Lost treasure: Seven Mile Island future uncertain

Down Seven Mile road in Port Perry is a once extravagant property with an uncertain future and complicated past. Seven Mile Island is a property with a history so rich, you can get lost in it.

Just ask Peter Hvidsten, author of Scugog’s Lost Treasures, and the former editor-in-chief of the Port Perry Star, which chronicled the entire known history of the island.

“When I saw it in ‘81, I was just amazed by this facility,” Hvidsten said.

The earliest known owner of the property was an Albert C. Stephens in the 1880s. At that time it was known as Nonquon Island. It was a comfortable resort for hunters and fishers.

Today you won’t find hunters, just dirt-bikers, and fishers stay on the other side of the lake.

The property cycled through various owners from 1880 to 1912. In 1912 it was then purchased by Thomas Sintzel who lived in one of the original log cabins.

It was this time under the ownership of Sintzel that Nonquoun became Seven Mile. The old signage from the Sintzel years is now tucked away in a garage.

In 1919, it was acquired by Alex Ross Wilson who was the owner of Bachelor brand cigars.

Wilson hired Scottish stonemasons who worked on Casa Loma in Toronto to build two large cigars at the entrance. He erected a 26 room mansion with a boat house, tea house, dozens of statues, a fountain, and a swimming pool.

The period from 1920-1940 marks the golden era of the island.

Bachelor cigars was bought out in 1923 by the Imperial Tobacco Corporation.

Wilson left the tobacco industry and became vice-president of Consolidated Press Limited of Toronto which published The Canadian Home Journal and Farmer’s Magazine.

In 1925, The Canadian Home Journal reached 68,000 subscribers, which doubled to 132,000 by 1930. During this time, the Wilson’s were very involved in the community and often hosted parties at their large estate.

Today you can still find the two cigars at the entrance of the property. However, all of the statues are damaged, the swimming pool has been filled in, the boat house is rotting and the mansion is long gone.

The property fell into disrepair following the death of Alex Wilson at 71 years-old in 1941. Wilson’s wife lost interest and sold the property to Harry Ely, owner of the Vankirk Chocolate Corporation (eventually bought by Hershey).

It was during the time Thomas Sintzel owned the property that it became known as Seven Mile Island. Sintzel lived in the original log cabin on the property for a short time before beginning construction of a large new house, which he named Delmont Cottage.

In 2002 it was purchased by a group of artists called Artis Orbus with a plan to clean and refurbish the property. However, the costs of maintenance are far too great.

“The ongoing maintenance was so tremendously expensive,” Hvidsten said. “Purchasing it was the cheapest part.”

Seven Mile is in a constant state of deterioration, and it doesn’t seem like anything will be done any time soon. As of now, the property has been acquired by the Mississauga First Nations.

Chief Kelly Larocca of the Mississauga First Nations says it is too early to decide what will happen to the property.

Hvidsten says it’s, “disappointing to see what has happened to it.” But he’s going to put his “hat forward and see what the Mississauga’s are doing in the future.”