Big cottage from late 1800s will be turned into B & B

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 December 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – This lakeside cottage owned by Fred Nesbitt at Oak Orchard on the Lake could open in the spring as a bed and breakfast.

CARLTON – Dan Conlon has watched Oak Orchard on the Lake change in the past half century, with the original smaller cottages from about a century ago renovated to become, in many cases, year-round residences.

“This is a beautiful community, but it’s all getting new,” Conlon said about Oak Orchard on the Lake.

Conlon, 58, lives in one of the cottages off Archbald Road. His home happens to be next to one of the biggest of the original cottages at Oak Orchard on the Lake.

Dan Conlon and Fred Nesbitt say the cottage offers striking panoramic views of the lake. They have some renovations to do before the cottage will be opened to the public. They say they will upgrade the site without taking away from its historic charm.

The Hart family of Albion had a big cottage built by the lake in the 1880s. The same family owned a large mansion in Albion, the Hart Hotel in Medina and an island in the Thousand Islands with an 80-room summer “cottage.”

After Hart died in 1892, Hart Island was acquired by George C. Boldt, who dismantled Hart’s cottage and built a mammoth castle, which today attracts thousands of visitors annually.

The cottage at Oak Orchard isn’t a castle, but it is a special spot, perhaps the only one like it on the southshore of Lake Ontario, Conlon said.

Dan Conlon looks out from the top porch at the former Hart cottage that may be called “The Lodge” when it opens as a bed and breakfast.

The Hart cottage has retained many of its original characteristics with hardwood floors and stone fire places. Conlon and the cottage’s owner, Fred Nesbitt, want to make some modifications – upgraded plumbing and electric – so the site could be used as a bed and breakfast. There are six bedrooms in the cottage.

The site has a breath-taking view of Lake Ontario. There once were a row of poplar trees by the shore. Conlon said the trees were used as a marker for boaters to let them know they were near the Oak Orchard Harbor.

While the neighbors have lost their poplar trees, four of them remain on Nesbitt’s property. They offer shade, and provide some protection for the backyard from erosion.

“I get chills down my spine with the sunsets,” Conlon said about the spot. “I think everyone should enjoy this.”

Nesbitt and Conlon are pushing to have the site opened as a B & B in the spring. They want to cater to fishermen, and people visiting families in the area. They also said it would be a nice retreat center for church groups.

They also think the site should be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

“We’re losing so much in Orleans County and this deserves to be recognized,” Conlon said.

Conlon and Nesbitt gave a tour of the property last week to Erin Anheier of Clarendon. She has helped put together the National Register applications for several sites in Holley and Clarendon.

Fred Nesbitt, left, and Dan Conlon give Erin Anheier a tour of the former Hart cottage.

Anheier noted that many cottages and homes were modernized beginning in the 1950s.

Conlon and Nesbitt credited one of the cottage’s recent former owners, Gordie Gardner, for keeping the site’s rustic features while also protecting it from decay.

Nesbitt is a retired fruit farmer in Albion. Conlon was a service manager for a car dealership. Conlon will continue to live next door and he said he will prepare breakfast for the guests.

“We both like old things and we like people,” Nesbitt said.

Conlon is eager to open the cedar-shingled cottage to guests.

“This is the last one of the lakefront like this so let’s show it off,” he said.