Everyone has a favorite writer, but few take their love of literature as far as Flora MacDonald Denison, an Ontario-based inn owner who had her favorite poet’s words etched forever (well, sort of), into a granite cliff.
Denison was already a successful Toronto business woman when she took over ownership of the Bon Echo Inn in 1910. An early feminist, Denison had started the Canadian Suffrage Association with a number of like-minded female activists and was also a staunch proponent of the arts, especially writing. When she and her husband took over the Bon Echo Inn, she turned it into a haven for artists and thinkers, a quiet place in the Ontario wilderness where they could work and relax.
Her true passion, however, was the work of poet Walt Whitman. She started the Walt Whitman Club of Bon Echo around 1916, but in 1919 she put her fandom in stone, literally. Employing a pair of Scottish stonemasons, Denison had some of Whitman’s words etched into the granite cliff face near Mazinaw Lake in 1919, the 100-year anniversary of Whitman’s birth. The monument was dedicated to his “democratic ideals,” carrying the following passage:
“MY FOOTHOLD IS TENON’D AND MORTISED IN GRANITE
I LAUGH AT WHAT YOU CALL DISSOLUTION
AND I KNOW THE AMPLITUDE OF TIME.”
Today, nearly a hundred years later, the etching is almost completely weathered out of the stone, but it can still be found, a near immortal tribute to one of the greatest poets in history.
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