Heritage update: Balmoral Hotel

In an article published in mid-May about the Balmoral Hotel I pointed out that artwork by F.J. Ritza depicting a scene from the 1912 sinking of the Mayflower was not in the photograph. It had been featured in “Believe It or Not” showing how a dead man saved three. Three commercial travellers used the coffin to drift to a nearby island when the vessel sank in Kamaniskeg Lake in 1912.

I asked, is that artwork still on the wall in the Balmoral? A few days later my brother, Dennis, sent me a photo (above) of himself taken in the hotel on July 16, 2004 with Ritza’s painting clearly visible on the wall behind. So it was there 17 years ago. Click HERE for the earlier story and photo.

The Mayflower shipwreck: The sinking of the sternwheeler Mayflower near Combermere marked the worst inland maritime disaster in Canada as of November 12, 1912. Nine people died when the 77-foot-long flat-bottomed boat sank in Kamaniskeg Lake. But three survived — in a bizarre coincidence that made the news in Ripley’s Believe it or Not. “Dead Man Saves Three!” The dead man was in a casket on the deck and the boat was making one last run of the season, at night, to accommodate a request to deliver the body to Combermere. In desperation, four passengers clung to the coffin as it floated to an island where one of them died.

As always, I invite you to share some stories from the past about the hotel or the people featured in the photograph. Readers can submit the information to madvalleycurrent@gmail.com (subject Heritage Photos) or mail it to me c/o The Current at PO Box 1097, Barry’s Bay K0J 1B0 (originals will be returned).

One comment

  1. Eve-Marie Chamot

    Another interesting detail in the earlier photograph is the quality of the woodwork. Note the slatted wainscoting with sections of diagonal slats alternating either to the left or right and interspersed with vertical sections. Plus the older photo shows some quite elaborate wood parquet flooring. The photo above shows simpler patterns of slatted wainscoting although the quality still looks good. They usually used oak for that type of slatted wainscoting and there is certainly plenty of red oak in this region. The Balmoral is currently for sale for about ~$850k which seems like a “bargain” since it includes 1.2+ acres of land but the economics of inn-keeping are quite brutal these days. Btw the hull of the “Mayflower” is apparently still on the bottom of the lake about 9 m below the surface but all deceased bodies were removed by divers a few days after sinking and apparently scuba divers sometimes still explore it although it’s quite cold down there and no doubt a bit spooky. Perhaps a new owner might rename it the “Mayflower Inn” to give it a bit more appeal to tourists.

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