By MAGGIE M, Editor, the wedge.LIVE (Sharing this story is easy. Just click the social button at story’s end.)
In my exploits this winter, I tripped on a delightful, grand anomaly. I discovered a sprawling, manicured estate extending 27.4 acres along the St. Lawrence River, on the North side of scenic highway No. 2. Its address is Brockville; yet, it is officially located beyond its East end, on the border of Augusta. 1,000 Islands Village opened to the public in 2017.
You can watch the ceaseless parade on the St. Lawrence River, the commuting barges from overseas, cigarette boats, tall ships and small crafts from its many windows and porches. The views are beautiful. In the summer, visitors love to sit in its ornate wrought-iron terrace, River Rock Pavilion, sipping cappuccinos and Long Island iced teas.
The main building was built in 1918 as a college for Catholic priests. A large, stunning chapel built in 1995 sits on its West end. The custom built pipe organ is a “must-see”; it is one of the largest I have ever seen. I imagined Handel’s, Messiah, piping through its echoing ceiling. Today, weddings, graduations, theatre and seminars take place in this majestic venue.
“We call it the Pristine Chapel,” quips Co-Founder, Dennis Bank.
Bank and and his wife, Margaret, took whole possession of the property in 2014 (they had partners from 2012). They discovered the property while traveling across the country on a speaking gig. They packed up their Calgary home, made their way here and settled into the complex in one of its residences. They have been transforming this 100-year old beauty floor-by-floor, room-by-room (there are many) ever since.
Bank was rapturous about, “The Upper Room,” under the peak in the main building. He recounts the design, carpentry and stone work in detail. When complete, the room will be a lounge and library. Visitors can rest in the mezzanine loft reading, sipping and gazing through its new “Juliette” oval window at the river.
The complex is all encompassing featuring everything from a quaint cafe, through commercial offices to an 8,000 square feet shop among many, many other facilities.
Cafe Selah (“seleh”) is heavily frequented at lunch by loyal, local residents. It seems the culinary skills of Judy Abromeit lures them back again and again. A former Restauranteur, Abromeit runs the Village’s 2000 sq. ft. galley kitchen pushing out soups, patisseries, chilis and paninis, rich in flavour and nutrients–prepared from scratch. Borscht and potato-onion-wild mushroom were the soupes-du-jour when I visited. Tough choice.
The kitchen is well set to serve large events in its adjoining reception hall, The River Rock Ballroom, with a 450 seat capacity (1,000 conference style.) 1,000 Islands Village is ideal for weddings. Foodservice and a chapel are principal; but, guests never need to leave the site–other than to tour beautiful Brockville.
A ramp leads from the cafe into, River West Co., an exceptional 8,000 sq.ft. boutique owned and operated by Paul Blakney. It stocks everything from umbrellas, through games, chocolate, books, marine artifacts, furnishings to pyjamas. Cottagers and tourists will quell their longings here.
Around the West corner from the cafe you will find the, “largest gym outside of U of Ottawa”, Bank qualifies. Many play basketball, volleyball and badminton regularly. Pickle ball was added last January in round-robin tournaments.
Bank has now begun to renovate a smaller gym–another 10,000 sq.ft.–untouched until now into an historic, outdoor shopping village, a throw-back to the early 1900s. Imagine a cobbler, a barber shop, an ice cream soda shop and an outdoor carnival. If it brings to mind scenes from Downton Abbey, you have the right idea.
“You can have lunch, shop, and play bridge in four hours”
There are plenty of built-in visitors at the Village. The rear of the property features residences occupied by students of Brockville’s Fulford Academy–mostly international.
Drama students from St. Lawrence College, recently performed, 12 Angry Jurors, to sold-out crowds, one-hundred per show in “The Parlour.” This is yet another event venue that doubles as a theatre within 1,000 Islands Village. There is a third event venue, The Chambers, decked out boardroom-style for meetings.
You may find learning about human activity at the Village dizzying; but, find you legs. There’s more.
From the West to the East of the building, businesses are leasing beautiful office space on the second, third and fourth floors. The spaces feature high ceilings, tall deep windows and rich trimmings. The journey to each space through big, stately halls announces every business with style.
Investors Group just moved into the second floor. River Banks Art moved into the third floor featuring ten art studios with twenty easels and ten pottery studios with turning-tables and kilns. Artists works are displayed in the 1,000 sf. ft. Coral Reef Gallery on the same floor. The public is invited to join by Membership. (Photography studios are also in the offing.)
Don’t lose your footing yet. There’s more.
Bank just received final septic approval for its 19 short-term residences, Riverside Villas. These soon to be furnished suites can be rented overnight, short-term up to several weeks. Some of these villas offer four and five bedroom suites. We have come full circle for our brides-to-be. Everything a new couple needs to start their new life together is within the village. The wedding photo album will show its fountains, gardens, stone structures and sprawling vistas.
1,000 Islands Village is the most unusual place. It is increasingly bristling with people of all ages, seeking myriad diversions. This is a destination location to watch, soon-to-be on Trip Advisor‘s radar.
“I just spotted a taxi leaving,” were Bank’s last words as I inquired about collecting international visitors landing in Ottawa, Toronto or by waters in Brockville. Merrickville, Kemptville, Prescott and Smiths Falls are so close, it makes for a perfect day trip with no parking issues as there is plenty of space.
“So when are you putting in a pool?,” I asked. I think I triggered Bank’s next project.