Norm Elder’s Cottage in Muskoka

The Norm Elder cottage was an amazing collection of buildings that housed artifacts collected by a Toronto resident named Norm Elder. Norman Sam Elder was born on August 12, 1939. He could be described as being eccentric – an explorer, exotic animal owner, writer, artist, and an Olympic equestrian all in one.

Norm operated the Norman Elder Museum which was located at 140 Bedford Road in Toronto. Norm’s Museum has an assortment of exotic animals including a 90 year old turtle named Tony Tortuis. Norm also had two large pythons and a boa constrictor that he kept in the basement. Sometimes he had a fruit bat, several chinchillas and numerous ferrets.

As an explorer, Elder embarked on lengthy expeditions to remote areas of Papua New Guinea, Namibia, the Amazon, the Congo, the Arctic, Madagascar, and many other countries. He founded the Canadian Chapter of the Explorers Club in 1979.

Norman Elder was an accomplished equestrian. He competed as a member of the Canadian Equestrian Team in Three-Day Eventing at the Olympic Games, first in Rome in 1960, and again in Mexico City in 1968.

In 1998, Elder pleaded guilty to indecently assaulting 10 young men between 1970 and 1980. The men were all between the ages of 18 and 20 at the time of the encounters but Canada’s laws at the time gave 21 as the age of consent for same-sex contact.

Norm had a cottage getaway in Muskoka. We visited it in 2015 and it did not disappoint. There were numerous photo albums showing Norm’s travels from around the world. Norm had many old National Geographic magazines, insect collections from around the world, sketches and paintings including self portraits. There were several buildings on the property. One collapsed building looked like a church of sorts, with a steeple. There was the living quarters and another building that looked to be an artist studio.

Neighbours kept a close eye on the property which was demolished not long after our visit.

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