We are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Balas Museum
with Memories of Lucy Maud Montgomery this year, so it is time
to share the incredible story of how our little museum was born.
us all the way back to our marriage on June 30, 1990. We left
for a honeymoon in Prince Edward Island, chosen because Linda
wanted to see where Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables.
Linda had loved the book ever since a Grade 5 teacher read it
to her class.
That 10-day honeymoon changed our lives.
Both of us
were surprised to learn that LMM had holidayed in Bala in the
summer of 1922. That two-week holiday inspired her to set her
next novel, The Blue Castle in Muskoka. It is her only novel not
wholly set in her beloved PEI.
werent over. While we were on our honeymoon our local librarian
received a letter from a University of Guelph professor who was
interested in the link between L.M. Montgomery and The Blue Castle.
On our return, we called Prof. Mary Rubio at her Guelph office
to find what this was all about.
told us that the famous author spent two weeks in 1922 at Balas
Roselawn Lodge and that she had her meals at a tourist home almost
next door to Roselawn.
We knew exactly where that former tourist home was and that it
faced possible demolition. Before the phone call ended Linda had
decided that we had to buy the old home to save it and have a
is what old home looked like decades later as a world-class museum.
Had we not
gone to PEI for our honeymoon, we would never have discovered
the link between Bala and L.M. Montgomery. Had Mary Rubio not
visited Bala and left her note we would never learned that L.M.
Montgomery wrote at length about Bala in her diary. If we wanted
to save the last link between Bala and Canadas most famous
author we had to act quickly.
Our best friends
thought we were out of our minds when we bought the former tourist
home near the end of 1990. In the following year they shook their
heads as Linda worked by herself to restore the old home back
to the 1920's (Jack was still working in Toronto).
supporter back then was Dr. Mary Rubio, who quickly became a friend.
She was editing LMMs diaries with Dr. Elizabeth Waterston,
another English professor at the University of Guelph. Mary made
it possible for us to spend hours with LMMs handwritten
diaries and other archives at Guelph and located precious photographs
for us. She also came to Bala as the keynote speaker at our museums
official opening on July 24th, 1992. Four hundred showed up, including
kindred spirits from the U.S. and members of LMMs family.
We were on national television (both CBC and CTV) that evening.
We will be
forever grateful for the support that we received from members
of L.M. Montgomerys family, but especially from a grandson,
David Macdonald, and his wife, Marie. They generously loaned us
LMMs silver tea set which has been on display since our
opening. Thanks to them, more than 120,000 visitors from more
than 40 countries have admired the silver tea set.
The following are highlights from the quarter century that our
museum has existed.
of Linda and Dr. Mary Rubio was taken in the year before we opened.
They are seated in our front yard which was a crabgrass lawn.
One year later there was a picket fence and Evening Primroses.
Today, there is a country garden of Hollyhocks, Irises, Bachelor
Buttons, Johnny Jump-Ups, Lupins and other flowers that LMM cherished.
before and after photos dramatically show how a tired 1970's kitchen
morphed back to the 1920's. The cream and green 1922 electric
stove was the inspiration for the kitchen colours and style. Linda
was able to find authentic doors and windows, mortice locks and
porcelain door knobs and kitchen cupboards.
the house walls had to be either re-plastered or scraped down
in preparation for vintage style wallpaper. Drapery and curtain
fabrics were chosen and sewed by Linda. We had to collect antique
furnishings and Lucy Maud Montgomery first editions. Eventually,
our collection of LMMs books became one of the best anywhere
and displayed above peoples heads in a plate rail fashion.
wrote: We were perhaps the first to see the progression
of dust jacket / book covers of Anne ranging from the Gibson girl
to the flower child and everything in between. As our collection
grew we were able to mount the display Anne Madly Off In
All Directions as a 100-year tribute to the publishing of
Anne of Green Gables. The centrepiece was our very own first impression
copy of LMMs famous first book.
Over the years,
our collection of foreign editions of the Anne books has grown
considerably. We are always thrilled to see the reaction of New
Canadians or foreign visitors when we can show them an LMM book
in their own language.
In 2013, we
felt honoured to receive Heritage Designation from the Township
of Muskoka Lakes. That was very special because we joined a small
and select group of L.M. Montgomery sites in Canada who have received
We have come
a long way since the summer day when Linda and Mary Rubio sat
down on our crabgrass lawn. Back then we had one short year to
do the impossible. We did it and all without a penny of
support from any government level or outside body.
INVITATION: We will be celebrating our 25th anniversary at our
Everything Anne Day on Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 (our 25th anniversary
on the 25th).
Come join us on that joyous day.