Everyone loves fairy tales with happy endings. Pointe-Fortune has its very own Cinderella story in the form of the Macdonell-Williamson House. Constructed in grand Palladian style in 1817 by Northwest Fur Trading Company partner John Macdonell and his Métis wife Magdeleine Poitras, by the 1960s, it was abandoned, derelict and slated for demolition to make way for the building of the Carillon Dam.
The house has had more than one fairy godmother. In 1978, the Ontario Heritage Trust (OHT), recognizing its historical and architectural significance, took it over and stabilized the building. But it was the vision and determination of six women, and the volunteers who followed them, who breathed new life into the house.
Founded in 1991, the Friends of the Macdonell-Williamson House now number 242 members. Since then, they have restored parts of the house, held fundraisers, opened up a general store and tearoom, given guided tours, restored the grounds and turned the house into a major summer tourist attraction.
Volunteers are the key to success
“We couldn’t function without our volunteers,” claims Sue Tessier, Co-President Ontario of the Friends of the Macdonell-Williamson House. Twenty-six currently active volunteers run the above activities, as well as helping at the OLG Delta Bingo in Hawkesbury, source of a significant amount of the house’s income.
Over the years there have been many upgrades to the historic site. The roof was redone in1979, the windows have been replaced and three years ago, shutters were added to them. Several of the descendants of both the Macdonell and Williamson families have donated back furniture. A Métis room upstairs contains artifacts honouring Macdonell’s wife. Displays are changed every year, with the summer of 2023 hosting Colours and Craftsmanship: The Art of Interior Décor from the Glenholm Collections in Gravenhurst.
Fundraising events include a high tea in summer and a gala in either May or September. The most recent effort was a Wine and Cheese Evening on September 9.
The restoration of the property is on-going. A carriage shed, dating back to the 1880s, is scheduled to be rebuilt to house some of the collection’s larger artifacts, such as a caleche and a canoe. Co-Vice President George Henderson would like to restore a portico over the front entrance and replace the cupola on the roof.
New this year
The Friends have recently introduced an on-site stage and tent as venues for small receptions which can be rented for weddings, conferences and meetings It seems the future of the house is in good hands,
To join the Friends of Macdonell-Williamson House, to donate, volunteer or for more information, go to: [email protected] or call (613) 676-2228.