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.
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.
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.
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!)
Another old school-house [above] which is now part of a museum complex along with this old stone church…
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:
Which I snuck inside and took a few pictures of…
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.
Have a look at this old photo of some early Island settlers:
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):
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.
Then there’s this majestic white church on the south side of the island…
The church is right beside a large mariner’s navigational signal for the ships that come through the south channel.
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…
I love this one so much, I’ll give you a bonus pic:
(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:
It is listed at $179,900 – and very stylish inside. You can view the listing photos here.
One final house in the village of Hilton Beach:
Now a look at some farmhouses around the island:
If you look closely, you can see a guy working up on the roof of this next one:
The quintessential abandoned farmhouse:
A KEEP OUT sign – like the one below – is a magnet for house gawkers like me & Marie…
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.
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.
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?”
One homeowner even gave us permission to snoop around his property so we could get a closer look at this gorgeous cottage:
This home is set on a large lot with a sweeping front lawn overlooking the water:
A vintage stone & stucco home in excellent condition.
Just down the road is this lodge type building that Marie told me is actually a religious retreat:
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:
Our last stop was the quaint town of Richard’s Landing – which is the main commercial hub of the Island (population 1,200).
Have a look at some “in-town” homes:
The old house on the left [below] has been converted into a children’s library:
The stone church on the right [above] has been converted into a private home.
The two photos below show the original homestead of the town’s namesake – John Richards:
Pretty in pink:
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…
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