house on a hill


Dur­ing Doors Open Toron­to last month we vis­it­ed the Spad­i­na House Muse­um.

As its name sug­gests, it locat­ed on Spad­i­na Road, and “Spad­i­na” comes from an Ojib­wa word ish­pad­i­naa, mean­ing “be a high hill or sud­den rise in the land” (source).

The house was home to three gen­er­a­tions of the Austin fam­i­ly from 1866–1982. It was donat­ed to the city and opened to the pub­lic as a muse­um in 1984.

Before the Spad­i­na House, though, there was the Bald­win House, which was burnt down in 1835 (Mr. Bald­win was OK; he lat­er moved to Front St. to be clos­er to work). The Spad­i­na House was lit­er­al­ly built on top of the Bald­win house, as exca­va­tion found the ghost of the old­er house (i.e. the foun­da­tion, brick-bor­dered paths) under­neath the floor boards of the new­er house. I thought that was pret­ty fascinating.


Com­ing back up to ground lev­el, we vis­it­ed the Vic­to­ri­an-Edwar­dian gar­dens sur­round­ing the house.


Love­ly pink tulips (and a bug! I love it when I don’t real­ize I caught a bug on cam­era until I look at them on the com­put­er :D).


And for­get-me-nots as far as the eye could see! (They’re my favourite.)


There’s also a green house. I love these win­dow roofs (I don’t know what they’re called :S) for the pot­ted plants.

The house was restored to the 1920–30 peri­od. Beau­ti­ful art deco and arts and crafts style wall­pa­per, car­pets and fur­nish­ing through­out the house. It was rather crowd­ed that day due to Doors Open, so it was kind of dif­fi­cult to take it all in. Must go back and revis­it one day.

But we saw many cool things nonethe­less. Like the head­less but­ler. (It was a dis­play of the but­ler’s pantry.)


The “cozy cor­ner”, for the women of the house. (If we ever own a house, I’m so get­ting a day bed.) Check out the pat­tern of the met­al cov­er­ing on the radi­a­tor — isn’t that beautiful?


Also beau­ti­ful are the mold­ings around the chan­de­liers. Each is dif­fer­ent and so intri­cate and mesmerizing.

The bil­liard room has this real­ly inter­est­ing wall­pa­per, kind of fairy tale and chil­dren’s book-like.

I think this is the room where the fam­i­ly had gath­er­ings. It has a fun-look­ing couch (the orange one in the cen­tre). One of the docents said that its for men and women to sit togeth­er but not touch. (I think she was refer­ring to that couch, but there were too many peo­ple around I can’t be sure whose ques­tion she was answering.)

The fam­i­ly was appar­ent­ly avid hunters, so here’s the elk in the hall­way… (if I were a kid grow­ing up in this house, I’d be pret­ty scared walk­ing through this hall­way if I need to use the bath­room at night, being stared down by the loom­ing elk head in a nar­row hallway…)


… And a pair of wolves in the front entrance. (Accord­ing to a friend­ly docent, the young chil­dren in the fam­i­ly were real­ly scared of the wolves, and would tip­toe past them every time they walk through the door. I don’t blame ’em :S).


The kitchen is always my favourite place when I vis­it his­toric hous­es. I find it so unpre­ten­tious com­pared to the rest of the house; it’s where peo­ple work and laugh and grum­ble, where peo­ple do hon­est, hard work. Now here’s some­one pre­tend­ing to live in the past for edu­ca­tion’s sake. A docent was explain­ing to Mike the dif­fer­ent “new” prod­ucts in the cup­board, includ­ing Maxwell cof­fee beans.


A beau­ti­ful stove.


Teacup wait­ing to be washed in the old sink, just like in 1889.


An ice box! :D “But… if there was no freez­er, how did peo­ple make ice to put in the ice box?” asked the child of the tech­no­log­i­cal age sit­ting in front of the ice box.

And then there are the small things that delights me so much…



I love museums :)

Thank you for drop­ping by, have a love­ly day!

3 thoughts on “house on a hill

  1. Great post, Trish! We love your pho­tos so much that we’re going to share this on our Face­book page so our fans can enjoy them as well!

    You should come to our Gar­den Par­ty on June 26th! Details are on our FB page. :)

  2. Hi,
    Glad to hear you enjoyed your vis­it to Spad­i­na. FYI ice was cut from local lakes in the win­ter, stored in ware­hous­es in saw­dust and straw and deliv­ered through­out the year to hous­es like Spad­i­na that had ice box­es. On the out­side of the house, you can see a lit­tle door that pro­vides access to the inside of the ice box. The ice was deliv­ered and depo­sist­ed inside the ice­box. Cool air sinks, and so the con­tents of the ice­box were kept cool.
    Hope to see you again at Spadina!
    Karen Edwards
    Muse­um Administrator

  3. mys­tery solved! :D i’ll def­i­nite­ly come back on a less crowd­ed day. thank you so much for visiting!

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