the postcard as was the interesting comment that showers were no longer available.  I had no luck finding J.D. Lindsey but the kind of break one looks for came through Jennifer Buell the Director of the North Bay Museum.  She told me that Judy Loach who volunteers at the Museum was a McLeod daughter and had grown up on the property.  She also told me that coincidentally Judy had provided a brief history of the property during her families stay there and had provided some photos for that era to the museum.  I contacted Judy and she gave me permission to use the photos and added some additional information.  She also told me that her brother Denver would have memories of life on the property.  Arrangements were made to visit the property with Judy and Denver. 

The following is some of the information that came out of the conversation.  The property was originally a large farm just west of the LaVase River which was used in the early days by native people, voyageurs and explorers traversing the height of land between Trout Lake and Lake Nipissing.  The property was subdivided into various lots.  Richie Avenue which leads to the previous Laporte Nursery operation parallels the river and loops west on Toronto Street, south on Price and back to Richie on South Street.  The Hillcrest Property lies on about 5 acres between South Street and Lakeshore Drive. (Hwy 11B). 

The Hillcrest ESSO station, store, post office and camp office, McLeod photo


We looked at the photo shown here showing the store, post office, gas pumps and office for the Cabins.  We looked at a clipping from the Nugget showing Grandfather R.M. McLeod showing a unique old pioneer skillet found by workmen digging a foundation for one of the Hillcrest cabins.  Miss Shiela Skerton, teacher at the Nipissing Junction School looks on. 

There were six cabins including the one in the postcard which remains today with its unique stone pillars and fire place.  They remembered the names of the cabins - Uneeda Rest, Woodland Echo, Ramblers' Rest and Bid - awee. 

They remembered an electrical fire in January 1950 and the concrete block addition which was destroyed in another fire in 1957.  Judy had a small log playhouse near the store which was moved further back on the property later.  Different people rented and ran the store over the years - including the Yerkies and the Jones.  At one point the store was an antique shop.  The last owner was Guy Duhamel who made lawn furniture and sold beautiful antique automobiles that everyone saw as they went by.  He died in 2006 and the family is currently selling the property. 

The Nugget article on the iron skillet artifact discovered on the Hillcrest property.  McLeod photo

Denver remembered the old well at the back of the property and the horse that hauled wood and ice for the ice house.  A community ice rink existed between the property and the Gospel Church for years.  The family planted the beautiful pine trees and Mr. Duhamel brought in a lot of fill to level the property.  Some of the cabins were rented on occasion for lengthy periods by family members and the local school teacher.  Local students took a shortcut across the property on their way to and from school. 

It will be interesting to see what the future holds for the property. 

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