A private island community

Turtle Lodge

The centrepiece of this 20-unit island community is the historic cedar log and stone Turtle Lodge, which quickly captures the attention of any visitor to the island. Built in 1934, the Lodge evokes the image of countrified gentry with its elaborate yet rustic interior, which features five cut-stone fireplaces.

The design is said to resemble the outline of a turtle. Like the feet of a turtle, four private suites lead from the main lounge. Each features a four-piece bath and walk-in closets. Where one might place the head of the turtle is a large, fully fitted kitchen, offset by a bar. The large porch facing the Ottawa River provides ample protection against the sun or rain.

Lodge bedroom
Lodge fireplace
Lodge bedroom

Turtle Lodge History

Charming, handsome and brilliant, Lt. Col. Booth was a somewhat notorious member of the Seigniory Club - now the Chateau Montebello – where celebrated visitors included the Vanderbilts. The legendary antics of both J.R. and his second wife Elizabeth Jane were apparently too much for even the famous frolicking Club members. He was said to swing from the chandeliers while his wife would swim in the fountains. He cut a dashing figure around the Ottawa in the ‘20s and ‘30s, owning one of the city’s first automobiles and even more rare then – a plane. One of his many capers, the story goes, was to fly beneath a nearby inter-provincial bridge that connected Ontario to Quebec.

For personal reasons, Booth decided to duplicate the great Montebello resort, scaled down to 6,000 square feet, directly across the river. Dated records reveal the name Madawaska Lodge, constructed with the identical Scandinavian log-building techniques that made the Chateau Montebello the largest, most famous log cabin in Canada. Booth's own log lodge came to be Turtle Lodge. A 3,000-sq. ft. common room is comprised of massive red cedar logs supporting to a soaring 25-foot ceiling. Below The Pirate’s Den, also known as The Dungeon, was a stone-walled room lit by lanterns fashioned into the likeness of pirate faces. This served as a games room. One special feature was a series of slot machines for which Ltd. Col. Booth supplied the blanks.

Turtle Lodge became Booth’s summer residence. As a man of great wealth, he had several other small mansions in and around Ottawa. One on Range Road in Ottawa now is an embassy. But the Lodge was a summer home where he also entertained friends, dignitaries and royalty. His brother-in-law was Prince Erik of Denmark.

Booth had very few years to enjoy his Madawaska Lodge. He died in 1941 shortly after the death of his twin brother. His sister died the same year. Elizabeth, his wife, continued to make use of the Lodge and after marrying her third husband, Reg Hamilton, the island became known as Hamilton Island. The Lodge remained intact before being sold. Some of J.R. Booth’s personal belongings, including several portraits, are still found in the Lodge.