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also known as Nonquon Island
Aerial view of Seven Mile Island
taken in 1982
One of the most magnificent properties
to have ever been developed in Scugog Township is
Seven Mile Island. This relatively isolated piece
of land, found attached to Scugog Island by a narrow
causeway, has been home to a number of wealthy residents
over the past 100 years. Seven Mile Island, as it
is known today, was originally several packages
of land, which over the years was assembled into
a 91 acre parcel.
Records dating back to the early
1880s show Albert C. Stevens as owner of the land,
which at that time was referred to as Nonquon Island.
Mr. Stevens operated the property as a sportsman's
home, providing comfortable accommodation for hunters
and fishermen, many whom travelled from parts of
Canada and the U.S.A., to enjoy the tremendous fishing
and shooting available on and around Lake Scugog.
While Mr. Stevens and his wife provided adequate
facilities for their guests, the property paled
in comparison to what it would become through much
of the next century.
From the mid 1890s until 1919
the property changed hands a number of times. Some
of the owners during this period include: Harry
Beasley (1902-09), Silas E. VanCamp (1910), George
Cotton (1911) and Thomas Stinzel (1912-19).
Delmont Cottage about 1915
Thomas Stinzel lived in the original
log cabin on the property before beginning construction
of a large new house which he named Delmont Cottage,
the same name the old log house had been called.
A news item in an October 1912
issue of the Port Perry Star reported that Seven
Mile Island Hotel was a popular spot for hunters,
indicating that Mr. Stinzel rented out rooms to
duck hunters during the fall. Another report in
1916 suggests that the Island was a popular spot
for excursions, where participants could enjoy swimming,
boating and picnics in front of the hotel.
While Seven Mile Island was under
the ownership of Mr. Stinzel, he also developed
a registered plan of subdivision for 19 lots along
the north-west shore of Lake Scugog.
View of Wilson's beautiful property
from on top of the water tower
On May 2, 1919, Alex Ross Wilson
and his wife Mary purchased Seven Mile Island from
Thomas Stinzel and began to develop the property
into what would become a magnificent estate. Mr.
Wilson amassed his wealth as owner of his father's
company, Andrew Wilson & Co., which manufactured
the very popular "Bachelor" brand cigars. In 1923
the business was taken over by the Imperial Tobacco
Co. Ltd., although Mr. Wilson continued as its president
After leaving the tobacco company,
Mr. Wilson became vice-president of Consolidated
Press Limited of Toronto, publishers of Saturday
Night, The Canadian Home Journal and the Farmer's
Over the next few years they assembled
a number of small parcels of land abutting the area,
until they had accumulated approximately 91 acres.
It was during the Wilson's ownership of the Seven
Mile Island that this relatively undeveloped land,
was turned into an estate showplace.
The Wilsons immediately started
work on enlarging Delmont Cottage, adding a number
of buildings to the property, constructing numerous
floral gardens, a swimming pool, tea house, reflecting
pool and an elaborate boathouse with a dance hall
on the upper level. The property boasted beautifully
manicured lawns, rose gardens, bridges, ponds and
an elaborate pergola leading to the magnificent
26 room mansion.
Delmont Cottage after Wilson's
enlarged it in the 1920s
Mr. Wilson hired talented Scottish
stonemasons to erect huge stone pillars, the shape
of cigars, at the entrance to the property and also
construct stone fences and walkways throughout the
property. The craftsmen came to the estate to do
this work after completing the construction of Casa
Loma in Toronto.
While residents of Seven Mile
Island, Mr. and Mrs. Wilson became quite involved
within the community. They were known for their
generosity, purchasing new uniforms for the Port
Perry Band on one occasion, and donating $1,000
towards cleaning up Lake Scugog on another.
Flower gardens flank the entrance
to an ornate pergola in the 1930s
Occasionally, the Wilsons would
open their property to the community for garden
parties. On one of these occasions in August 1927
Port Perry Star publisher Samuel Farmer described
the event as follows:
"A Gala day on Scugog as Mr. and
Mrs. A.R. Wilson opened the grounds of Seven Mile
Island for a garden party which the whole community
"We can't think of it, without
a feeling of shame, for the way in which the crowd
acted was more like hungry refugees than guests."
Mr. Wilson was 71 years old when
he died at his home at 5 Beaumont Rd., in the Rosedale
district of Toronto, on October 12, 1941, after
an illness of about two months. He was survived
by his wife Mary, a step-daughter Mrs. Roy McConnell,
and a nephew, R.A. Wilson.
The Reflecting Pool, about 1930,
with Mary Wilson along side
Following the death of her husband,
Mrs. Wilson lost interest in the estate and about
two years later, on September 4, 1943, she sold
Seven Mile Island for a mere $18,000 to Harry S.
