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also known as
BEECHENHURST & BEECHCROFT
Hidden away in the north-east corner
of Port Perry, far away from the hustle and bustle
of this active and industrious community was one
of the town's most magnificent and desirable properties
during the early part of the twentieth century.
Access to the property, located on the west shore
of Lake Scugog, was along a narrow dirt road overgrown
with trees which opened up at the top of a hill
and sloped to the edge of the lake. From this vantage
point, there was a panoramic south-easterly view
of the lake and Scugog Island, as well as the docks
and mills located along Port Perry's busy lakefront.
Historical documents for the property,
which later became known as Beechenhurst, date back
to the early 1800s. There have been numerous owners
of the land over the past 150 years, including:
Thomas Paxton; Joseph Bigelow; Hugh Lucas; James
Carnegie; Madison Williams and Dr. John H. Sangster.
While Dr. Sangster owned the property,
he built a huge home and began work on the grounds
of the property. Unfortunately, a fire which began
at 4 a.m. on March 7, 1881, completely destroyed
the residence, valued at close to $18,000. A huge
amount at the time. Dr. Sangster then built a huge
rambling mansion to replace his earlier home. This
home also became the victim of a fire, on February
28, 1893 (see Beechenhurst page 153).
The next owner of the property
was Jonathan Blong, a longtime resident of Port
Perry, who is probably best known as the man who
built the beautiful "Blong Block" (now Settlement
House Shops) on Queen Street. He purchased the "Beechenhurst"
property from Dr. J.H. Sangster and built a large
new frame house on the property. Although it was
reported he was very attached to the estate, being
an avid outdoorsman, Mr. Blong sold it a few years
later to William E. Gimby and moved to Toronto after
his health began to fail.
The Kent home, orginally built
by Jonathon Blong
Mr. Gimby owned the property for
only a short time before Frederick Kent arrived
by car in Port Perry in May 1911 looking for a suitable
location for a summer home. He ended up purchasing
the house and eight acres of land from Mr. Gimby
for the sum of $5,500.
On learning of the purchase, Port
Perry Star publisher Samuel Farmer wrote the following
article in the newspaper:
"We are pleased to be able to
announce that the Gimby property has been sold to
Mr. Frederick A. Kent, of Toronto, one of the firm
of jewellers of that name.
Mr. Kent came to town last week
in his auto. He said that he had been looking for
a property suitable for a summer residence at a
convenient distance from Toronto. By means of his
auto the distance by time between Port Perry and
Toronto is very short.
We congratulate Mr. Kent on having
secured so desirable a property; and the town in
securing so excellent a citizen. Port Perry is undoubtedly
one of the most beautiful of Ontario towns and would
prove a most suitable place for such persons who
enjoy the freedom, and quiet of country life."
Frederick Kent became the man
most responsible for the development of the property,
turning it into a spectacular garden paradise in
just a few short years. One year after purchasing
the property, Mr. Kent was reported to have started
extensive improvements to the land, installing new
waterworks, reshaping and levelling the lawns, building
a bowling green, a house for the caretaker and his
family; and building a new driveway. On seeing the
need for more acreage to fulfill his plans, he purchased
an additional 17 acres of adjoining land from Silas
E. VanCamp for $6,650.
Work continued for years as Mr.
Kent developed the property, putting in terraced
gardens and lawns, a reflecting pool, fountains,
urns and planting thousands of flowers and installing
all the necessary irrigation. It is believed during
this period Mr. Kent renamed the property "Beechcroft",
the name by which it was referred to most frequently
during this period. In June 1921, Mr. Kent graciously
announced that he would be opening the gardens of
his Beechcroft home to the public everyday during
After touring the estate in August
1924, Port Perry Star editor Samuel Farmer described
the property as follows:
"For many years Beechcroft, the
home of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick A. Kent, has been
a noted place in Port Perry; but never so noted
or so beautiful as it is today.
Years ago Dr. J. H. Sangster used
to keep the grounds after the English fashion. In
those days the natural beauty of the place was fostered
by those who loved beauty and loved nature. Beechcroft
has been sold a number of times during the past
20 years. Mr. Jonathan Blong was in the possession
of the property for a number of years and took a
real interest in the place.
About ten years ago Mr. Fred Kent
bought the property, and from that time it has been
improved year by year until it is one of the most
beautiful properties in the Province.
Yet an uninformed stranger can
come and go, little suspecting that such a beautiful
spot is close at hand. Situated on the northern
outskirts of the town, Beechcroft is reached at
the end of an unattractive road and as you turn
in the gate you will think "what a delightful place
in which to rest."
You travel the well graveled drive
in the shady coolness of the overhanging trees,
through the openings of which gleams of brilliant
color can be seen in the sunlight- perhaps a bed
of tuberous begonias, some flaming cannas, giant
castor beans, asters with great plumed heads in
white and the many shades of red, mauve, and purple,
or the glorious white blossoms of the hydrangeas.
