Devonshire Lodge aka the Low-Martin House
Devonshire Lodge was commissioned by Windsor-renowned Rumrunner Harry Low in the early 20’s to be built in the Walkerville area of the city. Low chose George Lawton to build the rough-cut stone Cotswold English cottage style home and construction started on the home in 1927; the home cost a whopping $150,000 to build. Harry and his wife Nellie moved into the home in 1928 and lived there until 1934 when they defaulted on the mortgage and were forced to move.
Devonshire Lodge was about as ostentatious as its owner. Not only was the mansion in a style (or styles, as it seemed to meld several styles together) like no other, but it was placed kitty-corner on the property instead of having the front face the street. While the Lows were living in the mansion, it was host to a number of infamous guests such as Al Capone and members of Detroit’s Purple Gang.
After the murder of the bookkeeper for the Carling Brewery, Low came under suspicion for the death. Authorities started pinning a number of other crimes on Harry, and soon it was enough to bankrupt him and cause him to lose the house. The house went up for auction at the whopping price of $182,000 but the only offers that came in were $15,000 and $20,000. Even after lowering the asking price to $25,000 the house still had no takers. The broker who held the mortgage retained ownership until October 1938, when Helen Wells purchased the house for $28,000; she lived there until her death in 1949. The house was sold by her estate to Donald Duff, a car dealer, for just $25,000 in June of that same year. It stayed in Duff’s possession until 1960, when it was sold to Alice Eleanor Martin, wife of Paul Martin Sr. During their ownership, the house played host to sitting Prime Ministers Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. The house remained in the possession of the Martin’s until after their deaths in 1995, when it was sold for $650,000 to bingo hall owners Wayne Pike and his wife Sharon Ann Romnycia. They tried to sell it a few years later for $1.2 million but there were no takers. They tried to break up the property, but were denied in court and the house and property officially received historical designation in 2007. Frank Vella, Walkerville Pharmacy owner, purchased the home in 2008 for $460,000 and planned to sink $500,000 into renovations; he quickly found that much of these costs would be for things that would be unseen and reluctantly put the house back on the market. Vern Myslichuk, owner of BetterMade Cabinets, bought Devonshire Lodge in April 2012 and quickly took on the task of restoring the home to its former glory. The house was move-in ready by June 2014.
Harry Low had few guests in the mansion; Vern Myslichuk believes the house was made for parties and showing off. There have been tours of the mansion in Walkerville, and Myslichuk is known for inviting people in. Devonshire Lodge remains one of the jewels of the Walkerville neighborhood in Windsor.
Gervais, M. (2009). The Rumrunners: a prohibition scrapbook. (2 ed., pp. 94-101) Emeryville, Ontario, Canada: Biblioasis.
May, G. (2015). Two Men and Their Monster. (1 ed., pp. 23-39) Windsor, Ontario, Canada: Your Story Publishing.