Muskoka Lakes History – Moving Heart’s Content by Barge

My parents live in Port Carling, in an old house now known as ‘Caledonia House’ (formerly Heart’s Content). It has spent portions of it’s life as a: private home, resort, music venue (more on that soon), and who knows what else. But the coolest part? It didn’t start out where it lives today – it was moved across Indian River and Mirror Lake by barge! Here is an excerpt from the 1995 book Indian River Tales by Ann Duke Judd.

The Vedette and Heart’s Content, Indian River and Mirror Lake, Port Carling. From Indian River Tales by Anne Duke Judd.
The Moving of Heart’s Content

“The old Heart’s Content was built around 1916 at Indian Point. In early spring, around 1928 it was put onto two scows, using horses and the high water to help.

Cribwork on the scows kept it level at the old elevation; the scows were borrowed from one of the lumber companies, and Allan Dixon was in charge of the operation. One scow sprang a leak, and since there was no electrical power at the point, it had to be hand-pumped all night. Art Duke and others took turns keeping the pump going.

The next day, they set off across the river, but about half way across Mirror Lake, the steering mechanism on the Vedette broke, and she had to be taken up to Port for repairs. The wind blew the scows and house down to Arcadia point. The centre timber caught on trees along the riverbank and pulled out – fortunately, the two outside timbers stayed secure and the house remained level.

A second time, the men attached the scows to the Vedette, and pulled their cargo close to its new site on the eastern shore – but because the boat could not tow it in from the front, the lines had to be untied while the Vedette manoeuvred to the stern to push it in.

Again, the house got away, the wind blowing it ashore at the Schreibers’. By the time it was securely tied at the proper place on the shore, daylight was gone. There was electricity on this side, but it was not very reliable then, so an electric pump was left running overnight.

The next morning, Heart’s Content was moved ashore, and lowered – one crib timber at a time – onto its site at the bottom of Silver Creek Hill.

Here it remained the home of Arthur and ‘Did’ Duke (née Elizabeth McCulley) and their sons Thomas and Reay until 1948, when the couple’s retirement home was built. The sign still identifies that home, now the residence of Rev. Tom Duke and his wife Charlotte. Tom’s main memory of the house moving is the disappointment he felt at having to go to school, and miss the excitement of the move.”

Modern day Caledonia House on Mirror Lake, Port Carling, Muskoka Lakes, ON.
Modern day Caledonia House, Mirror Lake, Port Carling, Muskoka Lakes, ON.
Caledonia House sign – located on Mirror Lake in Port Carling, Muskoka Lakes, ON.

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