Ely and his wife Freda. Mr. Ely was one of a group
of four men who joined forces to purchase the property
but before the deal closed, his three partners backed
out, leaving Mr. Ely to arrange financing for the
purchase on his own.
Harry Ely was the owner of "VanKirk
Chocolate Corporation," a chocolate manufacturing
company located at 301 King St., Toronto. The company
made chocolates and chocolate bars for a variety
of stores, including Loblaws, Dominion and Eatons,
and also provided chocolate bars under the "VanKirk"
name for movie theaters. He was probably most famous
for developing a baking product under the brand
Harry Ely passed away when he
was only 41-year-old, but the firm contined under
the management of his wife, and later with the help
of Freda's second husband, Henry L. (Harry) Fogler.
Swimming pool at the Wilson's
home on Seven Mile Island
The VanKirk company was sold
to an American firm, and was later purchased by
the Hershey Co. "Chipits" are still produced by
Hershey today, using the same logo designed by Harry
Ely more than 60 years ago.
Mrs. Freda (Ely) Fogler, now more
than 93 years of age, remembers when they purchased
Seven Mile Island from Mary Wilson, it was in a
state of disrepair and neglect. "The lawns looked
like hay fields," she said, and remembered working
"like fiends" to cut down the waist high grass and
clean up the property.
How the property looked when
Harry and Freda Ely purchased
it in 1948
While owner of Seven Mile Island,
Harry Ely also purchased two farms adjacent to the
island estate, but outside the main gates on the
mainland of Scugog Island.
Mrs. Fogler recalled that the
family was not initially received with open arms
in the community, speculating it may have had something
to do with them being Jewish. Gradually the family
did become accepted, and they did much of their
shopping in town for groceries and summer clothing.
She particularly remembered shopping at Bentley's
Jewellers, Brock's Department Store and the two
local grocery stores, Dowson's Red & White and McKee's
Freda Ely spent most summers at
Seven Mile Island with her two young children, and
her parents, who lived in a small cottage on the
property overlooking the lake. Mr. Ely lived at
their Old Forest Hill Rd. home during the week,
while he was tending to business, but arrived at
Seven Mile Island almost every weekend to relax
and to enjoy his leisure time raising and breeding
They converted the large residence
into apartments in which family and friends could
stay for the summer months and enjoy horseback riding,
swimming, sailing, pool-side parties and leisurely
strolls around the beautiful grounds.
There were about 16 children of
various family members living at Seven Mile Island
throughout the summer, so a day camp was started,
with a camp director and counsellors hired to run
the children's programs. "Camp Ely" was operated
near the reflecting pool and also in the upper storey
of the boat house. The Elys provided playground
equipment, swings and a sandbox, and the councillors
taught the children crafts, played water games in
shallow water of the reflecting pool, learned how
to ride ponies and enjoyed hayrides. The children
also had a roped-off area in the lake, near the
boathouse, where they swam and played in the shallow
water along the shoreline.
One of the ornate water fountains
found in the gardens
Among the noted families
who brought their children to the island camp was
comedian Frank Shuster.
Rumors that the property was being
used as a refugee camp, for children rescued from
Europe during the war, are unfounded, but the fact
there was a summer camp for children on the estate,
may have led to this rumour.
Although Harry Ely died in 1950,
it wasn't until June 1958, that Mrs. Ely disposed
of their summer home. She said the Island was truly
a wonderful place filled with many unforgettable
memories, and regretted having to give it up.
Mrs. Fogler sold Seven Mile Island
for about $50,000 to a company called Harrison Holdings,
which was owned by Patrick Harrison and his wife
Mr. Harrison was a mining engineer
at the time, and initially he and his wife used
the property as a summer retreat. Eventually, the
Harrisons moved in and took up permanent residence
at Seven Mile Island, spending an estimated $1 million
on improvements to the property, including construction
of two guest houses for his daughters.
Mr. Harrison continued to live
on the property for a number of years following
the death his first wife, but in 1981 at the age
of 80 years, he decided to sell the estate. It took
almost two years to sell the property, but ownership
changed in July 1983, with a registered Ontario
corporation purchasing the property for a Toronto
group known as the Ching Chung Taoist Society of
The new owners began work converting
the main house into a hotel, a second residence
into a restaurant and divided the remaining houses
into rental units. In 1984 Seven Mile Island was
opened to the public and many people from the Scugog
area enjoyed lunches and dinners in the restaurant
as well as leisurely strolls throughout this unique
In 1987, the property was leased
by local real estate agent Mark Smith and his partner
Greg Fish. They formed a syndicate of 12 investors
who intended to develop the property. This idea
never came to fruition.
