Logger’s cabin holds untold history
By Jenn Watt
Published May 19, 2016
Cottager Molly Ferguson has been known for much of her life for the work she and her late husband Bob did on their Little Glamor Lake property. Their groundbreaking log cottage, complete with what is believed to be the first green roof in Canada, caught the attention of national newspapers, was the cover story of Cottage Life and was written up in the Haliburton Echo.
Now Ferguson, 90, is focusing on another building – one that is a little less glamorous, but comes with its own set of stories.
A logger’s cabin, at least 130 years old, has been occupying the cottager’s time as she tries to figure out what to do with the building.
Ferguson says she doesn’t know the origins of the cabin, which was about 80 years old when she and Bob bought the property in 1958, but she doesn’t think it should be demolished.
There is a real chance that could happen. When the Fergusons bought the property, the cabin was situated by the shoreline and in later years, they paid to move it inland.
“It was situated down the lake on a point and Walter Madill numbered all the logs and took it apart and boomed it down the lake. My two little kids sat on the boom as he towed it down the lake,” Ferguson remembers. They later insulated the cabin and one of Ferguson’s grown children lived in it for 15 years.
Unfortunately, the land they chose to place the building was too close to the property line – a violation of municipal bylaws. While Highlands East has been patient with Ferguson, giving her five years to find a solution to the problem, her deadline is looming.
And so she has put the logger’s cabin up for sale.
It’s not without a healthy dose of nostalgia for a time when Little Glamor Lake was barely developed and she, her husband and the kids would come up to the wilderness and pile into the cozy space.
Ferguson’s husband was from Peterborough and the couple lived in Toronto. When they went looking for a cottage in the ’50s, they weren’t impressed by the offerings in Bob’s hometown.
“We looked for a cottage property and we couldn’t find anything above a farmer’s field,” she recalls. “We didn’t want it deforested.”
They bought a mile of waterfront and 340 acres of forest and wetland and in the early days, spent their time cottaging simply.
“It was wonderful. We thought we were pioneers – and we were because we had to park the car on the trail and walk a mile to the cabin,” she says.
“It was a cabin with two double beds and a little wood burning stove and a counter. We had such good times there.”
Eventually the family outgrew the cabin and in the early 1960s began work on their famous green-roofed cottage. They hired architect William Grierson to come to the property and create plans that would satisfy their need for a spacious, yet environmentally friendly, abode with a Haliburton flavour.
Grierson’s time at the property was captured in film in a photo that Ferguson cherishes. Three men stand in front of the logger’s cabin, the only place for them to stay while the new cottage was being built. Max Braithwaite, Grierson and Bob Ferguson stand under the protection of a snowy rooftop, snowshoes leaned against the log walls of the dwelling. Each man was influential during his career and all have since died.
Today, Molly Ferguson marvels at her luck in knowing such creative minds.
Bob had become friends with Braithwaite while working at CBC.
“When Bob was in charge of school broadcast at CBC he had a raft of contracts and Max Braithwaite was one,” says Molly.
According to a newspaper article titled “Parents writing children’s books love that ready-made audience,” published in 1963, Bob Ferguson wrote two history books, which were supplements to school textbooks. “I wanted to make history come alive,” he told the paper. “The fact that my two older sons read my books all the way through made me feel that I had accomplished something.”
Braithwaite was featured in the same article, saying he gets inspiration from his five children. “In order to write about children you have to know what they do, think, say; what amuses, interests or bores them.”
He wrote plays for the stage and the radio, including for Ferguson’s CBC broadcasting in the radio series Voices of the Wild.
Grierson, meanwhile, was a multi-award-winning architect whose works will soon be compiled in a book. “I think he was a genius,” says Ferguson.
Indeed, his design ended up being featured in a range of publications. “I’m privileged to have known him and worked with him,” she wrote in a letter following an interview with the Echo.
The fate of the logger’s cabin is still uncertain. Advertised for about $19,000, there is the matter of moving the building, which will likely cost many thousands more. However, Ferguson intends to sell the whole property this year, so the matter will need to be settled one way or another.
“My lawyer says I shouldn’t spend any more money on it,” she says, “but I think it should be preserved.”