Regan House opens doors
Harvey and Bonnie Howe have fond memories of exploring Scout Valley as young children.
Just off of Line 15 in Oro-Medonte Township, the conservation area offered an expansive playground filled with adventure and fun around every tree.
Now married, the couple still comes on a regular basis to go hiking and have been observing the resurrection of Regan House with keen interest.
On Sunday, they returned for the first public showing of the reconstructed 19th-century log cabin with their Japanese exchange student, Minami Furuya. The couple couldn't be happier with the newest addition to their favourite childhood haunt.
"I think (the Regan House) fits in like it should have always been here," Bonnie said. "You can almost feel the family that lived in it before."
The 33-by-23-foot home, built of squared-pine timbers, was originally located on the crest of Westmount Drive where the new Shoppers Drug Mart is now located and housed Patrick Regan, his wife, Catherine, and their 10 children from 1845 to 1911.
The structure, thought to be Orillia's oldest pioneer home, was dismantled in 2006 and sat in pieces in an outdoor storage unit until it was decided that it would be rebuilt at Scout Valley next to the heritage stone wall.
Now complete, the Regan House was opened to the public on Sunday for people like the Howes to come explore.
Harvey was impressed with the size of the logs that make up the home and marvelled at how men in the 1800s would have been able to construct such a house.
"You don't see big trees like that anymore," he said.
Furuya, who has been boarding with the Howes in Orillia for four weeks with three more left, said her favourite part of the house was "the smell."
Jody Waugh of Orillia also visited the public showing, but it wasn't the first time she had been in the home. Her aunt and uncle, Ivor and Laurette Brown, lived in the house from the 1950s through to the 1980s, she said.
She visited the house from the time she was an infant until she had her own children.
"I can picture where all the rooms were," Waugh said as she looked around the now open-concept house on Sunday.
There used to be a kitchen, dining room and living room on the main floor and three bedrooms upstairs, she recalled.
Her aunt and uncle were really interested in antiques and history and operated a small antique store on the main floor of the house.
Waugh said her aunt and uncle would have been extremely impressed with the Regan House and just as proud of Orillia for preserving such a unique house.
"I'm really proud of Orillia for getting this done...This is a real accomplishment," Waugh said.
Bob Bowles, one of the volunteers who help reconstruct the home and an organizer of the public showing, said he had expected maybe 50 to 60 people to come out on Sunday. By the end of the day, approximately 200 people had walked through the home, he said.
"People have said it's really nice and warm and friendly in there...It's just like it used to be back in the 1830, 1840s," Bowles said. "A house like this has a lot of warmth and hospitality to give and now it can be given."
Coun. Joe Fecht also helped rebuild the home log by log and, along with Tim Lauer, led the charge at council when the project needed more funding to be completed.
He said he always knew there was a lot of interest in the old home because every time they would be working on it at Scout Valley, people would drive by to check in on the progress.
"We had visitors all the time. Every time we were out here we'd have the door open and people would stop in and have a look," he said, adding that it's great to see it open to the public.
Throughout the day on Sunday, guests enjoyed nature walks through Scout Valley, tea and treats, and performances by Canadian Fiddlers, The Band of Hope and Irish dancers from the Miller School of Irish Dance.
An official opening, complete with speeches and a visit from a relative of the original Regan family, will be held on Sunday Oct. 17 from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information contact Bowles at 325-3149.