Lake St. Joseph - Its Many Charms
( Originally Published 1907 )
A BRIGHT little American lady said to us a few months ago : "Have you been to Lake St. Joseph this summer as a guest of the new hotel, for if you haven't it's a treat, I assure you, to find a hostelry on the edge of a wilderness, on the borders of a lake that is most beautiful, and that same hotel an ideal one for every comfort and luxury that its gentlemanly and capable American manager can think of to make his guests happy and at home. In all the appointments of the house the most refined taste has been shown. The menu is always first class, and the large staff employed is most attentive and efficient. My engagements were made for this summer—otherwise I should have remained on, but I am already booked for a three months' stay next year. Do go out and let me know if I am not right."
We promised, and in fulfilment of that promise we became the guests of mine host of the hotel for one of the most delightful afternoons and evenings we have passed for many a long day.
If the weather was sultry and oppressive when we left Quebec, we found a most refreshing change of temperature when we reached the hotel, which, by-the-bye, is within less than a minute's walk of the station. We sat for a few moments on the broad shady piazza to drink in the glorious breeze and the magnificent view of mountain and lake stretching before us for miles, then our smiling and enthusiastic host came up and begged us, to forego this dream of scenic beauty for a short period that he might have the pleasure of showing us over the house.
We somewhat reluctantly tore ourselves away from our cool position of vantage to follow our host, in what subsequently proved a charming tour about "my house."
To anticipate, however, some description of the location of the hotel and its architecture may not be out of place. In fixing upon the site for the hotel many things had to be borne in mind. First, proximity to the railroad; next, airiness,view, and space for golf links and tennis courts: By some untoward combination of nature the one spot was available. The architect, Ald. Lemay, cleverly adapted his plans to the many requirements of a very modern summer hotel, but of not too large guest capacity to begin with, yet so built that the several wings to be added in the future will form a complete whole of pleasing and attractive exterior with convenient interior connections.
Already the management has built a large kitchen and store house addition, and the others will soon be called for. The public after all is a discriminating one, and whatever is good is sought out and enjoyed. The first floor of the hotel is entirely given up to the various public rooms. The office and general sitting room occupies the central part of the building. It is an unusually spacious apartment flanked on each side with immense open fire-places constructed of lake shore boulders. The entire front is in glass that admits of light, and permits of the same glorious view that is obtained from the piazza upon which the hall opens. Hardwood floors, wicker and rush easy chairs, the walls in subdued tints, render this room a cool and pleasant lounging spot for those who prefer to be indoors of an evening, or who have correspondence to attend to. An attentive clerk is in the office, and a half dozen alert and polite bell boys are in readiness to per-form any service for the guests. These bell boys, by the way, are all university men, young men in their second or third year of student life and working their way through. They are a polite and gentlemanly lot and anxious to be of service. Later, I saw the big wall tent in which they slept—regular campers-out in the bush. They are all tastefully uniformed, and they take a pride in appearing natty. No, they are not seeking alliances with the daughters of millionaire guests just now—' merely seeking by honest industry to earn where-with to carry them through college, and they don't refuse a ten-cent tip.
The dancing room, which comprises one wing of the lower floor, is an ideal apartment for the devotees of the waltz. It is spacious, wax-floored, and every window is a door that opens on to the piazza. A dance is a quickly arranged affair, as the "Ladies' Boston Orchestra" performs in the room nightly. In the intervals Miss Eastwood, of London, England, a well-known and popular concert singer, renders delightful vocal selections.
The dining room occupies the corresponding on the opposite side of the hall. Its furnishing is in dark scission, heavy substantial chairs and round or hexagonal tables for small family parties. The napery is of the finest linen, the glass delicate, and the china the best. The floral decorations are the natural wild flowers that grow about the lake. Doors and windows all screened so that not a fly might enter.
