Step back in time at Muskoka Heritage Place
Time travel is real! Well, not exactly, but you can feel like you’ve travelled to a different time — without the headaches of actual time travel — when you visit the pioneer village and museum at Huntsville’s Muskoka Heritage Place.
Located a short walk from downtown Huntsville on the shores of Cann Lake, Muskoka Heritage Place offers a fun and educational way to spend a day, with a charming village to explore, a train to ride, and two museums to learn about the history of the area.
The pioneer village features many original buildings from the area which were dismantled and reconstructed on the site, supplemented by several recreations, to create an approximation of an early settler community. A First Nations encampment acknowledges the Indigenous peoples who first lived on the land.
At the blacksmith shop, which was built in the 1880s and was once home to the Gabriel family in Novar before being donated to the village in honour of Frank Gabriel Sr.’s passion for blacksmithing, you’ll find a working forge and all the tools needed for settlers to have made the metal items they needed. Stop in and see the farm animals at the livery next door, too.
Hay’s General Store, which was built in 1878 at Falkenburg Junction and moved to the village in 1969, operated as a store until 1953. Inside you’ll see an assortment of goods available in the early 1900s.
Visit the Maw House to see how a settler family once lived. This small home, built in the 1890s in Novar and moved to the village in 1984, housed the large Mills family. Here you can learn to dip candles and sample tasty scones.
Get a lesson in early 1900s school life at the old Etwell school house. Miss Carrie Hall taught 20 students of all ages here when the school first opened in 1896. It was moved to the village in 1967.
In all, there are 16 buildings to explore, all filled with items typical of the time, as though the inhabitants just stepped out for a moment.
You can see even more artifacts in the Muskoka Museum. Take a self-guided tour beginning with First Peoples through to settlement of the area by European immigrants, and the development of industry and tourism. You can even adopt an artifact — including the village buildings — the perfect birthday or Christmas gift for the hard-to-buy-for person in your life!
Round out your visit with a ride on the Portage Flyer, once billed as the world’s smallest commercial railway. The open-air cars carry passengers for a scenic ride along the Muskoka River to the purser’s cabin at the end of the line. (Remember to return in December for the popular Portage Flyer Christmas, where Santa waits to hear what’s on your wishlist.)
While you wait for the train, take a browse through the Steam Museum at Rotary Village Station, a re-creation of a typical 1920s Ontario train station, to learn how steam travel by train and boat opened up this area to settlement, tourism, business, and development.
For more information about Muskoka Heritage Place, visit muskokaheritageplace.ca.
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