Over a century ago, Birchdale operated as a legendary private hunting and fishing camp from 1911 to 1972, only closing during the Second World War. “Sports” from the US, Canada, and other countries would travel to southwest Nova Scotia and be met by trained guides who would ferry them by canoe to hunt deer and moose, and to fish for trout and bass. There was skeet shooting, bird dogs, and horse-drawn wagons trekked food and camping supplies into the Tobeatic wilderness. When staying on-site in Birchdale’s cabins, cooks served meals in the lodge and guides built fires in the individual cabins, and helped the sports with their equipment.
Notable sportsmen (among them American president Teddy Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams) and Hollywood stars (Greta Garbo, Danny Kaye, Disney illustrator Milt May) all spent time at Birchdale. Families would make yearly return reservations for their favorite cabin and favorite guide. Second and third generations of these families continue to cross the Bay of Fundy to Birchdale.
The long history of guests has been recorded in the “ledger” (1926 – 1972) by name, address, and date. Newspaper articles, photographs, and letters from these years are kept in binders at the lodge. The complete history of changes in ownership at Birchdale has also been documented. In 1972, Birchdale was sold to a Carmelite order of the Catholic Church and became known as “Nova Nada”. The monks and sisters opened the grounds to the public one Sunday per month and at festival times. The monastery added more buildings and renamed the cabins after saints. In 1997, the order disbanded and the property was left vacant for four years.
Upon assuming ownership, the previous owner, Helen Matthews, returned the property to its original name of Birchdale. Even the cabin names reverted to their original—those of trees. The breathtaking beauty of the setting, and the singularity and solitude of Birchdale are now enjoyed by the general public, including those who worked here years ago and created its history.
In the spring of 2020 jsut before the Pandemic fully landed, new owners Sarah Garton Stanley and Tracey Erin Smith assumed the stewardship of Birchdale. In these years of “stay close to home” and “stay safe”, Birchdale has carefully opened for monthly Birchdale Afternoons as well as the now annual Birchdale Halloween. (A kid centred-night that turns Birchdale into a door to door trick or treat haven.)
Throughout all of this, the cooks, guides, descendants of past owners, and family members of earlier guests have found their way back, continually enriching us with their unique memories and special experiences at Birchdale.