And all above the trees, clumps
of sturdy beeches just now loaded with nuts; evergreens
whose branches sweep the ground and shrubbery in
pleasing variety mingling with hollyhocks, sweet
William, golden glow, delphinium, spirea and flowers
that keep a covering of bloom on the well tilled
With all the trees and flowers,
there are spacious well-kept lawns, some with a
delightful roll to them, and others terraced masses
of close clipped green. In the trees and on the
lawns, martens and song birds thrive.
Such is the approach to the Rose
Gardens. In a place which nature seems to have reserved
for just such a purpose as this, stands this crowning
evidence of what man and nature can produce when
they work in harmony.
Your first impression will be
one of wonder that the richness such as lies before
you could be hidden away on the lake shore. The
trimness and cleanness of it all are emphasized
by the mirror pool with its arched sprays playing
in the sunlight. White urns containing boxwood trees
stand sentry at each of the short flights of white
steps that lead from the higher to the lower terraces.
A sundial is placed here, and a great mirrored globe
there, each in the place where it belongs, while
at convenient viewpoints garden seats and tables
in white are placed. Best of all in this white ornamentation
are the summer houses in which you can sit and,
through a visit of trees, look out over Lakes Scugog.
In this setting of green and white,
the roses grow; hundreds of them. The collection
includes many rare species, and individual flowers
and masses of bloom vie with each other in securing
the admiration of the visitor. As the season advances
the roses come and go, but through all the summer
there is a profusion of these glorious flowers.
Viewing with the rose gardens
are the immense peony beds - now past bloom - and
the dahlia and gladiola plantings.
You are at perfect liberty to
visit Beechcroft and Mr. Kent has with unusual courtesy
invited the public to visit the grounds. Such kindness
is thoroughly appreciated, not only by Port Perry
people, many of whom make frequent trips to the
gardens; but by those from a distance. On a recent
Sunday, fully fifty auto loads were visitors. Only
last Sunday a party drove all the way from Hamilton
to see the gardens.
There is one defect to this picture
and that is the road that leads to and from the
main highway to Beechcroft. It is too narrow and
quite unsuited to the growing traffic demands, but
it is expected that this defect will soon be remedied."
Over the next decade Mr. Kent
welcomed visitors from all over Ontario to his magnificent
property. On one occasion in July 1924 it was reported
that over 2,000 peopled visited the grounds to view
the Beechcroft Rose Gardens. It was estimated that
more than 400 automobiles were lined along both
sides of the road from the railway to the property,
which had become known locally as Kent Estates.
The reflecting room in the gardens
of Kent Estates
Many notables came to visit the
property including Lucy Maud Montgomery who recorded
in her diary; Saturday Sept 5, 1925
"Today we went down to see "the
gardens" at Port Perry. A wealthy Toronto man is
making a hobby of his gardens there. It is a wonderful
spot, especially the "Italian Garden" and as I roamed
about it and drank in my fill of beauty, life seemed
a different thing and childhood not so far off.
One felt safe from the hungry world in that garden.
I came home with a fresh stock of courage and endurance."
L. M. Montgomery visited the gardens
Interior view of the parlour
of the Kent home.
Following the death of his wife,
Ethel Henrietta, in January 1930, Mr. Kent announced
he would not be opening his gardens at Beechcroft
that summer. The entire town mourned the death of
Mrs. Kent, who had formed many friends during the
years she had lived in Port Perry.
Mr. Kent continued to work improving
the property, doing extensive renovations to the
rose gardens and grounds, but the death of his wife
reduced his enthusiasm for the gardens and he closed
them to the public shortly afterwards. He donated
a large piece of his property, 300' x 370' fronting
on Lilla St. (Simcoe), to the Community Memorial
Hospital on December 21, 1951. He lived at Beechcroft
until April 1955, when he passed away in the hospital
to which he had donated property only a few years
earlier. He was buried in the family plot at Mount
Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto. Frederick and Ethel
Kent had two children, Audrey and Beverly.
Interior of the beautiful Fred
and Ethel Kent residence
On December 22, 1958 a plan of
subdivision was registered on part of the Kent property,
fronting on Lilla St. (Simcoe), Beech St., Kent
St. and forming a new street called Beechenhurst
The remainder of Kent property
was purchased in 1973 by a local development group,
Vanedward Investments Limited of Port Perry. The
company was comprised of local businessmen Ted Griffen,
Grant MacDonald, Howard Forder and Dr. Robert McNab,
who divided the property and built homes in what
is now known as Kent Estates.
The old Kent homestead still remains
today, at 434 Lakeshore Drive. It was purchased
by Hans and Dianne Kraupa in May 1975 and is currently
owned by Kenneth and Joanne Dutka.
The once magnificent gardens of
Beechenhurst, which attracted thousands of visitors
from across the province, are now little more than
Another interior view
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