History of the World Famous Rockcliffe Tavern in Minden Ontario

The Legendary Rockcliffe Tavern was a staple in the town of Minden for locals and travelers for over 130 years.
Sadly, the Rockcliffe closed some years ago and the building fell into disarray.
Being such an old building, plus several other unfortunate factors the building is no longer structurally sound.
I have been working with the new owners to create a tribute video to the legendary Rockcliffe Tavern, this video will include interviews with past and current owners and patrons, photos and videos from the glory days mixed in with my own footage of the derelict and decaying interior of the building.
The new owners have big plans for the site to build a brand new state of the art entertainment facility and I will be there to capture and document the entire process!

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.

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.
Built in the late 1800’s as the Valley View Inn, eventually it was converted to a tavern/hotel and renamed The Rockcliffe.
While The Rockcliffe saw great success under ownership by the Lahay family in the 1960’s, its popularity really took off in the 1970’s under the ownership of Bill O’Brien and his wife.
Bill O’Brien made improvements to the facility, employed a passionate staff and launched the world famous Rockcliffe t-shirts and merchandise.
The O’Brien’s sold the Rockcliffe in 1977 to a man named Dave Willis who carried on the same traditions and massive successes for another 33 years until he sold it in 2010.
While The Rockcliffe did see some continued success and popularity through the 2000’s, the facility ended up closing for good in 2016.
Sitting vacant and deteriorating for 6 years, finally in 2021 Dan Gosselin, Mark Dracup and their partners Kirsty and Lise, Haliburton cottage neighbours made the decision to go into business together and revive The Rockcliffe.
While this phase of my project focusses on the past and the history of The Rockcliffe, the story is still be told and I’ll covering much of the next few chapters in partnership with Dan, Kirsty, Mark and Lise!

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!

Rockcliffe Photos - 1800's - 2021



70's and 80's

90's and 2000's

Shirts and More

Rockcliffe Memories

Inside The Rockcliffe -May 2021

Rockcliffe Project Radio Interview with CanoeFM

Add Your Comments, Thoughts or Memories of The Rockcliffe Here

1 thought on “History of the World Famous Rockcliffe Tavern in Minden Ontario”

  1. VERY COOL collection of memories and memorabilia, and what a neat tour. It’s obvious that everybody involved cares a whole heck of a lot about the place, and that’s neat to see. Awesome work.

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