Welcome to Strathmere
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!
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 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.
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.
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.