Bala, Muskoka 1913 - Library Archive photo courtesy of Brent Fitzmaurice.
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Muskoka Post Staff
Bala Bay Inn was originally built and opened by E.B. Sutton on July 17th 1910 under the name the Swastika Hotel.
In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, swastika means "well-being". The symbol has been used by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains for millennia and is commonly assumed to be an Indian sign.
Early Western travellers to Asia were inspired by its positive and ancient associations and started using it. By the beginning of the 20th Century there was a huge fad for the swastika as a benign good luck symbol.
Why Swastika for the Bala hotel? There is a town which was founded two years prior in 1908 much farther north than Bala Bay also named Swastika. Perhaps Sutton was inspired by the name of the town.
Residents of the town of Swastika once put up signs that read, "To Hell With Hitler: We Had the Swastika First.“
The Nazi use of the swastika stems from the work of 19th Century German scholars translating old Indian texts, who noticed similarities between their own language and Sanskrit. They concluded that Indians and Germans must have had a shared ancestry and imagined a race of white god-like warriors they called Aryans.
This idea was seized upon by anti-Semitic nationalist groups who appropriated the swastika as an Aryan symbol to boost a sense of ancient lineage for the Germanic people.
It’s been documented that the hotel experienced its greatest prosperity during the time it was known as the Swastika. During the 1920s and 30s, it was a prosperous hotel frequented by wealthy patrons.
E.B. Sutton was described as a talented individual who wrote music and also articles for the local newspapers of the day. Sutton was laid in state for a number of days at the hotel after his 1917 death. The room he was in during that time has been named the Ghost Lounge. It is rumoured that he never left the hotel, and his spirit may still be there.
Sutton died in room 319, where tapping has often been heard and televisions seem to turn themselves on and off.
With files from Toronto Ghosts and BBC
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