rainy day at the print shop

We vis­it­ed the Macken­zie House on the week­end. Nes­tled between office build­ings, right around the cor­ner from the busiest inter­sec­tion and shop­ping mall and flash­ing bill­boards is this small muse­um, for­mer home of the first may­or of Toron­to. Enter­ing the his­toric home is like trav­el­ling back through time and walk­ing into a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent world — one of the things I find so incred­i­ble about the city.

We want­ed to vis­it the home of William Lyon Macken­zie main­ly because of the muse­um’s peri­od print shop, with Mike’s pas­sion being typog­ra­phy, and mine being print­mak­ing (though, unlike Mike, who’s expert at typog­ra­phy, my print­mak­ing skills are mediocre at best. But that does­n’t stop me from lov­ing it!). There’s a print shop in the muse­um because Macken­zie, besides being the first may­or of the city and leader of the 1837 Upper Cana­da Rebel­lion, was also a news­pa­per editor.

We had the chance to print our names on the beau­ti­ful 1845 print­ing press, which was in excel­lent con­di­tion and amaz­ing­ly easy to oper­ate. The muse­um staff who was demon­strat­ing the print­ing helped us set our names into the plate. She said this plate could have been used as a book cov­er in its time.


The smell of lith­o­g­ra­phy ink… sigh.


Moment of truth!


There was this love­ly cast iron cage-like con­tain­er hold­ing a ball of cot­ton twine. I think I can real­ly use one of these with my balls of yarn at home.


Our prints were lat­er giv­en to us rolled and tied up with string. That made my day.


This quote made me smile.


Macken­zie’s office, where he wrote the arti­cles for his news­pa­per, I imag­ine. And look! A map of the city. Leg­end has it that the Macken­zie house is haunt­ed by Macken­zie him­self, and he was heard work­ing at his print­ing press, and flush­ing toilets.


So, I was curi­ous, and a quick Google search yield­ed an inter­est­ing arti­cle about the Macken­zie House Leg­end, in which a long-time employ­ee revealed that (dun dun dun!) “in about 1960 the house had very low atten­dance. It wasn’t until the house was in dire finan­cial straits that the sto­ries of the ghosts first start­ed.” Anoth­er vol­un­teer chuck­led, “Peo­ple said they could hear ghosts using the print­ing press—but it’s a com­plete­ly silent machine. And flush­ing toi­lets? The Macken­zies didn’t have a toi­let. How would they know how to use one?”

Any­way. I’m not one to eas­i­ly believe in ghost sto­ries, but I do like to look at old things and imag­ine how peo­ple used these things in the past and what their lives were like. I guess that’s why I was par­tic­u­lar­ly drawn to the kitchen, where the fam­i­ly spent most of their time. And I won­der why we don’t have beau­ti­ful gas lamp like this anymore.


Found a bit of knit­ting on the win­dowsill :D


This is, in the tour guide’s words, a “full Vic­to­ri­an pantry”.


I real­ly like this shelf.


I like vis­it­ing small muse­ums like this one. It only takes sev­er­al hours to see, so I can still have the rest of the day to catch up on house­work or meet up with friends or what­ev­er. And unlike the large nation­al muse­ums the small ones are usu­al­ly not very busy, but are real­ly well-staffed with knowl­edge­able and enthu­si­as­tic tour guides and vol­un­teers. I’d love to be a muse­um vol­un­teer, so that I can dress up in peri­od cloth­ing. But I don’t think that I would be very con­vinc­ing, because a) I know near­ly noth­ing about Cana­di­an his­to­ry, and b) I’m Asian, I doubt that I’d look very con­vinc­ing as a pio­neer in Cana­da. Any­way, we do plan on vis­it­ing more of the local muse­ums when­ev­er we have the chance this spring and summer.

“Would­n’t it start to get expen­sive?” you might ask. Well, yes, most muse­ums in the city charge a fee, and they do add up. But if one lives in Toron­to, one could actu­al­ly get free muse­um pass­es with a Toron­to Pub­lic Library card. A lot of peo­ple I talked to did­n’t know about this, so I thought I would men­tion it here. One pass cov­ers up to two adults and four chil­dren! Def­i­nite­ly a great idea for a fam­i­ly day trip! Anoth­er rea­son to love the library! :D

Thank you for stop­ping by! Have a ter­rif­ic Monday!


6 thoughts on “rainy day at the print shop

  1. in response to your con­cerns about not being a very good muse­um volunteer:
    a) they can teach you about the his­to­ry, and i know you will learn with enthu­si­asm! :D
    b) was­n’t your guide at the macken­zie house asian? she cer­tain­ly looks quite asian from your fb album photos…

  2. Hi Trish,

    Glad you enjoyed your vis­it & I enjoyed read­ing your blog! If you are inter­est­ed in vol­un­teer­ing, please give us a call or email.

    Macken­zie House

  3. Hi Trish,

    Your pho­tos of Macken­zie house are ter­rif­ic. Thank you for post­ing them.

    I am a Macken­zie House vol­un­teer, and I knew very lit­tle about the Rebel­lion and Macken­zie House when I start­ed vol­un­teer­ing. The Macken­zie House staff pro­vide train­ing and read­ing mate­ri­als. The staff and vol­un­teers are all very friend­ly, so vol­un­teer­ing is a lot of fun.

    Don’t wor­ry about being uncon­vinc­ing becuase you are Asian. Toron­to was already a mul­ti­cul­tur­al city in Macken­zie’s day.

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