The kitchen, which is under the charge of an experienced chef, is the show place of the hotel. Spotless cleanliness is the motto. At the hour of our visit dinner was being prepared for 150 guests, yet there was no confusion—no disorder—a place for everything and everything in its place—a complete and up-to-date equipment, and a well-trained staff.
The storeroom just off the kitchen in charge of the storekeeper is a veritable Beauty's for rare vintages, liquors, and fine imported and domestic canned goods. The refrigerating room contained the meats, poultry, game and perish-able fruits and vegetables.
In a rear room is a well-appointed bar, in charge of an expert, for cool summer decoctions.
The upper story of the hotel contains a pleasant ladies' morning and lounging room that opens upon a gallery and a view. Then guest bedrooms and bathrooms. The maids in charge were neatly uniformed and looked smiling.
Those dear little cherubs so fascinating in a nursery, and such a nuisance on a hotel piazza of a rainy day, are conspicuous by their absence at the Lake hotel. Little reduction is made in rates for children, and fond parents go elsewhere as a con-sequence.
Thanking the Manager for his courtesy, we wended our way to the hotel boat house, where we secured a canoe for our paddle acr0ss the bay to White's Point to call upon some of our cottage friends. A little steamer whisked by us with a full complement of passengers. How different all this to-day from our first visit of thirty-five years ago, we thought, as we paddled slowly on. There were then but three settlers on the lake, White, Gurry and Conway. The road from Quebec was long and rough, and the only visitors to the lake were ambitious and adventurous anglers. The black bass, tuladi, and speckled trout teemed in the lake, and he was a mighty poor fisherman who failed to return to the city without a full creel. While the fish are not now so plentiful as in those days, there is still a goodly quantity for the man who knows where and how.
The lake is a very lovely one with its numerous points and bays, sandy beaches, wooded shores, and varied mountain line. It is some nine miles long, and receives the waters of the Riviere aux Pins as a feeder. Its Indian name of Ontaritzilake behind the big mountain—should be restored to it, as should also that of the big mountain, Tsounthouan, now commonly called Pinkney's.
The transformation at White's from the little farm house to the present rather imposing summer hotel is a long step, but it is still White's with the traditions of the years behind it, and a goodly clientele of Quebecers, who never feel so much at home as in this old house, and it is about White's the cottages cluster. Cottage life at the lakes is growing in favor, and a number of ornate and picturesquely situated homes have been erected within the past few years. Among the cottagers may be mentioned Hon. Justice Blanchet, Hon. Jules Tessier, whose chalet in logs on the wooded hillside presents a charming effect, Mrs. J. K. Boswell, Arch. Cook, Esq., K.C., E. T. Nesbitt, Esq., Andrew Joseph, Esq., Jas Hamilton, Esq., Ed. Slade, Esq., Frank Glass, Esq., W. J. Banks, Esq., W. Winfield, Esq., L. Crosby, Esq., C. Labrecque, Esq., E. Vallee, Esq., J. Auger, Esq., C. Sewell, Esq., Mrs. Jones, J. Bain, Esq., E. Turcotte, Esq., Arch. Laurie, Esq. Boating and canoeing are the favourite anusements of old and young. The Ontaritzi club of young bachelors have a large camp of their own where they spend the week end. They are always eagerly looked for by the ladies for the Saturday night dances at the hotel, and for the canoeing trips up the picturesque Riviere aux Pins.
Upon our return to the hotel we joined some friends at dinner. The menu was excellent, and the attendance first rate. Over our cigars on the broad piazza ,we watched the afterglow suffuse the calm lake in crimsons and golds, and in the deepening twilight the fleets of canoes and their jolly occupants. All too soon the clock warned us that it was train time, and an hour later we were back in Quebec. The railway service to the lake leaves little to be desired. If any of our readers desire a pleasant evening, take the 5.20 p.m. train to the lake—dinner at the hotel on its arrival—and then an hour on the lake. The return train leaves at 10 p.m.