The Ghosts of Glen Villa

The Ghosts of Glen Villa

On the former territory of the Abenakis that borders Lake Massawippi, in the Eastern Townships, today stands a lush garden dotted with works of art and plant paintings where birds chirp. But whoever listens can still hear the whispers of those who once trod its soil…

Posted yesterday at 12:00 p.m.

Texts: Isabelle Morin

Texts: Isabelle Morin
The Press

Photos: Martin Tremblay

Photos: Martin Tremblay
The Press

At this time of year, the art garden at Glen Villa smells of lilacs. There was a time when people came from afar to bask there and smell its peaceful nature. North Hatley, at the end of the 19the century, was a resort popular with a well-heeled international clientele, but particularly southerners who came to the north to find less suffocating heat in summer.

It was during this prosperous period for the hotel industry in the village that the small Glen Villa hotel was built in 1893, before being replaced by a larger establishment: three floors – an attraction in the surroundings – which made it possible to accommodate no longer 50, but 200 guests. The hotel also has its own agricultural land and a farm that supplies it with milk and fresh vegetables.


PHOTO FROM THE BOOK AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A GARDEN

The Glen Villa hotel at the beginning of the 20th centurye century

The year is 1907. New visitors, arriving by train in the village, land on the shore of Glen Villa by steamboat. The time is for umbrellas. We escape by fishing for trout, in a horse-drawn carriage in the woods, playing tennis or golf in neat outfits. In the villa, an orchestra accompanies meals. Couples migrate to the casino in the evening or embrace discreetly in the ballroom. The smoke from the cigars around the pool tables and bowling alleys is to cut with a knife… Glen Villa has a perky spirit.

Tribute to the past

From the glorious era of Glen Villa there remains an exceptional place made up of a forest, waterfalls, agricultural fields and meadows from which you can admire the shimmering reflections of the Massawippi… A few ruins, too: the two hotels of the turn of the century were in turn ravaged by flames.

After the last fire, the land and its farm were bought by a rich businessman from Sherbrooke before passing into the hands of two owners and falling into oblivion. Journalist Norman Webster’s father was one of them. After having lived in China during the Cultural Revolution and in England during the Thatcher years, it is in the land of his youth, where he used to spend his holidays, that the correspondent of the Globe and Mail settled down with his wife, Patterson, and their five children in 1996, after acquiring the estate.

“I fell in love with the site, the family, the people. That’s where the heart was,” says Patterson Webster, who is originally from Virginia.

The gardens were maintained, but without major surprises. I didn’t know much about gardening, but I knew I wanted to take this opportunity to bring out the natural beauty of the place.

Patterson Webster, creator of the Glen Villa Art Garden

An overview of the art installation Over time

  • The trail begins with an installation that pays homage to the first inhabitants of the territory, the Abenaki Nation.

    PHOTO PROVIDED BY PATTERSON WEBSTER

    The trail begins with an installation that pays homage to the first inhabitants of the territory, the Abenaki Nation.

  • Produced in collaboration with Myke Hodgins and Mary Martha Guy, The Cenacle is a memorial to the artist's mother.  Glass panels with a dogwood tree, the symbol of Virginia, form an imaginary wall where light plays.

    PHOTO MARTIN TREMBLAY, THE PRESS

    Produced in collaboration with Myke Hodgins and Mary Martha Guy, the cenacle is a memorial to the artist’s mother. Glass panels with a dogwood tree, the symbol of Virginia, form an imaginary wall where light plays.

  • Some artifacts found on the premises of the grand hotel

    PHOTO MARTIN TREMBLAY, THE PRESS

    Some artifacts found on the premises of the grand hotel

  • Rather than grubbing up this tree which had just been topped by a storm, Patterson Webster paid homage to it with this sculpture whose circles represent the life cycles of the tree.

    PHOTO MARTIN TREMBLAY, THE PRESS

    Rather than grubbing up this tree which had just been topped by a storm, Patterson Webster paid homage to it with this sculpture whose circles represent the life cycles of the tree.

  • Estate Sculpture

    PHOTO MARTIN TREMBLAY, THE PRESS

    Estate Sculpture

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A bridge to the future

For more than a quarter of a century, visual artist, writer and philosopher Patterson Webster has shaped flora, studied topography, unearthed the soul of places through art and horticulture. She discovered, in doing so, several artifacts highlighted in artistic works.

“All these ruins spoke to me in a way and seemed to say that if you looked closely, you could find more about this site than beautiful aesthetics. One of my first installations is called The ghost walk. Sometimes I feel like they’re everywhere, warm and friendly, she laughs. There are plenty of romantic elements to this land. The artist and writer recounts the creation of her art garden in a book, Autobiography of a Gardenwhich will be released in July.


PHOTO MARTIN TREMBLAY, THE PRESS

Patterson Webster holds a Master of Arts from Concordia University and honorary doctorates from Laurentian University and the University of Prince Edward Island for his work promoting bilingual education.

Gardens often revolve around their beauty. I wanted mine to make sense too.

Patterson Webster, creator of the Glen Villa Art Garden

“It’s easy to go through life without seeing what’s in your way and without worrying about the consequences,” she says. I hope that by being aware of the history of the site and taking the time to observe what is there, we can measure the impact of our own passage on the territory and on the future. »

The garden of Glen Villa is a plant story in 15 paintings that tells the story of its inhabitants. To this story is now added the imprint of Patterson Webster and his family.

Open House at Glen Villa

Patterson Webster opens its private garden to the public this year: June 25, July 23, August 20 and 1er october. These open doors are a rare opportunity to discover the art installation Over time, philosophical and contemplative journey lasting 2 h 30 min between woods, meadows, garden rooms and sculptures. “As in many journeys, the reward comes in response to what the walker has invested,” says Patterson Webster. The journey is the destination. The cost is $25 per person. All proceeds go to the Massawippi Foundation, which works to conserve the land surrounding the lake.

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