Gore’s Landing has to be the most unique and picturesque village in Ontario. The entire village hugs the south shore of Rice Lake and one of the highest hills of the Oak Ridges Moraine separated by the scenic and winding Northumberland County Road #9 (Oak Ridges Drive) . This severely restricts any southern expansion and thus the village has mostly expanded to the west and east and most of its streets are short and are No Exit. The village is very tourist oriented with many cottages, lodges and camp grounds all competing for space but this makes for some great pictures overlooking Rice Lake and its islands. Be sure to leave County Road #9 and explore Plank, Kelly and Church Hill Roads, this is where you will find the oldest and most extravagant homes, many designated historical.
This quaint village started its life as a permanent settlement in 1840 when it was known as Claverton but more often called Tidy’s Tavern after tavern owner David Tidy. The community enjoyed its first boom when it became the northern terminus of the plank road from Cobourg to Rice Lake completed in 1848. A plank road is a berm of flattened earth and gravel with stringers laid with heavy planks for strength. This road was surveyed and its construction was supervised by Thomas Gore. When its first post office opened in 1848 it was renamed Gore’s Landing after Thomas S. Gore, a British Navy Captain and a landowner in the village.
The plank road made possible an easy connection on the route from Cobourg to Peterborough with stage coaches and boats running daily. William Weller was the president of the Cobourg to Rice Lake Plank Road Company. In 1844 Weller launched his steamboat ‘The Forester’ from Gore’s Landing. He operated on the Otonabee River for fifteen years and carried lumber from Peterborough.
This easy connection encouraged innkeeper John Bennett to move his small ferry house, built seven years earlier the two miles from Burrison Bay over the ice covered lake to the plank road terminus at Gore’s Landing to take advantage of this fact. That ferry house is now designated and is the oldest building in the village and is part of the Plank Road Cottages.
Judge William Faulkner built a water-powered sawmill in 1833 on the same property as his home called “Claverton.” James Fortune bought village property in 1851 to build his steam-powered sawmill. Another mill, ‘the Ludgate’ was erected in 1868 by two Cobourg businessmen. The Fortune and Ludgate mills survived only until 1868 when Harwood’s route from Cobourg to Peterborough spelled the end of mills in Gore’s Landing.
Alfred Harris came to Gore’s Landing in 1845 and built a two storey frame house known as the Harris Inn. Soon after two wings were added to the building and it became the Coach and Horses Hotel. A large home was built in 1854 next to the hotel and it became known as the ‘White House.” This Regency style Villa was Alfred’s residence and guest house. As one of the most outstanding buildings in Gore’s Landing, (5290 Kelly Road) it was designated as a heritage house by the Ontario government. After Alfred’s death in 1879, the White House continued in the family. Lady Eaton was known to have dined here. In 1898, a new hotel was built by Tom Harris to replace the Coach & Horses Hotel destroyed by fire in 1889. This building became known as the Kensington House or the Rice Lake Hotel. In 1958, the hotel was destroyed by fire.
William McBride’s boat and coffin building shop was located across the street from the blacksmiths shop where the general store now stands. McBride arrived early in the 1840’s and was Gore’s Landing’s first boat builder, starting an industry that would bring great recognition to the name Rice Lake. In 1854 Daniel Herald built a basswood canoe, the first known non-native wooden canoe in the Kawartha region. It was copied from the design of the Ojibwa bark canoe with the high-curving bow and graceful lines. In 1870 Herald built the two storey Herald Canoe Factory (later, Herald & Hutchinson, Herald & McBride and eventually Rice Lake Boat Works) on Pratt’s Landing where he designed and built the first double planked cedar canoe. This canoe became the International award winning Herald’s Patent Cedar Canoe. There are six of these most famous Herald built Rice Lake canoes now located in the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario.
Gerald Hayward (1845 – 1926) was well known locally for his home ‘The Willows’ now renamed The Victoria Inn. Hayward was born at Ravenscourt, between Cobourg and Port Hope and in his adult life served as a station agent at Harwood for the Cobourg-Peterborough Railroad. He soon headed west on a prairie schooner in 1866 and served as a rifleman for the 10th Royals in the Fenian Raids and on his return was awarded a large acreage near Parry Sound. Sunstroke ended his farming life and he travelled to England to study art. His miniatures were so superior that he became a great success in Europe and painted the Princess of Wales, the Czar and Czarina of Russia as well as the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham. Hayward exhibited at the Royal Academy in London and The Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh. For his home, ‘The Willows’ Haywood commissioned Fred Pratt a local master builder to do the job. At this time, Hayward owned a Rice Lake hunting lodge that is now the main house at Pinecrest Cottages. Hayward also designed the original gazebo on the dock as well as the tower of St. George’s Church in the village.
Thomas Gore died at the early age of 38 in 1858, leaving his widow Harriette and eight children. Harriette later married Frederick W. Barron, a former principal of Upper Canada College. Barron started a private boy’s school in 1870 at “Glenavy” the second Gore home near the present day St. George’s Church.