215 Oakwood Rd., Powassan, Ont.
Asking Price: $2,495,000
Taxes: $9,300.00 (2020)
Lot Size: 100 acres
Agents: Kim O’Grady (Chestnut Park Real Estate Ltd.)
When Robert Caldwell was growing up in Southern Ontario, traveling north to his grandmother’s retreat was a grand adventure.
There were 100 acres of untamed forest to explore, and the family dwelling was a true log cabin.
“It was quite thrilling having no plumbing or electricity or heat. It was just a cabin in the bush,” says Mr. Caldwell, who often carried a pail down to the spring for fresh water.
The cabin’s 400-square-foot interior was warmed by the fire from a pot-bellied stove and lit by coal oil lamps. Outside, there was an outhouse.
“One year we had 52-below up here,” he recalls.
It was Mr. Caldwell’s great-grandfather, W.F. Clark, who became the first homesteader in the area when he ventured east from the northern shore of Georgian Bay in the early 1880s. The pioneer cleared 400 acres of land to establish a farm and brickyard, and eventually his small settlement grew into the present-day town of Powassan.
By the early 1920s, the hamlet was becoming quite busy, so Mr. Caldwell’s grandmother decided to purchase a more peaceful refuge on the outskirts of town. The new property had a few acres devoted to hay farming, and the rest was natural landscape.
After her new cabin was built, Elizabeth Clark stood on the back stoop and called out to people in the distance. Her words echoed about eight times as they bounced around the sides of the valley beyond the house.
Ms. Clark named her new home The Echoes, and that has remained its postal address ever since, says Mr. Caldwell, who has successfully sent mail from many international destinations.
The house today
Mr. Caldwell dreamed for years of building a new home on the property. Together with his wife, Suzanne Dansereau, he began making plans in the late 1990s.
Mr. Caldwell, an investment advisor in Cambridge, Ont., was a member of the board of directors at the University of Waterloo at the time. He asked the dean of the School of Architecture to recommend a Waterloo graduate who had experience in building in rugged Northern Ontario.
The search led them to architect Dennis Castellan of Sudbury, Ont.
Mr. Castellan began designing a substantial log home that would stand on the site of the farm’s original barn.
The position on a small bluff provided the best views of the valley and pond below, says Mr. Caldwell, but it also made Mr. Castellan’s work more challenging.
Obtuse angles are very unusual in log construction, he explains, but such angles were necessary in order to meet his goal of not altering the terrain. The home was built on three tiers, with separate wings for gathering and sleeping.
“Joining logs with those changes in altitude is difficult,” Mr. Caldwell says. “The structure he put together was quite complex.”
Mr. Caldwell had white pine timbers harvested from the forests of Temagami and the banks of the Mattawa and Upper Ottawa rivers. Timbers weighing up to three tons were hauled to the property, where they were cleaned, squared, dried and aged for 18 months before being hewn by hand.
The finished home took eight years to build and provides three bedrooms and three bathrooms over 4,100 square feet of living space.
While Mr. Caldwell oversaw construction of the heavy structure, Ms. Dansereau took on the planning of a light and modern interior.
Large family gatherings these days include the couple’s children and grandchildren.
The couple and their guests spend lots of time in the great room around a fireplace built of stone collected from Georgian Bay. The kitchen at the centre of the home has a chef’s range and built-in wall ovens.
The master suite has a large sleeping area, a home office and a luxurious bathroom with a soaker tub next to windows overlooking the pond. Outside, there’s a Jacuzzi.
Large screen porches provide a comfortable place to relax or dine during mosquito season.
During the summer, Mr. Caldwell moved his home office to one of the porches.
“During the current environment, it’s quite nice to have an indoor and an outdoor office,” he says.
From the outside, the log home appears to nestle into the landscape.
“It blends in perfectly with the environment,” Mr. Caldwell says.
Much of the acreage remains unchanged but the echoes are not so noticeable today – the soundwaves have been dampened by a pine plantation Mr. Caldwell’s father planted in the 1950s to replace the hay fields.
The property is accessible year-round and North Bay, the main hub in that stretch of the province, is about 25 minutes away by car. There’s a busy airport there, along with marinas, stores and restaurants along the Lake Nipissing waterfront.
The best feature
The property’s tranquility is the most enjoyable aspect, in Mr. Caldwell’s view. He’s amazed at the number of visitors who have never before had the opportunity to tramp through wild bush.
Mr. Caldwell likes to organize warm-weather hikes and winter snowshoeing on the trails that wind through the property and onto the crown land next door. One favourite destination is a rocky promontory in the distance.
“It’s a clear rock in the middle of the forest and quite high up,” he says. “It’s a great place for a bonfire.”
The trees in autumn are beautiful and the landscape is spectacular in winter, he adds.
Deer roam the property frequently and family members occasionally glimpse moose, black bears, and wolves. Mr. Caldwell has found bobcat tracks in the snow but he’s yet to spot the elusive creature.
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