Just like the township of Kirkland Lake, the former home of Sir Harry Oakes holds a rich history. The home is a testament to the strength and determination of some of the community’s early pioneers. Like many early prospectors, Harry arrived to the area in 1911 virtually penniless.
Following gold discoveries with the Tough-Oakes Mine and the development of the Lake Shore Mine, Harry built a modest log style home on the Lakeshore property in 1919. Roughly a storey and a half in size, the Oakes home was destroyed by fire in 1928. By early 1929 Harry had the home rebuilt in its present location, on a grander scale.
The newly created “Chateau” included a copper roof, four fireplaces, a full attic, wrap around veranda and a basement with a six-car drive through garage. The home was also unique for its incorporation of three different architecture styles – “Chateau Style”, “Shingle Style” and “Prairie Style”.
In the 1930’s the Oakes family were living primarily in Niagara Falls, before moving the Bahamas in 1935. When the Oakes family left Canada, the “Chateau” remained as a guest house for the Lake Shore Mine until its closure in 1965. The building was then sold to the Cochrane Nursing Homes. Renovations were made to the building to convert it into a nursing home, where it remained until 1976.
The building was officially designated a heritage site in 1980 by the Ontario Heritage Trust, a non-profit organization that continues to own it. Between 1981 and 1982 the building underwent extensive restorations to return the exterior to its original appearance. The interior was then renovated to house the Museum. To this day much of the former home retains the original plaster work, particularly Nancy Oakes’ bedroom walls and light fixtures.
The Museum continues to be a venue to learn about local social and industrial history, as well as art and culture.