KILLARNEY—The end of an era, anticipated since news first broke last spring that Killarney Mountain Lodge was on the market, has finally arrived with news of the closing of the sale.
Originally built in the late 1950s as a wilderness corporate resort by a large American corporation, the Freuhof Trailer Company of Detroit (nearby Ruth Roy Lake is named for the original owners Ruth and Roy Feuhof), Killarney Mountain Lodge boasts a fascinating history that until recently was overseen by Northern Ontario tourism icons, Maury and Annabelle East. Mr. East has been a familiar figure in tourism marketing circles for decades, having been involved in both Rainbow Country Travel Association and its precursors.
The Easts bought the Lodge in 1962 and opened the facility to the public later that spring, when the road into Killarney was opened. For over half a century the couple have operated the lodge, playing host to both high profile American and Canadian guests who came to its idyllic setting for “fishing trips and fun times” throughout the 1950s up to the present day.
“It has certainly played a major role in our community,” said Killarney Mayor Ginny Rook. “They are definitely one of our biggest employers in town. I think most of the people in the village have worked for them at one time or another.” As many as 50 people work at the resort through the summer.
The Easts have been major fixtures in the community, noted Mayor Rook, who said she had not yet met the new owners. “They certainly will be missed,” said Ms. Rook of the Easts, but she said she is looking forward to meeting the new owners. “I am interested in what their plans for the lodge are.”
Mayor Rook agreed that while the sale of the lodge denotes a sad end of an era, the sale itself speaks volumes as a vote of confidence in the Killarney region. This region has been an incredible magnet for tourists for a very long time and with the nearby provincial park located nearby, that role will likely continue into the future.
Located in the village of Killarney just a few yards from the main street, stores, shops and docks, Killarney Mountain Lodge is highly accessible by water (only 45 minutes from Little Current by boat), air (by private plane at the nearby Killarney Airport) or by road following Highway 637 for 67 kilometers off Highway 69, south of Sudbury.
Killarney Mountain Lodge is famed for its friendly and welcoming staff, the majority of whom are year-round residents of Killarney and have been working at the lodge for many years.
A post on the lodge’s Facebook page confirmed the news of the sale, however. “Dear Friends,” begins the missive. “Annabelle and I have finally reached the end of the long road we embarked on in 1962 to establish a unique resort on the north shore of Georgian Bay. We have sold Killarney Mountain Lodge to a new owner who intends to continue the style and traditions that have marked the lodge these many years. We would like to express our sincere thanks to the thousands of people from far and near who have patronized the lodge and contributed to its success.
From Annabelle and me this is a fond farewell,” signed Maury East.
Although the Easts are still living in the community and plan to for some time yet, hoping to settle on the shores of Georgian Bay, The Expositor was unable to contact the couple by press time Monday.
“We thought the time had come,” said Mr. East of the decision to sell in an interview with CBC radio, however. Mr. East is turning 91.
Mr. East, a Second World War veteran (captain and bomber pilot), noted that he was operating a resort in Muskoka when his partner at the time asked him, “How would you like to operate a resort in Killarney?” Mr. East said he had no idea where Killarney was at that time, but he found himself flying to the resort where he and his wife “fell in love with the place.”
Mr. East noted that the new owners have committed to maintaining the “same rustic style and tradition” and “homey atmosphere” the Easts had established.
Although first established in the 1950s, according to Mr. East the real heyday of the lodge has actually taken place in the last 15 to 20 years as the lodge became better known.
Mr. East noted that the establishment of Killarney Provincial Park in 1964, which he says remains “the crown jewel of provincial parks,” played a big role in “putting the lodge on the map.”