Harrington Lake: A Tranquil Retreat for Canada's Prime Minister 🇨🇦

Chelsea Quebec Local logo
by The Local
July 15, 2023
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This inaccessible location serves as the country residence for the prime minister of Canada, offering a secure and informal setting for rest, reflection, and critical discussions. We'll explore the fascinating history of Harrington Lake, the evolution of its name, and the significance of its heritage building. So, please sit back, relax, and join us on this virtual journey to one of Canada's most picturesque retreats!

One Lake, Two Names: A Historical Tale

The fascinating history of Harrington Lake includes an intriguing aspect—the lake's dual names. Known as "Harrington Lake" in English and "Lac Mousseau" in French, this unique nomenclature reflects the multicultural and bilingual heritage of the area. Let's dive deeper into the origins of these names and the stories they carry.

The settlement of the area in the 19th century saw the arrival of several families, including the Harringtons and the Mousseau family. As the community began to develop around the beautiful lake, it became known by both names, each paying tribute to its respective linguistic context. "Harrington Lake" represents the English-speaking influence, while "Lac Mousseau" symbolizes the French-speaking heritage of the region. This dual nomenclature showcases the linguistic and cultural diversity that is an integral part of Canada's identity.

The coexistence of two names for the lake adds a layer of richness to the area's history. It serves as a reminder of the harmonious fusion of different cultures and languages in the region. The naming of geographical landmarks often reflects the historical and social dynamics of the communities that inhabit them, and Harrington Lake's dual names are a testament to the multicultural fabric of Canada.

So, as you venture into the enchanting realm of Harrington Lake, keep in mind the significance behind its dual names. Embrace the linguistic diversity and appreciate the fusion of English and French influences that have shaped the vibrant tapestry of the area. Whether you refer to it as Harrington Lake or Lac Mousseau, one thing is for certain—it is a place of tranquillity, natural beauty, and historical significance.

The Lumber Industry and Changing Times

The Mousseau family initially built a farm on the lake's shore, but due to the challenging terrain of the Gatineau Hills, farming was soon replaced by the thriving lumber industry. In the early 20th century, enterprising Americans W. A. Drum and W. L. Donnelly established a sawmill at Harrington Lake, taking advantage of the region's abundant forests. The area witnessed a transition from agricultural endeavours to lumbering, marking a significant shift in its economic landscape. 🌳

The Birth of a Country House

In the 1920s, Cameron Macpherson Edwards, a member of a prominent lumbering family in Ottawa, recognized the recreational and lumbering potential of the land surrounding Harrington Lake. He acquired additional acreage, expanding his total holdings to an impressive 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres). Edwards also decided to replace the mill buildings with a grand house that stands proudly to this day. This 16-room Colonial Revival-style residence, adorned with magnificent fieldstone chimneys, is a testament to the architectural trends of the 1920s. 🏰

From Private to Public: A Secluded Retreat for Canada's Prime Minister

In 1951, the federal government purchased the Edwards property, as well as adjacent lands owned by William Duncan Herridge and the Healey family. Stanley Healey, the government caretaker, became the first official caretaker at Harrington Lake. However, it wasn't until the arrival of John Diefenbaker, Canada's prime minister in 1958, that the idea of a secluded retreat for the country's leader took shape. The persuasive powers of Stanley Healey, who took Diefenbaker fishing at Harrington Lake, played a crucial role in convincing the prime minister of the necessity of an official country residence. Thus, a group of buildings at Harrington Lake became a designated secure haven for Canada's prime ministers. 🏛️

Preserving Heritage: The Prime Minister's Cottage

One of the notable buildings at Harrington Lake is the Prime Minister's Cottage, also known as the Prime Minister's Summer Residence. This charming two-and-a-half-story structure, featuring clapboard siding and distinctive stone chimneys, holds immense historical and architectural significance. The cottage's design is representative of the informal and rustic character of 1920s cottage architecture, boasting stone fireplaces and open verandahs. Its aesthetic and functional design, along with its period craftsmanship, make it a recognized federal heritage building.

A Symbol of Canadian History and Natural Beauty

Beyond its architectural and historical value, the Prime Minister's Cottage holds environmental importance as it harmonizes with the picturesque setting of its country estate. Surrounded by nature's splendour, the cottage stands as a symbol of the Prime Minister's Office within the region, evoking a sense of pride and connection to Canadian history. It has served as the summer retreat for six prime ministers of Canada, further cementing its significance in the country's political landscape. 🇨🇦

Harrington Lake in Chelsea, Quebec, provides a tranquil escape for Canada's prime minister, offering a secluded and informal setting for rest and important deliberations. With its rich history, dual names, and iconic Prime Minister's Cottage, this remarkable estate holds both historical and cultural value. Though closed to the public, the allure and mystique of Harrington Lake continue to captivate our imagination.

So, the next time you find yourself exploring Gatineau Park, take a moment to appreciate the beauty and legacy of Harrington Lake, a true gem in Canada's landscape.

But hold on a second!  As much as we'd love to invite you to experience this tranquil retreat firsthand, it's important to note that Harrington Lake is currently closed to the public. Yes, you read that right—even the Chelsea locals are unable to access this hidden gem.

...To be continued...

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