Strathmere is a special place in Ottawa to celebrate, learn, and get away from the stresses of urban life. Located in the heart of this picturesque 200-acre property is a pre-Confederation stone farmhouse built in 1860, a 150-year-old renovated barn, and a garden house with wrap-around windows surrounded by the fruit orchard, meadows and gardens.
There are 34 cozy guest rooms with windows that open to smell the fresh country air, field to plate menus with fresh ingredients coming from the rich soil on the land, and bees that produce honey for our home baked desserts and tea stations.
A spa and wellness retreat was recently added to enhance the Strathmere experience. Set right in the middle of the field and surrounded by wildflowers and large trees, The Retreat offers spa and massage services, daily yoga, two outdoor hot tubs, fireplaces and relaxation areas, nature trails, and The Retreat Cafe, featuring field to sharing plate menus, local craft beer and VQA wines.
Strathmere has been a family business for over 38 years, and many of our employees have worked right along with us to make our guests feel welcome and at home. We are grateful to have so many friends of Strathmere; couples who were married here and come back to celebrate an anniversary, companies who return at least once a year to get together in a tranquil setting, a loyal following of spa goers and culinary enthusiasts from the local community, and tourists looking for a special experience while visiting Ottawa.
Strathmere is transitioning into becoming a wellness community, returning to its roots. The launch of The Retreat has set the stage for many exciting plans, including yoga and wellness workshops, a field to plate dinner series, and gardening classes to name a few.
We are excited about the next 38 years so stay tuned!
MEET OUR TEAM
Walter Baker and his wife Barbara purchased Strathmere in 1978 and, with the help of their daughters Liz and Mary, developed the property into a special learning facility, a beautiful setting for weddings and other celebrations, and more recently a retreat and spa.
Walter has always been active as a creative entrepreneur, having built six organizations. He also has a Master’s in Political Studies and a Doctorate in Public Policy and Management, and was an elementary and secondary school teacher, a university professor, the founder and director of a School of Public Policy and Management, a federal Assistant Deputy Minister, and a management consultant.
Following Barbara’s passing in 2008, Walter began long-distance walking. Two months before his 80th birthday, he walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats – a distance of 1100 miles, at 18 miles a day. At the age of 84, he walked the Rideau Trail from Kingston to Ottawa and back, covering just over 400 miles. At the age of 87, Walter continues to support Mary as Strathmere’s Chairman, while leading a very active and healthy lifestyle.
Mary McGill has been the CEO of Strathmere for over 30 years. She is a builder of business, never settling and always looking forward to creating the next new offering for guests to enjoy. With the addition of a brand new Retreat and Spa, Mary’s current focus is on culinary and spa tourism for Strathmere.
Mary is hard-working but she also loves spending time with her husband Mike and her grown children Geoff and Jenny, hanging out at the family cottages, and travelling together, which is when her creative juices really start flowing and she gains inspiration to come up with the next Strathmere experience!
Mary has been honoured with several awards, including Ottawa’s “40 top business people under 40″, finalist for Ottawa Small Business of the Year, and received awards from the Ottawa Wedding Awards and Wedding Wire Choice Awards
Angelo Camposarcone started his culinary career at the very young age of 13, and within a year he could cut vegetables as well as any of the kitchen staff. By the age of 20, after years of working alongside very talented chefs, Angelo was promoted to Strathmere’s Executive Chef. He is self- taught and dedicated to running a scratch kitchen, working diligently within his philosophy of “Fresh, Local and Seasonal”.
Over the years Angelo has grown Strathmere’s food operation and made it a priority to work closely with our in house growers to grow and develop produce that makes its way onto the plate for guests to enjoy. Whether he is creating menus for over 150 weddings a year, or for the hundreds of corporate retreats and special events, or for the Retreat Cafe, Angelo is continually motivated to move forward with food. He enjoys being able to lead and mentor talented young graduates from Algonquin Colleges’ Culinary Chef Program, allowing them the opportunity to jump right into a fast- paced talented creative young kitchen and, in his words, “let them cook!”
Colin and his wife, Eylie, joined Strathmere in 2004, in response to our search for an experienced gardener able to lead in growing fresh, seasonal produce for Strathmere kitchens. Under Colin’s leadership Strathmere has steadily expanded the gardens, adding an orchard, honey bees, perennial and annual fruits and vegetables, edible flowers, and herbs – and our flower gardens are more beautiful than ever.
Colin’s initiatives have the strong support of everyone at Strathmere and especially our Executive Chef. Colin and his team grow healthy produce leading directly to providing healthy food for Strathmere kitchens. Thanks to Colin we are now improving our soil in many ways, rotating our crops in the field and rotating our fields so that some are always fallow. We use mulches and living pathways to conserve soil and water, and cover crops and green manures to build and protect soil and soil nutrients. We apply composts and aged manure to recycle nutrients and activate the soil. We maintain wild grassy areas and diverse flower gardens to attract beneficial insects such as pollinators – including our own honey bees – and others that prey on pest insects.
John Phelan emigrated to Canada from Queen’s County, Ireland in 1825, via the United States. Shortly after arriving in Canada he married Margaret McCarthy of Goulbourn. He and his new bride built a small log cabin and began farming Lot 16, Concession 2, North Gower. By 1846 they had purchased adjacent Lot 17, making a total of 400 acres, and by 1874, 300 acres were under tillage.
