Barnhart’s Pavilion

Now that winter firmly has its grip on southern Ontario and throughout Canada, we’re turning our thoughts to warmer summer days, sharing the history of Barnhart’s Pavilion, once a fixture at Oshawa’s lakefront.

Barnhart's Pavilion
Barnhart’s Pavilion

One of Oshawa’s most popular recreational pavilions, Barnhart’s, was established in 1920 by William Harold and Viola Rebecca Barnhart.  William Harold Barnhart was born April 21, 1883 and Viola Rebecca was born on September 8, 1880 to Charles and Rebecca Hooper.   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.

Harold Barnhart moved to Detroit in 1909 to work as a varnish rubber where he made $20.00 a week.  That same year the Barnhart’s first child, Joyce, was born.  Throughout the following years Viola saved the family’s money to buy a lot on a short street, which was 65’ by 140’.  In 1910 their second daughter was born and she was named Lillian Yvonne.

By 1913, Mr. Barnhart was tired of working as a varnish rubber and began to develop rheumatism in his arms.  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 which they were able to pay cash for.  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.

The Pavilion, north elevation
The Pavilion, north elevation

The property Barnhart’s purchased once belonged to Mr. M.C. Mallory.  Mr. Mallory hosted large dances, concerts, games and other sorts of activities at his pavilion for the general public.  He was also the owner of cottages that surrounded the pavilion.   Mr. Mallory put his pavilion and cottages up for sale on October 1, 1891 after an incident that occurred where several young men broke into his pavilion to hold a bachelor party.  Mr. Mallory was extremely appalled by this incident and as a result of this disgraceful treatment; he closed the pavilion off to the general public and decided to sell his business.

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 Barnharts also resided in one of the cottages.

The Barnhart's Cottage
The Barnhart’s Cottage

The Barnharts 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 Barnharts also 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.

The boathouses at Barnhart's
The boathouses at Barnhart’s

During the 1930s and early 1940s, the Barnharts 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 Barnharts 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 Barnharts 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.

Oshawa on the Lake
Oshawa on the Lake
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