The Origins of Bayview Wildwood Resort
It’s hard to imagine Sparrow Lake as it was when the pioneers first saw it. One hundred and fifteen years ago you would not have found a road, or even a footpath, along the shoreline where Bayview Wildwood Resort is today. The trees marched right to the water’s edge. To get from A to B, you had to pick your way along a rocky shoreline, dodging the huge sawlogs that had washed up on the beach.
This bay was the centre of lumber operations on the lake. In fact, the main inn is built where the sawmill used to stand. Not far from the mill was a tiny surveyor’s cottage that became the forerunner of the resort business along this shore.
The modern resort encompasses four tourist establishments — Lakeshore House (the oldest), Wildwood Inn, Bayview Lodge and Wild Echo — all run at various times by members of the Stanton family. Dianne, the youngest daughter of Ron & Rene Stanton, is carrying on a tradition started by Ron’s great-grandfather Capt. Thomas Stanton so many years ago.
Capt. Tom settled on Sparrow Lake in 1875, selecting land where the Sparrow Lake Camp is today. He’d been working as a steamboat captain on Lake Couchiching and decided the time was right to start his own navigation business on the Severn River.
He launched the steamer Pioneer in 1875.
He moved the family to the south shore of Sparrow Lake in 1884, so his children could attend the nearby school. That same year he offered accommodation to some of the fishermen who’d been camping in the area. Over the years Stanton House operated as a thriving tourist business and has since become private residences.
The history of Bayview Wildwood begins when Tom’s oldest son Bert married Mattie McMaster in 1898. They moved into the cottage that had been used by the surveyors who’d been marking the line for the Canadian Northern railway.
Almost immediately, the newlyweds found themselves in the resort business. That summer Bert and Mattie were asked to take the overflow of guests from Stanton House. They spent $40 fixing up the attic room and thought they’d never see the money again. By the end of the season, they’d made $80 and were so pleased they decided to do the same thing the next year. In time Bert and Mattie extended the original house by adding a new wing and an upper story. They called their resort Lakeshore House.
Meanwhile, Bert and his brother Frank opened the Stanton Bros. Store (today called Martin’s Store). Frank married Mattie’s sister, Violet, and they opened a summer home called Sparrow Cottage. This building is now the staff quarters for Bayview Wildwood (situated across from Walton House). In 1910 you could stay at any of the three Stanton establishments for about $7 a week, all costs included. The arrival of the Canadian Northern Railway in 1906 was a great boost to business, just as Capt. Tom Stanton expected when he offered the railway land for a station, free of charge, if they’d swing the line to the lake instead of bypassing the community.
Frank’s sons Walter and Ernie were responsible for the resort businesses that followed. In the 1920s, when Port Stanton was the end of the road, the Stantons turned their old sawmill into a garage for cars, and ran a boat livery for vacationers and cottage owners. Frank and Bert built aluminum rowboats for the livery, which was operated by Frank’s son Ernie. His base of operation was a boathouse and garage located near his father’s barn (about where Walton House is situated today).
In the autumn of 1930, Walter Stanton tore down the old mill and built the stately Wildwood Inn. Walter and his wife Eleanore had seen the name in their travels in the States, and said, if they ever built a lodge, they’d call it Wildwood. The square timbers from the mill formed the foundations of the hotel. The lumber came from the Mickle-Dymond mill in Gravenhurst, which was closing down at the time.
In 1945, Ernie Stanton bought his brother Ed’s house next to the Wildwood Inn and transformed it into a popular family retreat called Bayview Lodge. When Ernie bought the property, the back door of the summer kitchen opened onto a marsh. The entire area had to be raised with fill before any cottages could be built. The backfilling was done entirely by hand.
In 1951, Walter Stanton purchased a small resort called Sundown Lodge on Helen’s Isle, renaming it Wild Echo Lodge. As its name suggests, the smaller lodge is an echo of Wildwood Inn. In 19954, a year after his wife died, Walter sold Wildwood Inn to Ernie and Wild Echo to Fred Adams.
Meanwhile Bert’s son Charles ran Lakeshore House, expanding the resort with the addition of a motel unit and a cottage on the point. Charlie sold the business in 1965 to Tibor Kleinman, marking the first time a business started by the Stantons actually left family hands — a situation which was soon corrected!
When his father took over Wildwood Inn, Ron Stanton purchased Bayview Lodge. That summer, he met his future wife Rene. Fresh out of teacher’s college, she’d taken a job as a waitress at the resort. They were married the next year.
The young couple quickly learned the key components of the tourism business: “Good food, good fishing, good boats and motors,” Ron says. They rented rooms for $27.50 per week, including meals. Ron did all the cooking, having learned a few tricks from Minnie Gellately, whose fabulous cooking had put Bayview Lodge on the map when his parents ran the resort.
So important was the cook to their livelihood that the Stantons went to great lengths to keep the good ones, no matter what eccentricities they had. An early cook at a Lakeshore House weighed 200 pounds and swished around the kitchen in beach pajamas. Another cook, again at Lakeshore House, got up early and stole the cream off the milk.
In 1967 Ron purchased Wildwood Inn from his father and ran the business under the name Bayview Wildwood Resort. “We couldn’t let either name go,” Rene explains. “Our guests were so loyal that we had to put the two names together.” In the succeeding years he acquired Lakeshore House and Wild Echo Lodge.
The Cottages I at Port Stanton is located on the north shore of Sparrow Lake, across the bay from Bayview Wildwood, on the site where Wild Echo Lodge once stood. In the Summer of 2001, the Stanton family offered a new and exciting opportunity to their guests and visitors; fractional cottage ownership. Since then, they have built an award-winning cottage resort development that has changed the landscape of Sparrow Lake. The final three cottages, in the eighteen cottage development, were occupied in December 2003 and the cottage sales for the entire site are complete. This resort site hosts an outdoor pool and hot tub, tennis court, horseshoes, dockage, fire pit and Sunset Lounge with outdoor (winter) hot tub. The cottage owners enjoy the facilities and services of Bayview Wildwood Resort on a year-round basis.
In the spring of 2004, the Stanton family purchased Martin’s Store and the operating license for the Port Stanton Government Dock. Keeping with tradition, they renamed the store Stanton Bros. General Supplies as this was the original name when the store opened in the early 1900’s. Stanton Bros. store provides a large and varied supply of tourist gifts and general supplies to visitors and residents in the area. The government dock provides daily or nightly dockage for boaters who are either enjoying Sparrow Lake or travelling through the Trent Severn waterway. As well, Captain Tom’s Diner, attached to the store, is a great place to enjoy an ice cream or hearty meal throughout the May to October season.
Based on the success of The Cottages I at Port Stanton, the Stanton sibling team of Dianne Hounsome and Bruce Stanton joined with a new partner, Douglas Hamilton, to build a new fractional ownership property The Cottages II at Port Stanton. This new development is located on the west end of Bayview Wildwood Resort, on the shores of Sparrow Lake, and offers eight cottages consisting of seven three-bedroom cottages and one two-bedroom lock-off cottage, an outdoor pool, beach and dockage. The new owners of this lovely property have access to Bayview Wildwood’s facilities and services on a year-round basis. First occupancy of these luxurious cottages occurred in June 2007. Currently four of the eight cottages are built and fully sold.
The resort, store and fractional cottage properties are run today by one of Ron and Rene’s children; Dianne. As fifth generation resort owners, the Stantons hold a unique place in annals of Ontario tourism, being one of the few families to operate a resort that was started by their ancestors over 115 years ago.