I’ve been wanting to sound off about this for years. Now’s my chance, so here goes.
From the time the first cottages began appearing along the Georgian Bay shore up until around the early 1930s, many owners for some reason wanted them to stand out, be noticed — whatever — and painted them white, maybe even with red roofs.
That was before my time and, while I would have chosen that a cottage not be noticed, I accept that was how things were in that era.
When the cottages at Wahnuhke and Aberfeldy (Ron With’s island) were built, they were designed to blend into the landscape as much as possible. Their walls and roofs were stained dark brown. Over the years, if the staining was not kept up, the siding and shingles took on a natural weathered gray hue, which blended in with the bare granite even better.
I grew to appreciate this more as I grew older and expanded my horizons at the Bay. The summers of my late teens when I delivered ice to cottages at Pointe au Baril (see The iceman) that appreciation grew keener. As I grew familiar with the cottagers themselves, it became obvious that, generally speaking, those in dark brown, black or even weathered gray cottages were careful to leave gentle footprints on their surroundings.
In other words, they took their stewardship of Georgian Bay seriously. It was reflected in all that they did at the Bay — not just the colour of their buildings — from using canoe, rowboat or even sailing dinghy to shop at the Ojibway store, to how they instilled these values in their children (not always successfully, I admit, as I was in that age bracket too and it would have been an uphill struggle against what was “cool” at the time).
There was one such place along the Hemlock Channel which I had never noticed while passing in the Iceboat as it blended in among the pine trees surrounding it. One Sunday as a group of us were putting past in a slow boat to a picnic, there it was: A beautiful low-roofed dark brown cottage squatting in the shade pretending not to be there.
During all the intervening years I have often thought of that place and how its original owners so carefully sited their buldings to enjoy the spectacular view of the open Bay to the west, while being almost invisible from the channel beside their island.
They did it by avoiding white paint, and trying to “stick out like a sore thumb”, as many of the more recent builds along the shore do today.
There. I’ve said my piece about blending in.