A historic gem for some; an albatross around Township’s neck to others, the historic Duke House in Port Carling has been sold.
Buyer Jayne McCaw of Jayne’s Cottages says the building will become the new office for her luxury cottage rental business.
The sale price of $521,000 will offset some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in renovations and upkeep that the 1897 home has cost the Township since it bought it in 2007 for just over $434,000 (the purchase price together with renovations and maintenance pegs the total cost to the township at close to $900,000 according to budget figures).
Council this year voted to sell or lease the Duke House to stop the bleeding from ongoing expenses.
The Township decision to buy and preserve the Duke House in 2007 was not without controversy as some taxpayers felt the purchase could be a waste of money and should not be bought with taxpayer dollars. Others, such as the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario Muskoka Branch and the Muskoka Lakes Museum, applauded the move and gave input into its restoration.
It was decided to use the building as a visitor information centre and at the opening, then Mayor Susan Pryke said: “This refurbished home will allow visitors a glimpse of the past, while supporting the businesses of the present. We will, in this venture, be demonstrating a commitment to a vision that supports building on the best of the past for a strong tomorrow.”
The building, a former Anglican rectory, was purchased by Ernest Duke, a local contractor, in 1946. The Duke family is associated with a long tradition of boatbuilding in Port Carling. The last private owner of the house was Verna Duke who passed away in 2006.
The Duke House is one of four municipal structures that have been renovated and preserved by the Township of Muskoka.
The others include:
The Original Windermere Village Hall;
The White’s Road 1890 Schoolhouse (Glen Orchard Community Centre which now houses the West Muskoka Food Bank);
The Municipal Office (Port Carling Schoolhouse); and,
Windermere Village Hall.