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Dashwood Island

Written by on September 2, 2016 in The Thousand Islands

The House of Seven Gables on Dashwood Island is a stately 113-year-old manor in the middle of the St. Lawrence River near the Lost Channel was originally called Opawaka Lodge.  The island is also known as Himes and Pine. Opawaka is an aboriginal word  meaning “swift water,” referring to the strong current in the channel  around the five acre Canadian isle. It’s the kind of place that wears its history everywhere, from its breathtaking verandah with Tuscan columns,  cascading gardens, stone gazebo and in every room of the neoclassical cottage –  a  popular showplace for passing tour boats. 


During a recent renovation, workmen found notes on the interior surface of a window frame saying its first owner, Michael P. Davis, inspected the final stages of the house on Sept. 20 1903.  Construction took place between 1900 and 1903.  Davis, an Ottawa contractor,  built the 13,000 square foot mansion with a pump house, water tower, boathouse, bathhouse, icehouse, and two gazebos. (Only one of the gazebos remains). Dashwood Island was named after Lieutenant Colonel Charles Dashwood by British surveyors  after the War of 1812. It is also known as Pine Island.Davis owned a  construction company called M.P. Davis and Sons. He built the Iroquois, Cardinal and Cornwall canals.  He had four children: William Patrick Davis , Mary Emma Scott, Michael P. Davis Jr., and Agnes K. Brophy. Mary Emma married D’arcy Scott who went on to become the Mayor of Ottawa.  William Patrick married Mary Agnes Scott. In 1911, M.P. Davis gave his son William Patrick the island for “love and $1.00.” Mary Agnes  Scott was a society reporter for newspapers and magazines in turn-of-the -century Ottawa. Her career ended in 1903 when she married Will Davis, a playboy some years her junior. He died Christmas Eve in 1916 in the apartment he kept for his mistress.


Davis’ widow sold the island to W.Horace Soper, an American, in 1920. He sold it to Joseph H.  Himes for $16,000 in 1923. Himes, an Ohio businessman, was a one-term Republican Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1921 to 1923. He was married to Eileen Canfield, of the Canfield Oil dynasty, one of the wealthiest families in America. The Himes family spent summers on the island and the rest of the year at their Frederick, Maryland mansion. They had three children; Marilynn Himes, Katrina Himes and Canfield Himes. Eileen died in 1951. Himes married Hilda Birch Butterworth of Montreal in 1953.

Himes loved wooden boats. He commissioned two Hutchinsons to be built in Alexandria Bay in 1925: Congressional and My Own. Congressional is a 45’ launch. The 36-feet My Own was a gift to Hilda.  The Himes collected many paintings by C. Calusd, an eminent Armenian artist who  depicted the Constantinople, Black Sea and other parts of the Turkish empire. The paintings still remain in Opawaka Lodge.  Also left behind by Himes is a billiard table that once belonged to Diamond Jim Brady, a wealthy philanthropist from New York City.

The original Opawaka Lodge had all the modern conveniences including flush toilets, electric lights, and hot water.  It also had a wooden bridge connected to a smaller island.  A new bridge has been built to Flag Island, which has a flag pole and one tree. The house has all the original porcelain bathroom fixtures, oak floors, and even buzzers that were used to summons servants.  Some of the furniture from 1903 remains. Himes left the estate to the Wesley Theological Seminary of the Methodist Church in Maryland when he died in 1960.


The Seminary kept the estate for two years and sold it to Adrian Wallace Moore, a Maryland businessman, in 1964. Moore was on the board of the Seminary which had decided to sell the island. He came back from a meeting and tossed a brochure on a table and said to his wife, Elizabeth: “Your island’s for sale,” she recalled in an interview. “I said: ‘What island?'” Elizabeth spent summers as a child and young adult at Opawaka Lodge visiting her best friend Katrina Himes. The Himes children, then living in Colorado, South Carolina, and Mexico, didn’t want the property. Elizabeth visited  Dashwood Island and fell in love with the place all over again and the Moores made the estate their summer home for over two decades. “I absolutely adored every rock and blade of grass on that island,” she said. “It was Heaven as far as I was concerned.”


In 1987,  Dr. Wallace Stonehouse took a cruise on the River that led the Toronto-based financier and businessman to become the next and current owner of Opawaka Lodge. The Moores, who had no children, decided it was time to sell their Thousand Islands retreat. Dr. Stonehouse, who started out as a veterinarian before turning to the business world in 1981, returned a restored My Own to the boathouse at Dashwood Island in 2008. He and his wife, Pat, enjoy summer evenings on the sweeping verandah as tour boats glide by the House of Seven Gables. “It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Pat. “It doesn’t get any better anywhere else in the world.”