By Agatha Krzewinski
Born and raised in Prince Edward Island, Lucy Maud Montgomery is known for the island; but despite almost all of her books taking place in PEI, Montgomery also spent much of her life living in Ontario.
LeaskdaleManse – 11850 Durham Rnal Rd 1, Leaskdale, ON L0C
Lucy Maud Montgomery wed Reverend Ewan Macdonald in 1911 in Prince Edward Island and moved shortly after to Leaskdale Ontario (1911 – 1926), where her Presbyterian husband took a job as pastor at a local church. It was here that she bore her children, and wrote 11 of her 22 works.
Leaskdale was a prosperous farming community. Having already published Anne of Green Gables 3 years prior, Montgomery was already famous and the community welcomed her with enthusiasm. She would end up later writing the following books Anne of the Island (1916) and Anne’s House of Dreams (1916).
The Leaskdale years for Montgomery were filled with both joy and sorrow. She gave birth to two sons Stuart and Chester, in the Master bedroom. Her husband was mentally stable, and she had the support of her beloved cousin and friend Frede Campbell. However her third son Hugh was stillborn and buried in the cemetery at the Thomas Foster Memorial, and many of her friends lost their children in the Great War (1914 – 1918). She ended up losing Frede to the deadly influenza pandemic in 1919.
The history of the manse dates back to 1886, originally built for the St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church where Ewan preached. The building became an Ontario historic site in 1965, and in 1993 it was purchased by the Township of Uxbridge, and it became a national historic site in 1994. The Township of Uxbridge restored the house to a 1917 period and in 2001, Uxbridge Township and the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario removed the white stucco that was added in 1974, returning the exterior to the original brick.
The house operates as a museum and is open for tours. The Leaskdale Manse is near Pickering Museum Village, where visitors can see where many of the Sullivan Entertainment productions were filmed, and which also hosts numerous 'Anne’ events. Visitors can also walk among the strip of shops and cafes in Uxbridge where Montgomery would often stroll through and was a member of, including the Hypatia book club which is one of 27 book clubs at Blue Heron Books.
Bala Museum - 1024 Maple Ave, Bala ON P0C 1A0
The Bala Museum was a tourist home, where Montgomery ate at while staying at the nearby Roselawn lodge in Bala for two weeks in the summer of 1922. The vacation inspired her to write the book The Blue Castle, which was set entirely in Muskoka, and the only book she ever wrote that was not set in Prince Edward Island.
In 1922, which was particularly the jazz age, Bala was one of Ontario's most popular vacation spots. It was a top pick for Torontonians wanting to escape the summer heat in pre-air conditioned times. Those that were well off would drive up in their own cars, while others came by train. Montgomery was the most famous guest to stay at the Roselawn lodge, and would also spend time there checking the English proofs for her upcoming book Emily of New Moon.
1039 River St, Bala, ON P0C 1A0
Formerly called ‘The Inn at Roselawn’, and before that also known as the ‘Roselawn Lodge’, this home was where Montgomery stayed with her family near the tourist home where Montgomery ate (Bala Museum). The original building had burnt down in 1941, but the twin building survived and was used for room rental for many years. It was later partially renovated.
The lodge dates back to 1903 when Thomas Burgess Jr., the son of Bala’s founding settler Thomas Burgess, built the lodge. In 1939 it was sold to Fred and Mable Nation, and Fred, who was a respected civil engineer, built the Roselawn docks and waterfront. In 1974 it was taken over by their son Ed and his wife Beverly Nation. The family ran the lodge from 1939 to the 1990s
Linda and Jack Hutton were huge fans of Anne of Green Gables, and when they heard that the tourist home faced possible demolition, they decided to buy the house in 1990. Linda worked by herself to restore the house, while Jack worked in Toronto. In 2013, it was designated as a historical site by the Township of Muskoka lakes and it currently resides as the Bala Museum.
In 1996, Jack and Linda purchased the Roselawn Lodge and it became reborn as the Inn at Roselawn, however, it is currently no longer recognized as an Inn and it was bought out by private owners.
