A local landmark in Port Stanton has been destroyed by fire.
The old Stanton Brothers Convenience Store and Snack Bar, later Martin General Store, a fixture at the government dock for more than 100 years, was razed by a blaze that started at about 2 a.m. this morning.
A cottage next door was also ruined. But, fortunately, nobody was hurt, said Severn Township Deputy Fire Chief Mark Hatch.
He said part of the old store had already collapsed when crews arrived on the scene.
“The first firefighter on scene ran to the cottage, which is three feet from the store, and banged on the door, ran to the next one and banged on that one and when he turned around, people were coming out of the first cottage,” Hatch said.
The three occupants were able to flee the cottage safely. There was nobody in the adjacent cottage.
Hatch said it’s not clear what sparked the fire. The store had been closed for about two years and was being used for storage.
“There was so much loss and there was nobody in the building ... so the cause is undetermined,” he said, noting it was difficult to put a dollar amount on the damages. He said it's not considered suspicious.
But the loss, to the community, is a big one.
“That’s pretty much where Port Stanton started, right there at the dock,” said Hatch, noting that’s where steamships used to stop before heading off down the river. The building once was home to the local post office, he noted.
Orillia’s Gord Launchbury came upon crews battling the fire this morning.
“This has been a go-to place for about 100 years,” Launchbury told OrilliaMatters. “Isabelle and I frequently had a meal there in the summer after (conducting a service) at the nearby Church of the Good Samaritan.”
Similarly, Matt Thomson has fond memories of the long-time hub of Port Stanton.
“My grandparents lived across the bay on the Severn River,” said Thomson, who often cycled by the abandoned building in recent years.
“The store and snack bar had been shuttered for a while,” said Thomson.
A couple weeks ago, Thompson stopped to take some photos of the building and took a peek inside through the windows.
He said it looked as though the snack bar was being torn apart in what appeared to be “a struggling renovation.”
Hatch said the new owners of Bayview Wildwood Resort purchased the old store and adjacent cottages in 2003.
“They do have plans for the property. But it’s hard to say what’s going to happen there.”
Despite the loss, Hatch said it’s fortunate nobody - including the 15 firefighters who attended the scene - was injured.
He lamented that their efforts “weren’t enough to save the store or the cottage, but at least people got out and were safe - that’s what counts.”
Jason Stanton, general manager of Bayview Wildwood Resort and great, great grandson of Frank Stanton, issued the following statement Thursday:
The team at Bayview Wildwood Resort and Sunray Group of Hotels are deeply saddened by the loss of Stanton Bros. General Store (formerly Martin Store) and our Martin House Cottage to a fire early on Wednesday morning.
The store built by Frank and Bert Stanton in 1907 has a rich history in Port Stanton and Sparrow Lake. Residents, tourists, and cottage owners on Sparrow Lake have many fond memories of visiting the store and snack bar for candy, ice cream and token souvenirs. Understanding the connection that countless people have throughout the years to the store has only deepened the tragedy of our loss.
We would like to thank the community for the outpouring of support as we continue to welcome visitors to our historic four-season resort. The Stanton family sold the store and Bayview Wildwood Resort to the Sunray Group of Hotels in 2017.