Estevan Lodge: A Historic House at the heart of the Gardens
The visit of the Gardens is punctuated by the discovery of Estevan Lodge, a 37-room historic house that was the summer home of Elsie Reford. Estevan Lodge was built in 1887 for Sir George Stephen. In 1926, Elsie Reford enlarged the house to the designs of Montreal architect, Galt Durnford. The second storey of the house was modified to create private quarters for Elsie and Robert Wilson Reford, and to accommodate her sewing room and his dark room.
Known for many years as the Villa Reford, the house was re-baptised Estevan Lodge after its restoration in 2003. The mammoth front door is a fitting portal to what lies behind it. Made of B.C. Fir, like much of the interior of the house, the door opens onto the front hall, where a stately portrait of Elsie Reford hangs. It was painted in 1915 by the Hungarian-born London portraitist, Philip Alexius De László, as a Christmas present from her husband.
The dining room is used today just as it was intended, providing meals for those seeking a rest from their exploration of the gardens.
Estevan Lodge hosts temporary exhibitions every summer, exploring botanical art, the history of the gardens, the beauty of plants or featuring the work of one or more artists.
The building is situated in a way that visitors can observe the rise and fall of the mouth of the Mitis River as well as listen to the waves of the St. Lawrence reaching the shoreline below. With its extraordinary vista towards the sea, the remarkable sunsets on summer evenings, and the wrap-around veranda, the building’s exterior provides an oasis of peace. Indoors, the building comes to life during culinary events and cultural activities. The works of art displayed nearby complement the delightful surroundings around the garden café.
The new permanent exhibition, "Elsie through the eyes of…", introduces visitors to the life and times of Elsie Reford. Best-known for her gardens, she had many other interests, in politics, women's health, art and international affairs. Her involvement in debates over public policy brought her into contact with many of the leading figures of the day. For the first time, visitors will have a glimpse into the life of this remarkable women, presented through images, objects and reminiscences in the thirteen exhibition rooms of Estevan Lodge.