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History Of Cottonwood Mansion

Courtesy of Cottonwood Mansion Preservation Foundation

The beautiful Cottonwood Mansion, on farmland north of Selkirk, Ontario, was built c. 1860 by William Holmes Jr.(1810-1892) on property inherited by his first wife, Mary Hoover (1802- 1869). They originally lived in a small home north of the present-day Mansion. They had five children who were adults by the time of Mary?s death, when a year and a half later (in 1870) William married the widow Cynthia Anderson who had a 13-year old son. In 1871 at age 42 Cynthia gave birth to a daughter, Lillian. William apparently gave his five older children much financial help, but most of his considerable assets were passed on to the pampered Lillian, including their home, Cottonwood Mansion.

Although there was a one-room public school less than half a mile away (Holmes School), Lillian was tutored privately at home, and then sent to Alma College in St. Thomas, an exclusive school for girls, where she met the widowed brother of a classmate. They married at Cottonwood and lived there with Cynthia for several years, but eventually moved to St. Thomas and later to the U.S. At first they rented Cottonwood property out to local families and finally sold it. The new owners (Anderson, Cramp, Williams) lived only in the back part (servant?s quarters and kitchen) and the main building gradually deteriorated.

In 1988 the property was purchased by an interested Hoover descendant, Larry Hamilton (1940-2004) from Massachusetts. He set about the difficult task of restoring it, established the Cottonwood Mansion Preservation Foundation, and built his own apartment behind the Mansion.

No one knows for sure where the Cottonwood name comes from, but it is listed as such in the Historical Atlas of Haldimand ? County, 1877. In recent years cottonwood trees have been planted around the perimeter of what remains of the original property.

In February of 1989 the Cottonwood Mansion Preservation Foundation was established to restore the Mansion and to secure artifacts for it that reflected the Victorian and Edwardian periods. To obtain charitable status, the Foundation was also required to provide experiences of these two historical eras. In 1994 the bulk of the restoration was completed with considerable financial contributions to the project from local residents and far-flung interested parties, and with an enormous amount of sweat equity. Dedicated volunteers and some paid professionals continue to make the mansion a living, hands-on museum through special events, most with a Victorian/Edwardian flavour, rentals, and tours. The Mansion is growing in popularity and is becoming a ?must-see? location for history buffs and tourists from near and far.

Historical Sites of Selkirk Walking Tour

For even more local history you can immerse yourself in the Selkirk history walking tour.