Sunday, July 5, 2015

Meet Me at the Courting House?

After two years of researching the 1910 Courtship Letters on my Author Memories blog, I developed a kinship for the people and land of the beautiful Georgina area of York Region, Ontario. Along the southern shore of Lake Simcoe, the city folk from Toronto would take up residence in the boarding houses and cottages for the summer. Or, they'd build a cottage and go up on weekends via the radial streetcar commonly called, the car.

A big help in my research was the Georgina Pioneer Village Archives online museum site entitled, Waiting for a Streetcar.  It's a treasure of community memories and photos involving the radial line which ran through the historic Georgina beach communities, and it's where I discovered the Jackson's Point Spring House, more commonly known as The Courting House.

1912 postcard: Lake Shore Drive Spring, Jackson's Point. Courtesy of Georgina Pioneer Village Archives.

This year I drove to Ontario and spent 3 weeks exploring the roads of the York Region, especially Georgina, discovering how much of the past has remained, and how fast developers are moving it into the future. Amid the new housing developments appearing along the historic Lake Drive, there is a bright spot of hope, for as I took a meandering drive along the southern shoreline of Lake Simcoe, the old Courting House appeared before my eyes just like I'd seen it in so many postcards.

June 2015 photograph: The Courting House

Because of the new housing development going up across the road, my first thought upon seeing the orange snow fence and traffic cone was that they were tearing down the Courting House. No!

Built in the late 1880's, this small partially screened enclosure was located close to a natural spring where people would come to be healed by the water's mineral properties.

Undated Post card: The Spring House. Courtesy of Georgina Pioneer Village Archives

The Courting House stayed in its place as a social gathering place, the Victorian-designed lattice wood slowly deteriorating over the years.

But progress was encroaching along the Lake Simcoe shoreline as modern double-lane highways surged through the once untouchable farmland of the York Region. What was once cottage country began changing to year-round residences. Property values on Lake Drive shot to a premium and every inch of land was eyed for its future investment.

The 120 year old Courting House was in jeopardy of being lost in the name of progress.

Enter the Town of Georgina Heritage Committee who recognized the mineral spring and the gazebo as important landmarks. On May 10, 2010, the Town of Georgina passed a by-law designating "the structure sometimes known as The Courting House or The Spring House at Lake Drive East, Jackson’s Point as a property of cultural heritage value or interest pursuant to the provisions of the Ontario Heritage Act..."

Town of Georgina Historical Plaque, taken Jun 2015

So what I saw wasn't a historic structure in danger of being demolished, but a reconstructed one ready to be enjoyed for more generations of vacationers and residents. Along with the building, they restored the eroding shoreline.

This undated postcard shows the shoreline as it used to be. On the back, someone has written, Mineral Spring at Jackson's Point, "The Courting House". Spring seats inside. None in Mother's time. Quite a walk. Still there. 

undated postcard: Mineral Spring at Jackson's Point, Lake Simcoe. Courtesy of Georgina Pioneer Village Archives.

You can see the new shoreline in this next photo taken from inside the structure and looking east. I love the heart made from a wire hangar that some romantic left hanging on the wall.

From inside the restructured Courting House looking east, June 2015

Somewhere along the way, the name of Lake Shore Drive changed to Lake Drive, but its meandering narrow lane remained the same.

Original cupola on restructured gazebo, June 2015

The street name may have changed, but the Spring House/Courting House is in the same place as it's been for over the one hundred years since this postcard was printed.

1913 postcard, Lake Shore Drive, Jackson's Point, Ont. Courtesy of Georgina Pioneer Archives.

This post is about a small structure that has had a big impact on a community. How many more are waiting for attention? I'm sending a big thank you to all those history and heritage societies who are working hard to preserve our past. 

Is there a Courting House in your past?


Anita Mae Draper is retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan, Canada with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, published in A Cup of Christmas Cheer, Volume 4, Heartwarming Tales of Christmas Present, Guideposts Books, October 2014, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at


  1. I imagine that must have been an interesting trip you took. The Courting House is a fun piece of history. I'm glad they rebuilt it.

    1. Yes, a very interesting trip, Vickie. Thanks for commenting.

  2. can't comment on your home blog (work computer won't let me). so I'm commenting here. I think saving historical community landmarks is always worth it. So cool you got to see something that's been around for so long. Glad your trip was so fruitful. *hugs!*