By Karen Graham
A traditional red brick Ontario farm house on the south side of Highway 7A in Bethany has housed a bustling business since 1983. The home has been in the Morton family since 1868, when the great grandfather of current owner Kathleen Morton purchased the property and built the home using bricks produced on site. The Aunt Laura who is recognized in the name of the business was the ninth of the Morton’s eleven children, and was well known in the community. She taught piano and voice out of this home, was one of the founding members of the local Red Cross during World War I, and published 2 books about local history. She was also the first woman in Durham County to earn a driver’s license and own a car, having received driving instruction from John Tinney Sr. of Cavan. At the time, her height prevented her from reaching the gas pedal, so a wooden block was required. Her 1931 Essex Tour Car was named “Shasta” because “She has ta go.”
In 1981 the home was acquired by current owner Kathleen, who is Laura’s niece. Together with sister Betty Johnson and father Charles Morton, Kathleen restored their ancestors’ century-home to house M. R. Art, a gallery showcasing the work of local artists. In 2001, the business expanded to incorporate a tea room.
These days a bustling seasonal tea room and gift shop operates inside this venerable house May to December. With a staff of 13, Morton serves a regular menu Thursday to Sunday from 11:30 to 4:30, but often hosts private events both on and off site. The tea room operates out of several rooms on the main floor, allowing for large gatherings or private conversations, with seating for up to 70 guests. On the weekend and off season, the location is used for family events, weddings and special events, and the atmosphere is much appreciated by seniors who enjoy the homey food and setting. Weddings are hosted in the field or off site, as the business offers catering services as well.
Their menu features home cooked soups, salads, sandwiches and quiche along with desserts, scones, pies and tarts served with an extensive beverage menu. Gifts, art and collectibles are displayed in the restaurant and in rooms on the second floor. It is a quiet spot for a ladies’ lunch or a family celebration that offers classic, homemade food in a warm, traditional setting. For more information, visit www.auntlaurastearoom.ca or call 705-277-2751.