Next it was leased to a group
who opened "Harmony Island Estate" a school for
troubled boys. The school opened in October 1992
but this venture also failed. After this, the property
sat virtually empty and began to deteriorate rapidly
over the next few years. Unfortunately during this
time, vandals struck at the estate, destroying many
of the ornate statues and intricate fencework.
In June 1995 the property was
transferred into the name of the International Taoist
Church of Canada, and during the summer of 1998,
Seven Mile Island once again was listed for sale.
Unfortunately, over the past decade, the property
has become run-down, fencing and buildings have
started to deteriorate, or have been vandalized
and this once magnificent estate is now in a sad
state of disrepair.
In June 2002, a group of enthusiastic
investors, many from the artistic community, purchased
the property with the idea of establishing a school
for the study of art. The group, Artis Orbus Inc.
is headed by Charlotte Hale, owner of Veni Vidi
Gallery in Port Perry. Work began immediately on
stabalizing the buildings and damaged structures,
as well as cleaning and clearing the property of
overgrowth created by decades of neglect.
This enthusiastic group of people
have an enormous job ahead of them, but in time
they hope to return Seven Mile Island to its original
splendor and establish a new home for the arts.
Iron gate gave privacy to the
Seven Mile Island estate
A Walking Tour of Seven Mile
Pictures for this walking tour taken in July 1982
"Cool breezes billow
across Lake Scugog, rustle through tall pine trees,
and move past the sanctuary, European-style gardens
and the cool white house on the southern top of
the property. Only the sound of the waves lapping
against the shores of the island estate and the
call of the wildlife breaks the silence."
This is how Seven Mile Island
was described by a real estate company hired to
sell the property for Patrick Harrison in 1982.
Mr. Harrison invited a number of Port Perry business
people and residents to his island retreat that
summer for a barbeque, and to view the property.
The following story and photographs
were recorded by Port Perry Star publisher, J. Peter
Hvidsten that beautiful summer afternoon.
Cigar shaped pillars along the
road at the entrance
To reach the 26 acre
estate property, we pass through two tall, cigar-shaped
pillars and proceed along a narrow 1,650 foot causeway.
Over-grown brush and trees crowd the roadway and
provide a beautiful canopy for the brief trip between
mainland Scugog Island and this private hideaway
situated in the middle of 65 acres of wildlife sanctuary.
The long, narrow causeway leading
to Seven Mile Island
As we reach the
other side, the narrow roadway winds past two of
the five houses on the property before reaching
the main residence.
The two-storey house consists
of 28-rooms and covers about 2,600 sq. ft. per floor.
On the main floor is a 24'x17' kitchen which leads
to a large dining area.
Beyond another set of doors is
a large living room, which incorporates beamed ceilings
and a fireplace. In all there are four fireplaces
in the main residence. The upper floor is taken
up by eight bedrooms, a large sitting room and a
Two storey boathouse with dance
floor on upper level in 1982
Leaving the house,
moving west along the shoreline of Lake Scugog is
an enormous rock garden with a small stream running
throughout and a massive stone barbecue.
Not far away is a lookout point,
seaplane dock and a beautiful 50'x24' in-ground
pool, surrounded by an ornate lattice fence and
globe lighting. And next to the pool is a four-bedroom
house with greenhouses and a germination building.
Proceeding south, past the main
residence again, we come upon one of the numerous
stone-lined walkways. One of these leads to the
lake and a large two-storey boathouse. The upper
section of this building was used for elaborate
parties and dancing during the 1920s and 1930s.
The stone teahouse overlooking
the reflecting pool
Strolling from the boathouse,
along another of the stone walkways, we come upon
a stone teahouse nestled at the end of a 62'x14'
reflecting pool. In the middle of the pool is a
bronze statue of the Greek God "Mercury."
Moving along from this tranquil
setting we arrive at the roadway once again, and
as we travel along the circular drive we arrive
at an ornate pergola flanked at the entrance by
two of the dozens of statues found throughout the
The pergola, an ornate lattice
covered walkway, leads us back towards the main
residence and to a large fountain, birdhouse and
beautiful gardens on the east side of the house.
We also find here a large rose garden with more
walkways, a stream and ponds.
One of the many stoned walkways
around the island estate
Seven Mile Island as it looked, some 60 years after
the Wilson's created their island retreat.
The following description of the
property was taken from a real estate sales pamphlet
in 1988, when the property was for sale:
Seven Mile Island consists of
approximately 95 acres of land which includes a
27 acre Island, 28 acres on the mainland and 40
acres of submerged land.
Twelve acres of the property is
being used as a resort which consists of the Scugog
House (restaurant), the Wilson House (bar, video
room, office and 10 rooms), Durham House (four cabins),
Lindsay House (four cabins), storage house, caretakers
house, greenhouse, tea house, boat house, garage,
three barns, tennis courts, inground pool, two sets
of docks, six fountains and five ponds or pools.
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