Lawn Bowls in Northern Ontario
For years I have had the mistaken opinion that lawn bowling was unknown in Northern Ontario. Dave Burrows has kindly disabused me of that notion. He has, from his files, pulled out a summary of the history of lawn bowling in that region of the province. I think it is very impressive. W Daley, editor.
From the desk of Dave Burrows.
Lawn Bowling in Northern Ontario began at the same time as tourism around the various cottage resorts, camps and houses. These locations offered bathing, fishing, hunting, boating, tennis, and lawn bowls. Northern Ontario communities also embraced the sport after 1900.
1885 – Beaumaris Hotel, Lake of Bays – became the first Northern Ontario hotel that offered lawn bowling in Muskoka.
1887 – Windemere House, Lake Rosseau was built, and added lawn bowling, tennis and croquet as early as the 1890’s to its 220 guests at a cost of $1.50 along with special rates for families
1900 – Elgin House, Lake Joseph opened its doors that year. At some point the resort offered its guests lawn bowls. Elgin House went bankrupt in 1991 and is now the prestigious Lake Joseph Club Resort. In 1905, Elgin House & Prospect House held a bowls tournament.
1908 – The Wa Wa Hotel on Lake of Bays built bowling greens as amenities. The Wawa Hotel burnt entirely to the ground one day in 1923.
1912 – The Kenora YMCA was built by the CPR and then turned over to the YMCA.. The building could house 65 men and had a restaurant, billiard room, reading & writing room, two lanes of bowling, gym area for boxing, washrooms and showers. Outside there was an area for lawn bowling as well as tennis courts.
The Waverley Park L.B.C. shared space with the Cricket Club. They constructed a shelter on the property in 1916 and was active into the 1920s and 30s.
1919 – Paignton House on Lake Rosseau expanded to include tennis courts and lawn bowling for its 100+ guests. The other resorts at that time that included bowls were the Monteith House on Lake Rosseau and Rostrevor Resort on Lake Rosseau. The Rostrevor Resort even brought in Lawn Bowling Champions to teach the guests how to play the game.
1920 – Bigwin Inn is built on Bigwin Island and soon offered Lawn Bowls to its guests through the 1930’s.
1922 – Haileybury L.B.C. is formed. This club was one of the earliest lawn bowling clubs formed in Northern Ontario and was part of District 13 in 1938.
1925 - Port Arthur Collegiate Institute provided Lawn Bowling on it’s grounds
1927 – Kapuskasing Lawn Bowling Club was established in Riverside Park along with tennis courts, and rockery in front of the “Kap” Inn. Lawn Bowling is still listed on the Kapuskasing Athletics website, but has not been a member of the O.L.B.A. for a long time.
About 1930 – Thessalon L.B.C. begins in District 13 within Northern Ontario. The bowling club was situated near Government Road and Federation Street, and was popular up into the 1950’s
1931 – Fort Frances was a member of the Manitoba Lawn Bowls Association about this time.
1934 – Timmins – St. Matthews L.B.C. is formed in Northern Ontario, and likely became the Timmins L.B.C. sometime before 1938 in District 13. Construction of greens began May 10, 1934
1934 – By this year, Sault St. Marie had both a curling club and a lawn bowling green and were members of the OLBA in 1938. In 2017 the Sault still provided carpet bowling.
So, what became of lawn bowling in Northern Ontario in the latter half of the 20th Century? Perhaps the demise of the sport was the distance between clubs and there for the lack of opportunity for inter-club competitions. Perhaps it was the winters that are long, cold and snowy. Perhaps it was the fact that resorts which formed the base of Lawn Bowling in the area, have declined in popularity as the 20th Century drew to a close. Whatever the reason, the result is an unfortunate reality.