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A Legacy of Welcoming Guests Since 1870

Experience the legacy that spans generations as you become a part of the storied tradition of Windermere House, an iconic destination nestled in the heart of Muskoka for nearly 150 years. The unparalleled nostalgic allure of Windermere House sets it apart in the region, offering breathtaking vistas of Lake Rosseau, artisanal culinary delights, and an invigorating ambiance that beckons both seasoned hotel patrons and local cottagers, earning it the affectionate moniker, the “Lady of the Lake.”

Our journey begins

Our journey into the realm of hospitality dates back to the 1860s, when Thomas Aitken, a traveler from the Shetland Islands in Scotland, began hosting visiting sportsmen as his esteemed guests.

Originating from a humble start, Thomas Aitken’s initial Muskoka property was initially earmarked for farming endeavors. However, when the land’s productivity fell short of expectations, he relocated to the shores of Lake Rosseau where Windermere House now stands. As demand outgrew the accommodations he offered for fishing parties, he erected the edifice that presently houses the splendid dining room.

progress marked
our path

The expansion of steamboat services to Windermere wharf, offering two calls each summer day, contributed to a surge in local tourism. The arrival of the railway to Gravenhurst further facilitated the influx of visitors to the enchanting lakeside.

In 1883, a new front section was seamlessly integrated into the thriving resort, complete with the iconic flag tower peak that has since become a recognizable emblem. By 1887, Windermere House transformed into the recognizable haven it is today, adorned with a stately three-story wing overlooking Windermere Road.

Part of the community

An integral facet of the local community, and a vital employer for residents, by the 1890s, Windermere House hosted up to 220 guests who could enjoy a night’s stay for the modest sum of $1.50, with special rates tailored for families. Leisure hours for guests were enlivened with spirited games of tennis, croquet, and lawn bowling. Throughout the early 1900s, Aitken extended the front wing, erected a second tower, implemented lighting ahead of the establishment of the hydroelectric grid, and ingeniously devised a method to pump water from Windermere Wharf into the burgeoning hotel.

Windermere golf and country club

In 1919, a segment of the original 200 acres was sold to the fledgling Windermere Golf and Country Club, introducing an integral recreational pursuit for the hotel’s patrons. After Thomas Aitken’s passing in the same year, his son Leslie and daughter Gertrude assumed the mantle of hotel management, with Thomas’s wife Elizabeth providing assistance until her passing in 1936.

REnovation & expansion

As the 1930s dawned, the Aitken family replaced the two-story wooden veranda with an elegant stone structure. Seizing the opportunity, they expanded the stone sunroom, introduced a coffee shop and beauty parlor adorned with graceful arch-transom windows. In 1933, a modern kitchen was erected. Post-World War II, the first and second floors underwent renovation, yielding more expansive suites furnished with private bathrooms.

The transformative force behind Windermere House became Mary-Elizabeth Aitken, granddaughter of founder Thomas Aitken. With her astute business acumen, she redefined the resort’s essence to ensure its endurance. Notably, she secured a liquor license during a period when the topic roused fervent community debates. Additionally, she inaugurated the terrace, housing ten contemporary bed-sitting rooms named after Canada’s provinces.

The Fire

In the modern annals of history, a fiery conflagration engulfed Windermere House on February 27th, 1996, during the filming of the Hollywood production, “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” Only the steadfast stone veranda survived the flames. Swiftly, the “Lady of the Lake” was resurrected, meticulously crafted in the image of its historical splendor, integrating much of the original stonework. By the summer of 1997, the cherished haven once again welcomed patrons. Major renovations in 2007/08 elevated the guest experience to new heights.

new ownership

Today, embraced by new ownership, the resort continues its trajectory of improvement and expansion. Our goal is to preserve Windermere House’s timeless allure for years to come – marrying traditional charm with contemporary luxury and service excellence, ensuring a remarkable stay for our present and future guests.

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