Earlier in 2021 I was contacted by two gentlemen who had just purchased a legendary venue in Haliburton County in Ontario, Canada – The Rockcliffe Tavern.
They wanted to know if I was interested in filming a documentary style video about The Rockcliffe, taking one final tour through the now derelict and crumbling building that was once the heartbeat of Minden, Ontario.
Obviously I jumped at the opportunity!
History and Future of The Legendary and World Famous Rockcliffe Tavern, Minden Ontario - Documentary Video
The World Famous Rockcliffe Tavern
All around the world there are bars that history has called “legendary”
Studio 54 in New York City
The Whiskey a GOGO in the Los Angeles Sunset Strip
The Horseshoe tavern in Toronto
We can add one more to the list
“The Legendary and World Famous Rockcliffe Tavern” in Minden, Ontario
For over 130 years this establishment served the people and tourists of Minden Ontario from the corner of Bobcagyon Road and Newcastle Street.
Welcoming guests from all around the world, The Rockcliffe Tavern was a must see location with its peak in popularity through the 1970’s, 80’s and 1990’s.
But before we get to the Rockcliffe, we have to get through Minden.
Minden Hills is a township in the county of Haliburton Ontario, Canada. It is an amalgam of the townships of Snowdon, Lutterworth, Anson, Hindon and Minden. It is usually simply referred to as Minden.
Minden is only 2.5 hours from Toronto and since the 1940s Minden has become an increasingly popular summer destination given its close proximity to many larger cities in southern Ontario. With a population of only 6,000 people, the population grows dramatically during the summer months as a result of tourism.
Minden Ontario was first surveyed in 1858. Settlers were first drawn to the region because of its timber resources. The town lies on the banks of the Gull River and during the 19th and 20th centuries, loggers used the river to move timber to sawmills downstream.
Built originally in 1859 as the Valley View Inn, itas eventually changed to the Rockcliffe Tavern.
On my visit to film and photograph The Rockcliffe, the outside it really didn’t look THAT bad, the front side patio was pretty soft and my feet went through one of them as I was loading my gear inside. The outside looks just as a building of this age should look.
Inside is a different story, at some point over the last 6 years the water was turned off as was the power. You can still turn the lights on, but there is no temperature or climate control and as a result the decay has crept in.
Water damage is visible as is mold, holes in the ceiling, plaster dropped from the ceiling to the floor as well as some very hefty cracks in the foundation and the concrete floor.
In the manager’s office you can clearly see how much the floor is warped and how much the filing cabinet and desk is sinking into the floor.
I was no surprise when the new owners, Dan and Mark told me they felt there was no choice but to demolish and rebuild.
Dan Gosselin put it perfectly in the radio interview on CanoeFM:
“The spirit of The Rockcliffe is not a Building”
Anyone following along with this project or who knows this story will agree that the spirit of The Rockcliffe is alive and well in the hearts, minds and memories of the people, the staff and the patrons.
This next chapter of The Rockcliffe will bring the institution into the 21st Century and bring in a whole new batch of patrons and stories for years to come – you cannot replace “The Rockcliffe”, but you can take what’s old and make it new again!
Throughout this project one thing has really stood out to me about the Rockcliffe tavern, that is the sense of family, love and respect amongst former staff, owners and patrons.
Everyone I have talked to speaks fondly of the Rockcliffe and the cherished memories and experiences they collectively have.
It seems that Dan, Mark and their partners have very quickly been accepted into the extended Rockcliffe family. Everyone is very excited with anticipation for the next chapter in the history of the Rockcliffe and what the future plans for 98 Bobcaygeon Rd might be.
Dan, Mark and their Partners Kirsty and Lise are already hard at work with their vision for the new Rockcliffe.
In August of 2021 they held an event on the side patio of the Rockcliffe for the locals of Minden and past patrons to come by, say hello and hear about the plans for the new facility.
They have even launched a new website, www.therockcliffe.ca where you can keep up with the plans and progress and yes, you can now buy your very own all new World Famous Rockcliffe Minden t-shirts and hoodies in three styles on the new website.
I’ve already got mine!
They have also set up an instagram account and Facebook page to post updates through this very exciting project.
Visit the NEW Rockcliffe Website:
Buy a Rockcliffe Shirt:
The Rockcliffe Facebook Page:
The Rockcliffe Instagram:
I wish Dan, Mark, Kirsty and Lise the best of luck and I look forward to joining them on this journey to document this monumental task and historic venture!