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POSTCARD MEMORIES: Peninsula Hotel was a vacation hotspot

Opened in 1887, hotel attracted notable guests over the years, including a prime minister

Summer is almost upon us. In years past, resorts along the shores of Lake Simcoe — of which only a handful remain — would be opening for business. Among the most noteworthy of these summer hotels was Innisfil’s Peninsula Hotel.

The dream of G.C. Power and a group of Barrie investors, the Peninsula Hotel opened in the summer of 1887. Finely appointed, it featured 60 guestrooms, many with views overlooking the placid waters of Lake Simcoe, a shaded veranda, and an elegant dining room capable of accommodating more than 100 people.

The Peninsula Hotel became one of the most fashionable summer resorts in Ontario. It was the favoured vacation destination of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, and numerous wealthy businessmen from Toronto and the United States vacationed there. Many would later build cottages in the area.

The onset of the Depression saw the resort fall on hard times. Neglect set in. But Cecil Grant, a bright entrepreneur with extensive experience in the hospitality industry, believed the Peninsula Hotel still had some life in her. In 1933, he purchased the hotel and began extensive renovations. The resort was reopened as the Big Bay Point Hotel.

The excitement generated by the reinvention was electric.

“The large frame building with its wide verandahs … is one of the most comfortable and attractive summer inns around Lake District,” noted the Barrie Northern Advance on July 4, 1935.

The glory days had returned.

Grant operated Big Bay Point Hotel successfully and profitably until 1950, at which point it was sold to local interests. Despite the change of ownership, things carried on much as before for several years.

Unfortunately, the resort would never open for the 1955 season. On the evening of April 9, a fire started at the hotel. Despite the joint efforts of the Barrie and Innisfil fire departments, the all-wood building was soon completely engulfed in flames. By midnight, the once-lavish hotel had been reduced to ash and glowing embers. The only things that could be saved were some dining room furniture, a piano, and some linen.

The destruction was complete; the loss, staggering. Big Bay Point Hotel was never rebuilt.