Cottaging in Muskoka is as much about the memories and historical connections as it is about the properties themselves.
It’s a fact well known by those whose families that have been in the region for decades and passed the tales of yore down through the generations.
Chelsey Penrice can be counted among the generational families in Muskoka: her grandfather, along with his aunt and aunt’s best friend (Mary Wood) first purchased their Lake Rosseau cottage property in 1945.
“When they first bought the property, they named it Penwood Acres,” says Chelsey, a broker with Harvey Kalles Real Estate Brokerage. “Penrice was obviously our family name, while Wood was Mary’s last name.”
Having grown up spending summers on the lakes in Muskoka, eventually making Rosseau her full time residence after university, Chelsey loves to share fun facts and stories about the water, the properties, and the people.
She can give you details about properties that have been passed down through the generations, helping new cottagers acquire some interesting stories to tell about their land when visitors come by.
“It helps my clients really connect with properties they’re purchasing and the area as well,” she says. “Whether it’s a fun story about a particular cottage or pointing out a place where something interesting occurred.”
That same knowledge lets her offer the best advice on how to market your cottage to maximize its best features that others may not think about – whether it’s good shade, proximity to the best swimming and fishing areas on the lake, great sun exposure, and even historical tidbits others may not be aware of. As well, she can often point out boating hazards such as shallow areas or submerged rocks on the lake.
Some of the stories she tells were passed down by her grandfather, who was a wealth of knowledge, such as which property once had the old dance hall where weekly social events occurred; as well as old regatta tales and memories of Royal visits – some publicized, some secret – and much more.
“My grandfather passed away a few years ago. He was my number one go-to for information,” she fondly recalls. “We would go out on boat rides, and he would tell me about the shorelines, and where everything was – as well as the history of some of the properties.”
Growing up, Chelsey made her fair share of memories, including the time when they were out boating and saw a plane nosedive into the lake not too far away from their boat. Twelve at the time, Chelsey was with her grandfather and cousins when they saw the crash take place.
“We went out and helped drag the plane to shore so the pilot could get help,” she remembers. “Thankfully, my grandfather knew the lakes so well, he could pinpoint the property that was easiest to access for us from shore and for the rescue crew from land.”
Since the turn of the century, Chelsey’s parents have purchased the family property, added a boathouse and rebuilt the cottage itself. Through it all, she fell in love with Muskoka as a whole.
“During my second year of university I decided to move into the old cottage on the property,” she says. “My dad put in a shower for me, and I worked at Lake Joe Club for two summers. And then the year I got into real estate – 2008 – we were living out of the boathouse and a little trailer on site because they were rebuilding the cottage. I knew I wanted to be here. I did not care about the accommodations at the time; this was my happy place.”
Chelsey truly embraces Muskoka for all that it is: from keeping age old traditions alive like waving to fellow cottagers when passing by on a boat to understanding the deep history of the place.
Her home in Rosseau is built on the site of the old Monteith House Resort. It was a popular location in the 1920s and 1930s during the Big Band Era, and some of the music genre’s biggest stars performed there, including the legendary Duke Ellington.
In 1938, Harry and Jenny Shopsowitz of Shopsey’s Deli bought the property from John Monteith. In those anti-Semitic days, it became one of the few properties that welcomed Jewish guests.
“It’s such an amazing feeling living on a piece of history,” she says. “When we were developing, we found all the old glassware. It’s really interesting to think about who may have used it and the incredible impact the Monteith House had in many people’s lives.”
It’s stories like these that Chelsey and her family love to pass on to others. It also helps her clients understand the places they are choosing to buy and sell.