Canada’s story began right here in South Eastern Ontario. As settlers from all over the world arrived, various cities, towns and villages were built and expanded. As these communities grew, so too did the ever-changing tale of our fledgling nation. In times of both conflict, and peace – this expansive story has been etched into the streets, buildings and of communities of Ontario in a fascinating living tapestry.
In the picturesque communities of Lennox & Addington County, there is a wealth of historic locations to tempt both travellers and history buffs alike. From museums to archives, heritage sites, churches, homes and beyond – here are 10 intriguing locations of historical significance to explore in L&A County.
1. Cloyne Pioneer Museum, Cloyne
Located a short 8-minute drive from Bon Echo Provincial Park is The Cloyne Pioneer Museum & Archives. Here, travellers can feast their eyes on a collection of over one thousand artifacts dating back to Cloyne’s settlement era during the 1850’s.
There is a bevy of objects on display ranging from books to clothing, photographs and other documents that collectively tell the story of Lennox & Addington County’s industrial coming of age.
Notable exhibits include a vintage schoolhouse reconstruction – and a sketch by Canadian broadcasting celebrity and playwright Merrill Denison dating back to 1920.
2. Babcock Mill, Odessa
First built in 1856, this stunning heritage site once combined a woollen, grist and sawmill operations. The Babcock Mill is the last standing of the original three – and has been restored to a fully functional water-powered mill.
Located in Odessa, Ontario The Babcock Mill is very close to the 401 making it an interesting stopover for travellers.
At the turn of the century, proprietor John Babcock patented a sophisticated set of basket-making machinery at this site – and from thereafter, the Babcock Basket was a local item of fame and industrious success.
Note that the mill is available for outside viewing only, but it’s still well worth the visit.
3. Fairfield Homestead, Amherstview
The late 1700’s were a pivotal and tumultuous time as the American Revolutionary War raged south of the border. Many civilians who identified with the British Empire fled their homesteads to settle in what is now Picton, Bath, Amherstview and the surrounding communities.
Known as Empire Loyalists these intrepid immigrants sought a more peaceful life in British ruled Upper Canada. Among them was William Fairfield who designed his home to pay homage to his proud New England roots.
In 1793 he built Fairfield House, a stunning colonial home that went on to house six generations of his kin until 1959. Today, the home which is maintained and preserved by the Fairfield Homestead Heritage Association – who welcome guests to take a guided tour of this spectacular home.
4. Neilson Store Museum, Amherst Island
A short ferry ride from Bath will bring you to Amherst Island – and the charming village of Stella. Here you will find the Neilson Store Museum. Originally owned by James S. Neilson a grain merchant – the store features a fantastic collection of artifacts collected from the store’s original proprietor.
Also on display are several examples of historic boats and local maritime history, as well as a fine arts & crafts store called The Weasel and Easel. Amherst Island itself is a history lover’s dream – with direct ties to Canada’s origin story. From far and wide, brave souls settled this Island bringing their diverse range of cultures and building techniques.
The island is home to Canada’s largest known collection of dry stone walls which were originally built by Irish settlers -and are worth a driving tour to witness the magnificent craftsmanship of this ancient tradition that is carried on to this day.
5. Bath Museum, Bath
Housed in The Village of Bath’s original Town Hall, this museum is packed with historical intrigue. Designed in the Roman Civic style, this beautiful building features Doric style pillars upon its facade that make it instantly recognizable as a public hall.
Within the walls of the Bath Museum, visitors will find a robust collection of artifacts dating back to the 1600’s, The United Empire Loyalist era, as well as both world wars. Protected by the Heritage Act this wealth of local historical information is a designated Heritage Property.
The Bath Museum is an ideal stop for visitors who share an appreciation of local history, architecture and culture. From the colonial days to modern times the story of the surrounding community can be discovered in this gorgeous hall.
6. Fairfield-Gutzeit House & Lafarge War of 1812 Discovery Centre, Bath
In the spellbinding lakeside village of Bath, travellers will find examples of Canadian history at every turn. The Fairfield-Gutzeit House is a shining example of late 1790’s design and sports a fully furnished with the authentic comforts and decor of a fine Victorian home. Originally built by William and Benjamin Fairfield in 1796 and is among the oldest still intact homes along the North shore of Lake Ontario.
Also located at The Fairfield-Gutzeit House is the War of 1812 Lafarge Discovery Centre which demonstrates what life was like in the early days of Ernesttown (now known as the village of Bath).
7. United Empire Loyalist (UEL) Heritage Centre & Park, Adolphustown
Hugging The Adolphus reach on the stunning Bay of Quinte is a beautiful park space that features history, camping and good old fashioned family fun. Spanning 72 acres of breathtaking shoreline, The UEL Heritage Center & Park has been offering gorgeous family camping since the year 1784!
Plan a camping trip on the very grounds where the first Empire Loyalists landed after escaping the nefarious American Revolution. Learn thrilling tales of an American attack turing the War of 1812 and the famous warships that once prowled Lake Ontario!
8. Old Hay Bay Church, Hay Bay
Hailed as Canada’s oldest Methodist building the Old Hay Bay Church is also the second oldest church in all of Ontario. First erected in 1792 this magnificent example of late 18th Century construction was the first public meeting space for Ontario’s Loyalist community.
Recognized as a National Historic Site, the church is still in use today for weddings, special events and an annual service which takes place on the fourth Sunday of each August. Regardless of one’s spiritual background – there is an unparalleled character and narrative element that churches play in history.
The Old Hay Bay Church is a brilliant testament to the determined and hard-working people who came here to build a new life for their kin – and also went on to help build a country.
9. The Allan Macpherson House, Napanee
In 1826, prolific businessman (and second cousin to Sir John A. MacDonald) Allan Macpherson built this immaculate house on Camden Road in Napanee. Macpherson was heralded as one of Lennox & Addington’s “most civic-minded and politically active entrepreneurs.”
He made his fortune in the Grist Mill industry, shipping a particularly popular flour from England and Montreal which was known for its premium quality. The house itself remained owned by the family until 1896.
In 1962 The L&A Historical Society purchased the house and restored it to its 19th Century glory. Today, Macpherson House is open for tours, and special events offering a vivid glimpse into the history of this magnificent gentry-inspired home.
10. Lennox & Addington County Museum & Archives, Napanee
Last but not very least in our list of amazing historic sites is the one and only Lennox & Addington County Museum & Archives. Before even entering the museum you’ll be instantly taken with its gorgeous limestone walls and brilliant courtyards.
Located adjacent to the equally historic and beautiful L&A County Court House – the County Museum & Archives is a treasure vault of historical goodies from prehistoric times to present-day.
There is always a variety of exhibits at the museum and a collection of historic items that collectively paint a picture of Lennox & Addington County’s social and economic legacy. There is also travelling exhibit on display this summer called “My Story, My Tattoo” that features 32 photographs of people and their amazing tattoos.
Explore Canada’s Fascinating and Diverse History in L&A County!
As you can see, there are several ways to explore a vibrant living history throughout the towns, villages and hamlets of Lennox & Addington County. There is a bounty of opportunities to learn about our collective origins by observing the stories of those whose journey to a new world and hard work helped forge a nation.
To help you plan an intriguing historical road trip of your own, we’ve attached this handy-dandy Google Map to get you started. We’ve also included the location of several other points of interest including a series of historical plaques that mark the location of historical events, and other crucial elements of local history.
As always, thanks for reading!