A Brief History of the Elkhorn Manor
Nestled at the head of Clear Lake between the Clear Lake Golf Course and the water is the Elkhorn Manor (formerly the Superintendent’s Residence). This English manor-style house was built in 1931-32 and was established to house the senior federal representative of the day — the Park Superintendent. Riding Mountain National Park (RMNP) was established during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The Superintendent’s Residence was intended to demonstrate to area residents that Canada was on solid footing and that they should be reassured by this magnificent home. What is unique about this particular residence is that it was built away from the townsite. It is situated in a beautiful pastoral setting complete with gardens, a large lawn, and the backdrop of the tenth fairway of Clear Lake Golf Course.
The house has a Rustic design which refers to the building materials used. The logs and stones were all taken from the site itself for construction. This area was renowned for its skilled stone and log craftsmen, many of whom came from Norway and Sweden. The architect, W.D. Cromarty, a government employee, incorporated elements from the Anglo-Indian Bungalow Tradition. This design was used in India for high ranking government officials. The style of the house — with bell cast hipped roof, broad eaves, a wrap-around veranda, and sleeping porch — was intended to demonstrate the status and position of senior officials. One unique aspect of this house is the attached garage. In the 1930s, automobiles were just beginning to become prominent in our culture and this attached garage was one of the first in the area and a sign of importance.
Water in the house comes from an artesian well, the same source that bubbles up at the nearby Wishing Well. In the 1930s, having water pressure was a luxury and this allowed for the construction of an indoor washroom with plumbing, although hot water was not available. James Smart, the first Superintendent of Riding Mountain National Park, was also the first resident of the house. During his tenure he helped design the back nine of the golf course and was responsible for the construction of many of the historic buildings in the park such as the museum, the golf course clubhouse, the East Gate, and other buildings and cottages throughout the townsite. He did this by utilizing the skills of many of the relief workers who were living in relief camps throughout the park, and by giving work to many of the locals who were suffering through the Great Depression. He was followed by a succession of other Superintendents who lived in the house until 1993. See also: Park’s historic residence greets guests (Winnipeg Free Press, August 25, 2012)
There have been many famous guests to the house during its history. In the early 1930s, Grey Owl, a prominent conservationist who after his death turned out to be Archie Belaney, an Englishman pretending to be a First Nation’s person, was a frequent guest. During his stay at Riding Mountain, he had a reputation for enjoying the late night hospitality of the Wigwam Restaurant in Wasagaming. His cabin was located another six miles east of the Superintendent’s Residences and he would often rest at the house on his way home. It got to the point where they left the back door open and gave him a bedroom of his own near the back door. In May 1939, under mysterious circumstances, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth were visitors to the park and likely stayed at the house. There is no official record of the stay, but they were in Melville, Saskatchewan, and the crowds were very large and would not disperse. It was near the beginning of World War II and security was on high alert to protect the King and Queen. There appear to have been some threats that occurred and the Royal couple may have been secreted out of the area while the Royal train stayed overnight. There is a photograph of the king and queen at the Superintendent’s house and the large royal floral design in front of the museum received Royal assent from King George VI to be established. The official records though say nothing about his visit to the park. In 1970, on another Royal visit, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Prince Charles were all guests at the house. The only major alteration to the house took place at this time. A second bathroom was added to the second floor for the Queen’s pleasure. As it turned out there was a large reception for the Royal Family at the residence but they did not spend the night. There was a last-minute change in plans and they went on to spend the night in Brandon.
A New Phase Begins
This 80-year-old house has had dignitaries and receptions. It has been admired from the Wishing Well and been home to many families throughout the years. It has been maintained and neglected, but it is now ready for a new role in its history: it is being shared with the people of Canada. You are now able to share the experiences of this house, the history, the grounds, and close proximity to the lake that only a select have had in the past. Please enjoy this important part of our Canadian heritage.
* No smoking is permitted in the Manor and on the grounds. * Duraflame logs are used in the fireplace. * Only service animals are allowed on the property. * All rates are subject to applicable taxes. * Cancellation must be 30 days prior to the check-in date. * Minimum 2-night stay * On 3-day weekends, a minimum 3-night stay is required.