Thelma, Ivy Lea Cottage Turns 120


While Canada turns 150 this year, a quaint cottage on The St. Lawrence River turns 120 years old. Known to many Thousand Island boaters by the sign Thelma 1897, which is part of her river view facade.  The cottage is literally on the water at a chanel to Smugglers Cove at Kings Landing.

Thelma was built by David A. Haig for Markus J. King.  Mr Haig was a top notch carpenter who built many homes in Ivy Lea and the Benson Estate at Benson's Rift.  The name for the cottage came from a novel Mrs. Haig was reading as the building was being erected.  Marie Corelli's book Thelma was about a young lady who lives in Norway and loved the sea and nature.

Markus King was a Lansdowne tinsmith who eventually went into the cottage and confectionary business after Thelma was built.  Tour boats use to stop at Kings Dock which can be seen on old postcards.  Apparently there was even a tea room at Thelma.

In 1965 Thelma was purchased by Eleanor Austin and her friend Frances (Frankie) Christopher. Ms. Austin was from Connecticut and was introduced to the Thousand Islands by her mother.  She spent summers operating her successful cottage rental business until she passed on at the age of 92. 

Eleanor was an extremely talented artist, woodworker, poet and even placed third at the Westminster Dog Show.  Thelma was unique, full of antiques and her paintings.  She had called her rental The Driftwood but apparently referred to the cottage as Thelma.

The decor both inside and out was like a ship.  With a gangplank entrance, roped balcony, numerous portholes and a binnacle from the ocean liner the SS Normandie.  The Thelma 1897 facade was put in by Ms. Austin.

Thelma was sold to longtime Thousand Island residents and today operates as a cottage rental.  While renovations were desperately needed, the character of Thelma remains.  Many of Eleanor's antiques and paintings still grace the walls.  Her original bar remains and is referred to as "Eleanor's Bar."  Each summer former renters show up to see if the old Driftwood is still around, sharing numerous stories and memories.  They all say, Eleanor would be happy with the changes and to see how much of the history still remains.