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Summerland General Store History

Summerland General Store - Riley Lake

Information from “History of Ryde Township” booklet.

Summerland Dance Hall

In his book, I Policed Toronto (1985), James Mackey reveals that he and his wife Anne and another couple, Art and Etta Coulter purchased nine acres of land at the intersection of what is now Housey’s Rapids Road and Riley Lake Road with the intention of building a dance hall and cabins. Summerland Dance Hall opened early in the summer of 1948. An old time fiddle band was hired (Amos Kett, Carl MacIntosh and others), with piano, banjo, and guitar. Archie Fitchett was the caller, and Henry Jones the bouncer. The dances were an instant success. Even today for many people beyond Ryde, the words ‘Housey’s Rapids’ mean ‘Summerland Dance Hall’.

Ownership changed several times but dances continued until 1972. By that time, records had largely replaced the live music.

Subsequent owners of the property have been real estate agent Ray Moore, Don Scott and a partner who established a store, Dianne and Bob Bradley and Gord and Shelley Haugh. Betty Lou Everett then owned with the Haughs. Carrie Marriott and Ron Post are the current owners of the popular store and restaurant.

Currently the Summerland General Store is run by a local Gravenhurst family, husband & wife team, Andrew and Gen, alongside their 3 kids!

For more information on Ryde Township and Riley Lake be sure to pick up a copy of the History of Ryde Township at the Summerland General Store.


Riley Lake Community – Gravenhurst, Muskoka Facebook Group


  1. I’m so pleased to read about Summerland. There was an article in Cottage Life magazine recently about it too. Art & Etta Coulter were my grandparents. Jimmy & Anne Mackey were their friends & neighbours on Bowmore Road in Toronto. The 9 acre property was purchased from Jim’s parents, and Jim’s father helped build the dance hall. My dad still has the blueprints.

    When the dance hall went up, they also built 3 cabins and an ice house on the property. My dad (at 14 or 15 years old) delivered ice to many cottages in the area. There was no hydro at the time so no one had a fridge. The idea was to rent the cabins but that never ended up happening.

    After 2 or 3 sets of dancing, my dad would announce winning tickets – prize for ladies was a box of chocolates; men received a carton of cigarettes. The crew building hydro lines through the area at the time came to the dances too.

    Dances were held every Saturday night and were very popular. My dad’s other job was to head out early Sunday morning to collect the empty beer and liquor bottles – before church and anyone saw them. There was no liquor license but people brought their own and drank in their parked cars.

    My Dad has many wonderful memories of life at Riley Lake, including Summerland and Scout trips. I hope to visit the General Store when pandemic restrictions are lifted.

  2. Hi Karen. My name is Bob Thomas. Everything you posted I remember vividly. I use to go to the dances when I was around 14 yrs. old. My parent’s new the the Carwardines who lived on Bowmore Rd and they knew the Coulters. We rented a cottage on Riley from the Coulters. When Art died Etta severed the property and sold it to Jones. In 1959 my Inlaws (Hutchinson) bought the cottage. Barb (Hutchinson) and I still own the cottage.
    When I was around 17, I stayed in one of the cabins. It happened to be the time when Jim Mackey was made Chief. He was staying in the Coulter cottage for a week before taking over as Chief. Art use to take my parents shopping in Gravenhurst, as we didn’t have a car. I remember Archie Fitchett/the boy scouts/etc.
    so many memories. Also the cottage has had many upgrades over the years. It is now 2 stories with 5 bedrooms and circular staircase and fireplace. We kept the original bathroom door which was probably built by your grandfather. Are your parents Ron and Bar Coulter. Bob

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