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My Patron Saints of Summer

June 18, 2020

You know how people have #relationshipgoals or #squadgoals? Well, I have #summergoals, and all my ideal summer dreams are thanks to the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family and their dreamy compound in Windermere, Muskoka, Canada. Clear blue waters, piney trees, cooler temperatures, picturesque homes, boating around Lake Rosseau on a wooden Runabout, and meals al fresco. It is indeed no wonder that for members of this multi-generational family, time spent in the family homes at Muskoka seemed to be almost sacred.

The history of the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family making the trip from their home base in Columbus, Indiana (or wherever in the world they happened to be at the time- they all traveled quite frequently for both professional and personal pursuits) began with Reverend Zachary Taylor Sweeney, who first visited Muskoka in 1886, due to his avid interest in fishing. In 1906, Rev. Sweeney rented a cottage there for the summer and was joined by his family. Three years later, family patriarch Joseph Ireland Irwin purchased a permanent home, Llanllar, for the family.

Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family members, including Nettie Sweeney Miller, Hugh Thomas Miller, Linnie Irwin Sweeney, Joseph Ireland Irwin, William Glanton Irwin, and Zachary Taylor Sweeney summering at Windermere, Muskoka, ca. 1900s. Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

J. Irwin Miller, Zachary Taylor Sweeney and Linnie Irwin Sweeney on a boat ride in Lake Rosseau, ca. 1920s. Part of the family home, Llanllar, can be seen in the background. Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

Young Clementine Miller Tangeman poses with the beautiful backdrop of the lake and the woods, ca. 1920s. Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

Later generations of the family, particularly J. Irwin Miller and his sister Clementine Miller Tangeman, needed their own spaces to house their expanding families, as well as friends and business associates, so the Hoosier footprint in Muskoka began to grow. This first began with J. Irwin Miller employing his friend Eero Saarinen, who had previously worked with the family on First Christian Church in Columbus, to design a lakeside residence in 1950. Saarinen would eventually be responsible for designing the Miller family’s primary residence in Columbus in 1957.

Xenia Miller looks out the window of her new summer residence, Llanrwst, while it is under construction, ca. 1950s. Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

In the 1960s, Clementine and her husband Dr. Robert Stone Tangeman turned to Miller family friend and architect Harry Weese to design their Muskoka residence, Llanfair, which was completed in 1966.

Clementine Miller Tangeman and Robert Stone Tangeman posing with the construction materials for their summer residence in Muskoka, ca. 1960s. Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

Harry Weese and his wife Kitty visit with the Millers and Tangemans at Muskoka, ca. 1960s, pictured here with J. Irwin Miller and Robert Stone Tangeman. Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

The Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family home in Muskoka must have been a wonderland of fun for Irwin and Clementine when they were growing up, as well as for their children and grandchildren as the years went by.

Uncle William Glanton Irwin joins the fun in the water with his niece Clementine and others. Also, check out that wooden water slide! Irwin-Sweeney-Miller-Family Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

Jumping off the diving platform. Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family Collection, Indiana Historical Society.

For a live action glimpse of summer time bliss at Muskoka, please visit our Indiana Historical Society YouTube page, where we are uploading films from the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family Collection (among others!) that we recently digitized through a grant from LSTA. To view the Muskoka film, click here.

We may not be able to travel as much as we would like to this summer in particular, in order to keep our communities safe during the pandemic. But I hope that you are inspired by my Patron Saints of Summer, the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller Family, to create special memories with your friends and family this summer season right in our own backyards.

Maire Gurevitz is an archivist at IHS. In her free time she can be found at the yoga studio or working on her Hoosier themed romance novel.

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