House peeping on St. Joe’s Island, Canada

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

I posted about the Harmony Tea House on St. Joe’s Island a few days ago.

Today I’d like to give you the full tour of the Island. Me and a fellow house lover – my friend Marie Hunter – spent a beautiful Friday afternoon in early July exploring the Island and not only house-peeping, but old country church and historic schoolhouse peeping as well.

St. Joseph Island is the third largest island in the Great Lakes – it is located on the Canadian side of Lake Huron in northern Ontario. There is a bridge so you don’t have to take a boat to get there – although many do in the summer months.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The Island is a gorgeous mix of rugged woodlands, pastoral farmland, beautiful beaches, and quaint villages. And since it is an island, there are several marinas and many beautiful waterfront properties.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Full disclosure here: I grew up not too far (about 1 hour) from St. Joe’s Island and I am in love with the place. In fact, if I ever do move back to Canada, I would like to buy a house on the island and live there full-time.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

There are some newer homes on the Island, but by and large, it is a place that has stood still through time. The pioneer/settler’s spirit is still alive and well here and the Island is relatively untouched by modern development. The pace of life is S-L-O-W (Serene, Lovely, and O so Wonderful!)

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Another old school-house [above] which is now part of a museum complex along with this old stone church…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The St. Joseph Island Museum actually just celebrated its 50th anniversary – the museum society was founded by local families in 1963.

The complex also features an old pioneer log homestead:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Which I snuck inside and took a few pictures of…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The cabin has been preserved and set up with authentic furnishings from the pioneer era to depict how the first homesteaders lived on the Island.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Have a look at this old photo of some early Island settlers:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The bedroom:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

I’m just crazy about this sort of thing – as you can probably tell. In fact, I was so shutter-happy clicking away on my camera at the museum complex that I didn’t even notice the “please pay admission” sign until I was about to leave. Oops. I hate being one of those disrespectful tourists. It’s a good thing they are a laid-back bunch on the island. But they take their local history very seriously.

Here is another historic church, this one located in the village of Hilton Beach (north side of the Island):

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

This church looks like it has always been there with the cemetery, but the building was only recently moved to its current location from down the road. Not sure why they did that, but I like it.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Then there’s this majestic white church on the south side of the island…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The church is right beside a large mariner’s navigational signal for the ships that come through the south channel.

photo credit: Marie Hunter

photo credit: Marie Hunter

There’s a whole lot of tiny old country churches and one-room school houses on St. Joe’s Island – or heaven on earth as I like to call it. Back in the day, the folks on the island walked or rode farm wagons everywhere and were pretty much self-sufficient. The social institutions – church and school – were very localized and built to be within walking distance. In the 1960’s the government started centralizing schools and shut down all the one-room school houses that dotted the island. Churches also consolidated in a similar fashion.

Now for some Island houses…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

I love this one so much, I’ll give you a bonus pic:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

(How can you not love a house that proudly wears her name “The Lilacs” in gingerbread?)

Just down the road, this yellow cutie is for sale:

photo credit: Marie Hunter

photo credit: Marie Hunter

It is listed at $179,900 – and very stylish inside. You can view the listing photos here.

photo credit: Marie Hunter

photo credit: Marie Hunter

One final house in the village of Hilton Beach:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Now a look at some farmhouses around the island:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

If you look closely, you can see a guy working up on the roof of this next one:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The quintessential abandoned farmhouse:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

A KEEP OUT sign – like the one below – is a magnet for house gawkers like me & Marie…

photo credit: Marie Hunter

photo credit: Marie Hunter

We only trespassed a couple of times.

Not all the old houses on the island are abandoned. Many of them are well kept cottages or year-round homes.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

These are just some random shots as we drove around the west side of the island, where most of the population is located. “Population” is a relative word – there are only 1,800 residents on the 140 square mile island, and many of those folks are seasonal residents. We didn’t even make it over to the east side.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Many of these houses are vacation properties that have been handed down from generation to generation in the same familes for decades.

A guy [in the photo below] was waving at us from his porch as I snapped this picture, saying “hello, nice day isn’t it?”

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

One homeowner even gave us permission to snoop around his property so we could get a closer look at this gorgeous cottage:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

This home is set on a large lot with a sweeping front lawn overlooking the water:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

A vintage stone & stucco home in excellent condition.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Just down the road is this lodge type building that Marie told me is actually a religious retreat:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

There’s so much to admire on St. Joe’s Island!

But I’ve always been a sucker for lace curtains in a run-down old house:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Our last stop was the quaint town of Richard’s Landing – which is the main commercial hub of the Island (population 1,200).

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Have a look at some “in-town” homes:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The old house on the left [below] has been converted into a children’s library:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The stone church on the right [above] has been converted into a private home.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

The two photos below show the original homestead of the town’s namesake – John Richards:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

Pretty in pink:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

St. Joe’s Island is paradise for antique house lovers like me and Marie. (Special thanks to my friend Marie Hunter for taking me around the island!) This might be my all-time favorite house-peeping post.

Of course, there’s so much more to St. Joe’s Island than just the houses… like the lighthouses…

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

But this post is getting really long.

So I’ll put it to bed. Sweet dreams from a very happy, peaceful place.

– House Crazy Sarah

 

 

 

 

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