Visitors to the Bala Museum can come to take a look at various artifacts, such as Montgomery’s silver tea set, the boat that sank under Megan Follows in the film Anne of Green Gables (1985), and the world’s largest Green Gables dollhouse. Visitors can also browse through the Anne of Green Gables gift shop, participate in a reenactment of scenes, and learn how to make the custard.
Norval Manse - 402 Draper St, Norval (Halton Hills), ON L0P 1K0
In 1926, Montgomery and her family moved to Norval Ontario (1926 -1935), just outside of Georgetown. Montgomery was at the pinnacle of her career, internationally recognized for her success of Anne of Green Gables and while writing the Emily of New Moon series. Ewan also got a new job and became the head of two parishes and the family became prominent figures in the community.
The move to Norval provided a fresh start for the family. Ewan had been dealing with a lawsuit following an automobile accident with their Leaskdale neighbor Marshall Pickering, and Montgomery was also dealing with a copyright lawsuit which she won in 1929. Montgomery had good royalties and was investing in the stock market. Everything was going well financially. Her sons were still young and not getting into any trouble yet.
The Norval manse was purchased by the L.M. Montgomery Heritage Society of Halton Hills from the two Presbyterian churches on March 10, 2017. Two private citizens each donated $100 000 towards the purchase, one of which was related to Montgomery and actually live in the Green Gables house on PEI. A fundraising campaign was launched to pay off the mortgage and renovate the house into a museum to be called the Lucy Maud Montgomery Museum & Literary Centre. (For more information on donations visit here: Lucy Maud Montgomery - Heritage Foundation Halton)
While the house is still subject to renovation and construction, visitors can step back in time and walk by the churches Montgomery attended with her husband. In the future visitors will be able to go into the room in the manse where Montgomery wrote and overlook the exact same hill of pines that Montgomery looked at: “There were no pines in my early home. Yet I always loved pines better than any tree”. (The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery, Volume III: 1921-1929 – Shop At Sullivan)
The manse is a short drive from the University of Guelph, which is home to the L.M. Montgomery Collection, and has an extensive amount of Montgomery’s papers and artifacts. Visitors can also check out the Lucy Maud Montgomery Garden of the Senses, which is a tribute to her writings about gardens and how she described them in a sensory way, as well as watch productions performed by the Spirit of Maud Theater Company.
Toronto Manse - 210A Riverside Dr., Toronto M6S 4A8
In 1935, Montgomery and her family moved from Norval to Toronto (1935 – 1942) where Montgomery would be closer to the city’s literary scene. She was active in the Canadian author’s Association, and attended events such as Canada’s national Book Week and the Toronto Bookfair. She wrote the last of her novels, including Anne of Windy Poplars (1936), and her books were selling well and she had requests for movie rights.
Montgomery purchased the house for $12 500 and it was the only house she ever truly owned. The four-level, old English-style home, was in an upscale neighborhood. The realtor, Alfred LePage, whom she bought the house through, actually lived down the street along with the manager of the new Loblaws grocery store, and the Macdonald family physician.
In Montgomery’s journals, she dubbed the move as ‘journey’s end’ and darker years were ahead of her. Ewan was mentally unstable, and was unable to preach, and had actually been forced to resign from his job in Norval. World War II was on the loom, her oldest son Chester’s behavior was problematic, and he was also unemployed and living with them in the basement. Montgomery stopped writing and burned her papers. Her life was filled with anxieties and prone to depressive states.
in her final days, Montgomery packaged up her last manuscript titled The Blythes Are Quoted, the last book in the Anne series. She sent it to her publisher, went to bed shortly after, and died on April 24, 1942. Her obituary in the New York Times stated the manuscript had been delivered to her publisher the day before her death.
Following Montgomery’s death, Ewan could not live alone. His son Stewart arranged for him to live in a private nursing home. Chester no longer had access to the house, and the bank executers changed the locks so they could take an inventory of the contents of the house to settle the estate. The trust company put the house and many of its contents up for sale. The house was listed as a heritage property by the City of Toronto in 1979 and has been owned by private owners ever since.