Some buildings are so well known—or are so significant historically—that they’ve come to be a part of the fabric of Canadian history. And while there are lots of big, grand buildings on that list—think the Château Frontenac or the Parliament buildings—there are plenty of smaller spots too. Here are some of the most iconic cottages and cabins in Canada.
This small log cottage in Murdo Frazer Park in north Vancouver may not be historically iconic, but chances are you may have seen it in a film or television show. Lots of them. Most recently a setting for Virgin River, the cabin, built in 1950, has also been seen in Supernatural, The Flash, Stargate SG-1, Once Upon a Time, and MacGyver among many others. It’s also the setting of the Shaw cable yule log, the first widely broadcast fireplace channel in Canada.
Made famous by Robert Service’s poem because his name sounded poetic, the real Sam McGee was an unsuccessful prospector from Ontario who lived off and on in Yukon (and was definitely not cremated in a woodstove). There’s some debate about whether the cabin, now located on the grounds of the MacBride Museum in Whitehorse, was actually built by McGee, but it is known that McGee’s family lived in a similar building, so it’s OK to let your imagination run wild if you visit.
Archibald Belaney, who was born in Hastings, England, adopted the name Grey Owl after relocating to North America and eventually told people he was half Scottish and half Apache. While the persona may have been fake, Belaney’s conservation work—which was inspired by his wife, a Mohawk woman named Gertrude Bernard/Anahareo—helped influence generations of conservationists to come. His cabin, tucked on the banks of the Waskesiu River in Prince Albert National Park, is accessible by foot (20 km one way) or by boat.
While it was originally located in a Rosedale ravine in Toronto, the Tom Thomson Shack—now located outdoors at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg—might as well have been a cottage. The spot where the celebrated artist painted two of his most famous works, Jack Pine, and The West Wind, was a modest wooden cabin that served as a home and studio and was a gathering place for the members of the Group of Seven.
After escaping slavery in Maryland and Kentucky, abolitionist Josiah Henson eventually relocated to Dresden in 1841 and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping 118 enslaved people find freedom. Henson, who was known as “Uncle Tom” because of his connection to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel of the same name, founded the British American Institute of Science and Technology with missionary Hiram Wilson, and his house still stands, along with the settlement that grew up around the school.
Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt’s summer home on Campobello Island is really a cottage in name only. Jointly administered by Canada and the United States, the 34-room summer home is part of the Roosevelt Campobello International Park, which boasts three other turn-of-the-century summer cottages, along with nature trails.
The tiny home of renowned folk artist Maud Lewis and her husband Everett is covered in her colourful decorations: on the walls, mirrors, canisters, cast-iron stove — and almost every other paintable surface. Purchased by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in 1984 after falling into disrepair, the house sat in storage for a decade until it was restored and finally put on display in 1996.
Hawthorne Cottage, built in 1830, was the home of one of Canada’s most celebrated Arctic explorers, Captain Bob Bartlett. Named for the hawthorn trees planted around the cottage, the building is now home to a museum that, with artifacts from Bartlett’s expeditions as well as period furnishings, offers a look into maritime life in Newfoundland in the 19th century.
This iconic building—the setting for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables—is located in the L.M. Montgomery Cavendish National Historic Site, a spot that also houses Montgomery’s childhood home. Along with the house and a new interpretive centre, you can also wander the grounds and explore spots from the book, including the Haunted Wood, the site of the schoolhouse, Lover’s Lane, and a babbling brook.