Phelan specialized in dairy farming and the milk was sent first to the North Gower cheese factory and later to Carsonby. He also kept beef cattle and thoroughbred horses. A vineyard was maintained; one remaining vine still produces white grapes every fall. Hard work and rich soil made John Phelan a successful farmer. He and Margaret had four sons and eleven daughters.
The building of Strathmere House began in 1860. Situated on the top of the hill just north of the original Phelan log cabin, it commands a magnificent view of the surrounding farmland. It was built of fieldstone from the farm, with trimmed stone lintels brought from nearby Fallowfield by sleigh and wagon. No fireplaces were installed as only wood stoves were then used. Completed about 1865, the eighteen-room mansion included a wide centre hall with winding staircase and two alcoves in the wall over the stairs for religious statuettes; parlour, sitting room, and dining room on the main floor; with centre hall and four bedrooms on the second floor.
The window alcove at the end of the second-storey hall was first used as a chapel and then as a sewing room. A large kitchen with pantry and summer kitchen were in the east wing, with three bedrooms above for the hired help. A stone outdoor oven (now buried) was built on the south side of this wing and a stone coach-house was attached to the rear of the kitchen.
Some of the second generation of Phelans moved to Nebraska; two sons became medical doctors and one was a successful railroad builder under the great J.J. Hill. John Jr., the second son, remained on the estate. The property remained in the Phelan family until 1955 when it was bought as a country retreat and named “Strathmere” by Alex and Eleanor Sim. It came to be modeled on a European folk school, where city dwellers could escape from the stresses of urban life to work on their personal growth and development. In 1957 the Sims moved the one-room schoolhouse known as Phelan’s School S.S.No. 11 onto the property and used it, subsequently, as the location for a non-profit drama school, “The Valley School of the Arts,” and for a summer day camp.
In 1978 Dr. Walter Baker of the University of Ottawa, his wife Barbara, and their daughters Liz and Mary, purchased Strathmere and 200 acres of the original farm, for use as a management training and development centre, a wedding and special events facility, and more recently, a spa and wellness retreat. It remains a family enterprise today.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT & GREEN MEETINGS
Strathmere is committed to minimizing the negative impact of its operations on the environment, and to supporting environmentally-friendly initiatives and ongoing action to facilitate green meetings, through a focus on five key areas:
1. Waste Management
2. Water Usage
3. Energy Use
4. Human Resource Management
It is the responsibility of all full-time, part-time and contract staff to foster sustainable development at Strathmere, both generally and in the following specific ways:
FOOD STYLING & ORGANIC GARDENS
Over the years Strathmere’s food operation has grown and continues to grow. Working within our philosophy of “Fresh, Local and Seasonal”, we are committed to working hand-in-hand with our Executive Chef and in- house Lead Grower to grow and develop produce that makes its way “from our field to your plate” for guests to enjoy.
Today, throughout the growing season we look forward to edible flowers to garnish dessert plates, baby lettuce greens for all of our salads, arugula, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, rhubarb, asparagus, beets and squash to mention just a few. Our orchard offers a variety of apple, pear, plum and sour cherry tress as well as hazelnut, pecan and heartnut. Fresh herbs are picked daily and infused into sauces and marinades, while Strathmere’s resident honeybees work hard to produce wildflower honey for use in our baking, sauces and marinades and to serve at our tea stations.
- To separate recyclable material, for collection.
- To compost all organic waste, for use in our gardens; compost containers are in the main kitchen.
- To minimize the use of paper through electronic transmission, and recycling paper in all buildings.
- To donate surplus supplies to local charities.
- To only use dishes, cutlery and linen that are reusable.
- To eliminate the use of individual toiletries with the installation of bulk toiletry dispensers.
- To install a salt pool filtering system, which eliminates the need for chlorine.
- To have brush walls in the fields to allow natural decomposition of tree and shrub waste.
- To ensure that water-saving equipment and devices are purchased.
- To avoid running water for periods of time, unnecessarily.
- When running the dishwasher, filling the load rather than several partial loads.
- To report and ensure immediate repair of all leaks in fixtures, including outside hoses and other water outlets.
- In the case of the Facilities Department, to retrofit toilets, urinals, showers and faucets to reduce water use.
- To be constantly vigilant concerning the optimum use of energy in our facilities, including the implementation of all approved recommendations emerging from energy audits, and through regular attention to shutting down unused lighting as early as possible. Such lighting includes outdoor lighting not required for guests or ambience for particular events, turning off all lighting during close-down of buildings, and turning off mini-lighting not required following event closing.
- Being aware of back-up heating and air conditioning to ensure it is turned on in sufficient time to ensure the client(s) will be comfortable, but turned off as soon as no longer required.
- To have all managers and closing staff be vigilant in the optimum use of energy in relation to their respective events.
- To purchase local food.
- To grow our own organic vegetables and compost scraps within a few hundred feet of our kitchen.
- To offer the energy-saving option of not having sheets and towels cleaned every day.
- To use geothermal and air-source heating and cooling pumps for our main buildings.
HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
- To include environmental awareness as a component of all orientation and refresher training.
- To incorporate assessments of the extent of environmentally-friendly behavior in managerial and staff appraisals
with organizations like Tree Canada to improve the environmental footprint. For every meeting booked at Strathmere, a tree is planted.