Barnhart’s Pavilion, located where the beach parking lot is today, was established in 1920, the same year as Lakeview Park’s opening, but it had several owners before William Harold and Viola Rebecca Barnhart began operating this pavilion.
One of the earliest known owners was Charles Mallory. By the 1890s, Mallory’s hall was a popular place often rented out for dancing, concerts, or religious services. He owned not only the hall but also a number of cottages by the lake.
Oshawa-on-the-Lake was often written about in the Whitby Chronicle, demonstrating how it was already becoming a popular tourist retreat.
In 1896, Mr. Mallory’s hall was vandalized when he “left he windows open and several of the young men campers took possession of the hall to hold a stag party after having their midnight bath. They were enjoying themselves immensely until Mr. Mallory appeared on the scene with a lamp in hand” (Whitby Chronicle, 31 July 1896, 8).
While the partiers appeared to escape, the situation upset Mallory, who wanted warrants for their arrest; apparently, with keeping their night gowns over their faces, it left visible only a “section of their anatomy as could not readily be identified on oath” (Whitby Chronicle, 31 July 1896, 8).
A week later, Mr. Mallory was advertising for sale his “pavilion, cottage, stock-in-trade consisting of use of Northcott’s park at 50¢ on the dollar,” and if a sale could not be reached, he was ready to turn his pavilion into cottages. It appears time helped to soothe his temper for the editor remarked that ‘shirt tail parades, these warm nights, are something not to be despised’ (Whitby Chronicle, 7 August 1896, 8). The pavilion opened again in 1897, operated by Mr. Mallory.
Mallory tried to sell again in 1902, this time stating his bad health as the reason for sale. “I have kept it six years free as a park, free pavilion, free piano, and free dock to sit on.” Mallory attested. “If it happens to go back into the Northcott hands, good bye free park” (Ontario Reformer, 4 April 1902, 1).
At some point, it appears that the pavilion by the lake was operated by Arthur D. Henry, whose family had been mainstays at the lakeshore since the mid-1800s. Henry was already an experienced restaurant and park operator, as his name often appeared in Oshawa-on-the-Lake articles alongside Mallory during the 1890s.
In 1920, the pavilion came into the hands of the Barnharts. William Harold Barnhart was born April 21, 1883 and Viola Rebecca was born on September 8, 1880. In 1906 Harold moved from Brockville to work at the McLaughlin Carriage Factory. This was also the same year that Viola and Harold met. They met at a skating rink, and from there their courtship began. In 1908 they were married.
By 1913,the Barnharts decided to sell their home and buy a candy store in downtown Oshawa that Mr. Barnhart managed. In 1917 Mr. Barnhart and his father built a house for which they were able to pay cash. When the Barnhart’s candy store lease ran out, they decided to purchase lakefront property in Oshawa in 1920. The property they purchased consisted of a dance hall, sixteen rooms for campers, boats and twenty cottages.
Barnhart’s became a well-known “hangout” for the Oshawa locals and campers. The Barnhart’s held dances in the pavilion and rented out four apartments and cottages. The Barnhart’s also resided in one of the cottages as well. They were also well-known for their ice-cream parlour and snack bar. Betty Mac of Oshawa recalls purchasing all sorts of one-cent treats at Barnhart’s, such as liquorice babies, hard hars and marshmallow cones.
The Barnhart’s owned several boathouses. Mrs. Helen Hill of Oshawa recalls Mr. Barnhart taking people over to his boathouse to launch his yacht, where he would take them on a ride.
During the 1930s and early 1940s, the Barnhart’s held square dances at their pavilion. They were able to keep their business alive during the 1930 Depression and finished paying for the lakefront property by 1943. In 1951 Mr. Barnhart suffered a severe heart attack while shoveling ice from their sidewalk. In 1953 he caught a serious illness which led to his death in October 1954. In 1958 the Barnhart’s youngest daughter, Lillian took sick and passed away.
Mrs. Barnhart sold the cottages and one acre of their land to the City in 1968. On March 19, 1975 Mrs. Barnhart passed away.
Although the Barnhart’s have passed on and the pavilion and cottages they once owned have been taken down, the memories of the fun-filled summer spent at the Barnhart’s have lived on. Many elders of Oshawa today still recall the many dances, they tasty ice-cream and the exhilarating boat rides they participated in during their youthful days.
“Barnhart” genealogy file: Oshawa Community Archives.
Lakefront Memories: A Memory Book. The Oshawa Community Museum and Archives, 2002.
“Oshawa Union Cemetery” subject file: Oshawa Community Archives.
*address provided is approximate and provided for map plotting purposes.