The reputation of the Menesetung Park resort was international

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In July 1895, the Huron Signal reported that “it is not generally known, but it is an assured fact, that one of the finest picnic grounds and bathing beaches in Ontario is situated at less than a mile and a half from the courthouse square”.

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For over forty years, the resort town of Menesetung Park has attracted tourists for a private getaway along the shores of Lake Huron.

Originally called Victoria Park, retired sailor Abraham Smith owned the site just north of the Attrill property. Smith cleared the land and erected a “convenient” summer hotel with plans for several cottages to accommodate “a thriving colony of visitors”. He also built the road from Dunlop’s Hill to the lake to make the station more accessible for “wheeled vehicles and boats”.

The “Signal” describes the property as “situated on a high bluff overlooking a magnificent expanse of lake, and with a beach easily accessible from almost any vantage point.”

The newspaper further asserted that “a finer, cleaner, gayer or healthier resort could not be chosen in a search on the Continent, and though at the sound of the town clock on a clear day and within sight of the port of Goderich, it is for all practical purposes as remote from the hustle and bustle of commercial life as the Muskoka Islands.

Chalets at Menesetung Park.  Courtesy of Larry Mohring
Chalets at Menesetung Park. Courtesy of Larry Mohring

Although Smith believed that a summer hotel in Goderich was “an urgent necessity”, he wanted Menesetung Park to be “a resort for families who want more privacy and quiet than you can get. in the city “.

In 1896, Smith’s son-in-law, Derrick Hamlink, an American arborist from upstate New York, took over management of the station and changed the name to Menesetung Park. Hamlink expanded the park’s fairways and bridleways and added many more modern “amenities” for the 1898 season.

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Closer to town and more exclusive than its main rival, the Point Farm Hotel, Menesetung Park attracted an affluent clientele from Detroit, Cleveland, Windsor, Toronto and Montreal who wanted to feel secluded in a natural setting yet close enough to comfort of a city. . The arrival and departure of guests were regularly reported in local newspapers.

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The International Teachers’ Home Association proposed in 1897 to turn the park into a resort for American teachers. Plans for the station fell through when local business leaders could not be enticed to provide $1,200 “to construct a pier sufficient for the landing of large boats.”

Like the Point Farm Hotel and, after 1902, the Hotel Sunset, Menesetung Park was only open during the summer months. Its season started, usually at the end of June, with the arrival of passenger boats like the King Edward and the Greyhound which brought in the first vacationers.

In 1909, an advertisement claimed that “a substantial addition has been made to the south end of the main hotel.” Other amenities included a “spacious” and “elegantly furnished” living room with electric lights. The “furnished chalets” were considered another attraction of this “splendid” seaside resort. Other “entertainment” at Menesetung Park included golf courses, bathhouses, bocce courts, and tennis courts.

After Hamlink’s sudden death in October 1918, Bert McCreath of Toronto purchased Menesetung Park. Under the title “Come to Menesetung”, McCreath broadened the resort’s appeal to locals by encouraging churches and fellowship groups to use the “hundreds of cozy nooks and rustic situations” that stretched for a mile and half along the shore of the lake.

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Saturday night dance parties and Sunday dinner parties became regular features of the Menesetung Park Hotel in the 1920s. Yet the most outrageous social event at the hotel was to be a wedding party where the bride n He wasn’t the only one wearing white.

Stanley Fry, son of a Detroit financier, and his wife were secretly married in Hamilton. They wanted to spend their honeymoon at the Menesetung Park Hotel with some close friends. Just as they were about to share their joyous news, the Grand Kleagle of the Ku Klux Klan and other masked men from the Invisible Order rushed into the room and grabbed the bride and groom. The couple were separated, tied up and dragged into the woods. Fry was hooded and tied tightly to a tree while his fiancée was taken into the woods for “harsh punishment”. With difficulty, he broke away and went in search of his young wife at night in the “strange woods”.

In what must have been a terrifying experience, Fry’s captive bride “had a lot to think about” during her two-hour ordeal. When a hotel search party found her, the bride broke away from her captors and rushed into the arms of a ‘strange man’, shouting ‘Here I am, darling’. According to the newspaper, it was “a funny thing” as her husband was still lost in the bush more than a mile away.

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Menesetung Park circa 1910. Courtesy of Larry Mohring
Menesetung Park circa 1910. Courtesy of Larry Mohring

Apparently it was someone’s prank ideas. A so-called friend caught wind of the newlyweds’ surprise announcement and wanted to give them a “surprise party” as a wedding present.

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Around this time, Fry, co-owner of the Menesetung Resort, built several cabins on the park grounds. Gavin Green in The Old School (1939) wrote that Fry’s cottages had been built partly from timber from the old Methodist Church in Sheppardton.

Another local legend believes that mysterious out-of-town bootleggers stayed at the Menesetung Park resort during the Prohibition era. The hotel’s remote wooded setting made it an ideal place to conduct illicit business. If true, rum runners would have rubbed shoulders with some of London, Toronto and Detroit’s most respectable names as well as the annual Knox Presbyterian Picnic.

As late as July 1929, Menesetung Park reported a “great season” as “twenty-five additional cabins could have been rented if available.”

In the early 1930s, the Great Depression hurt the local tourist trade. In 1932, the Sunset Hotel and Menestung Park reported a “very quiet season”. The slowness of the season was blamed on the attraction of the Chicago World’s Fair and the “deplorable state of the Blue Water Highway”.

On May 8, 1936, a fire destroyed the two-story, timber-framed Menesetung Park Hotel. The chalets in the complex were saved from the fire when the wind changed direction. Only partially insured, the hotel was never rebuilt and the park complex never reopened.

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