Bigwin Island is located in the central part of the lake; it is 5 km (2 1/2 miles) in length by 1 km (1/2 mile) in width. Bigwin Island was named for the noted Ojibway warrior and hunter, Chief Joseph Big Wind. Three sacred burial grounds were established by Chief Big Wind along with a summer settlement.
C.O. Shaw, a wealthy Huntsville tycoon, purchased Bigwin Island and in 1915 he hired designer John Wilson. The Inn's design was a uniquely eclectic combination in which Wilsonmixed elements of Classical, Mediterranean, Tudor and Victorian architecture. Bigwin Inn opened its doors in June of 1920, the decade that "roared" in its prosperity.
It quickly became the resort of choice for socialites and the upper class who congregated in the grand hall known as the Indian Head Room and the Rotunda with its huge stone fireplaces and large open verandas.
In the 30's, the unique octagonal Dining Room was joined by a second, and the Inn's Pavilion became a popular venue for performances of big bands including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians. In the 40's, Bigwin Inn welcomed a retinue of stars and celebrities, from famous Hollywood couple Clark Gable and Carole Lombard to such illustrious writers as Ernest Hemingway and H.G. Wells. It was a favorite haunt of the Rockefellers, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands stayed for a visit,
and Canadian Prime Ministers including John Diefenbaker often summered there.
The golden era for Bigwin Inn started to fade with C.O. Shaw's death in 1942. The Inn went through an ownership change, some cosmetic improvements were made, and then the property was sold again in 1948.
A succession of owners tried to revitalize the island by adding a 3,000 ft airstrip, housing the newly formed Lake of Bays Sailing Club and converting the East Lodge into a condominium. By 1970, the rest of the Inn was closed although the Tea House continued to operate as a privately run restaurant
until 1976. The property languished for a long time. In 1969, the East Lodge was converted to a small enclave of condominiums.