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 Jump ahead: The Leacock Museum / Stephen Leacock / Master Plan / Conservation Study / Donations / Volunteering







About the Leacock Museum and Old Brewery Bay 

Photograph of the Leacock Museum & Gardens

One day, while sailing, Stephen Leacock discovered a piece of land with the remnants of a brewery on it. He called it Old Brewery Bay and purchased the property in 1908. 

Here in 1928 he built the Leacock House (above) designed by the architecture firm, Wright & Noxon located in Toronto. The scale and ambience of the plans reflected Leacock's success and prestige as a world renowned author and a celebrated academic.  

Leacock toured the world, but his paradise was here in Orillia where he shared the space with his family and friends.  

"When I build my house I shall make it very plain but at the same time very large... It will become a charming English place. I'm tired of cities and people. It's a case of Goodbye, proud world, I'm going home." 



About Stephen Butler Leacock 1869 - 1944

 Stephen Leacock, Canada's beloved humorist, spent his most creative time in what he coined as Lake Simcoe Country.  

Leacock is best known for his Elements of Political Science and satirical books, Literary Lapses, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, and Arcadian Adventures of the Idle RichHe was also a well-known educator and lecturer.  

Leacock was born in England in 1869 and emigrated to Canada with his parents and siblings when he was 7 years old. Leacock studied languages and literature at Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto, but hard times forced him to withdraw from those studies and become a high school teacher. Eventually he resumed his studies and earned his BA. In 1903 Leacock also earned his PhD in Political Science and Political Economy.  

In 1908, he became head of his department at McGill University and helped found the University Club. Leacock was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 1919 and in 1921 made an extensive lecture tour of the United Kingdom.  In 1935 he received the Mark Twain Medal.  He retired from McGill in 1936 to Old Brewery Bay where he enjoyed his many recreational and leisure pursuits.

Leacock died on March 28, 1944 in Toronto following surgery for throat cancer and was buried in the family plot at St. George's Church, Sibbald Point.

Museum Master Plan

On September 8, 2020, TCI Management Consultants (TCI), in association with Reich+Petch Architects and the Fisher Hospitality Group, presented the 2020 Stephen Leacock Museum Master Plan (MP) to City Council.


The site had not undergone a strategic planning exercise since 1999 when it was managed outside of the City of Orillia by a Board of Directors. While some of the information from that document, entitled “2000 and Beyond: A Conservation and Presentation Report”, is still relevant today, over the last 20 years the museum industry has changed dramatically. In a highly competitive and global market, cultural institutions are challenged to develop innovative strategies to meet the needs and interests of their community, visitors, and municipal operators. For a national historic site designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, this is compounded by the importance of preserving the integrity of its heritage attributes. 


The purpose of the MP was to look at the Leacock Museum’s current and future potential and make recommendations on how to improve operations without compromising the collection or heritage features of the property. The scope of work included a full review of Museum operations, staffing, budgeting, programming, rentals, food service, promotion, curation, community outreach, wayfinding, and other visitor services. 


Grounded in research on current industry trends, the unique features of the site, municipal interests and community desires, the Plan outlines a series of strategic investments in infrastructure, programming and personnel to optimize the Museum’s performance. In total, there are 33 recommendations related to governance, staffing, site modifications, food service, wayfinding, financial growth, programs and partnerships. Highlights include:


  • Installation of a pavilion with a catering kitchen to support outdoor weddings and events.
  • Installation of infrastructure within the house (audio-visual, exhibit cases) to facilitate rotating exhibits.
  • Strengthen staffing by re-establishing a full-time curator position (currently on contract) and adding staff resources for programming and events as required.
  • Broadening the Museum’s mission and mandate, focusing more on Leacock’s connection to the site “Old Brewery Bay” as a basis for programming, exhibits and workshops. 


For more on the methodology and recommendations, download the full Master Plan.

Conservation Study

A Conservation Study is a building assessment that looks specifically at physical repairs, upgrades and alterations to maintain the structural integrity of the museum house and other heritage features. It differs from the 2020 Museum Master Plan, which focuses on overarching strategies to advance the museum's mission and mandate. As a National Historic Site designated under the Ontario Heritage Act, the building requires regular maintenance and upkeep to preserve its heritage value for the public benefit. The Stephen Leacock Museum National Historic Site underwent a Conservation Study in 2011 that provided the City with an updated planning document prioritizing short to long-term building maintenance to the museum house over a ten (10) year span. Staff use the plan to inform the City's 10 year capital budget forecast. 


Click here to download the full Conservation Study.

Donating to the Collection

The Leacock Museum welcomes the donation of Leacock-specific or legacy items or objects. Objects will need to be reviewed and accepted into the collection by staff. If you feel that you have an object which merits consideration for donation, please contact Amanda Marino directly by email or by phone at (705) 238-8124.

Financial Donations

As a publicly-funded institution, the Leacock Museum relies on support from generous community partners to continue to offer high quality, engaging programming to our guests. Tax receipts will be available for donations of $20 or more. 

If you are interested in contributing to the preservation of historical and literary culture in Orillia, please contact Jenny Martynyshyn directly by email or by phone at 705-326-8651 to make arrangements.

We welcome applications for volunteers who wish to offer their unique life experiences to the Museum. If you are interested, please contact Jenny Martynyshyn directly by email or by phone at 705-326-8651. 


funded by the government of canada 

The Museum is thankful for the financial support received from the Department of Canadian Heritage's Reopening Fund for Heritage Organizations, available under the Museum Assistance Program.

© City of Orillia, 50 Andrew Street South, Suite 300, Orillia, Ontario, L3V 7T5, Tel: (705) 325-1311, Fax: (705) 325-5178, Email:

By GHD Digital