Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Spadina House

Tom hosts Tuesday's Treasures.
Travel Tuesday
Our World Tuesday
My Corner of the World

August 2019 - Toronto ON

Spadina Museum: Historic House and Gardens, sometimes called Spadina House, is a historic mansion on Spadina Road, that is now a museum. The museum preserves the house much as it existed and developed historically.

For Anne of Green Gables fans, you might recognize Spadina as the home of Aunt Josephine Barry. You can check out Anne of Green Gables home here.
Click here to see other TV/movies filmed here.

The architecture of the Austin Home is inspired by the second empire architectural style combined with elements of later Victorian and Edwardian style. It is known for the exterior features such as the bay windows, its brick and stone terrace, the brick chimneys, and the botanically themed carved keystones.

A beautiful and visually prominent canopy of handcrafted wrought iron and glass was erected over the main door. Referred to as a “porte-cochère,” it was designed by Carrere and Hastings. It protected guests and family members from the weather as they arrived by vehicle.

The estate's gardens reflect the landscape during the Austin family's occupation of the house.

The natural landscape of the Spadina House is protected by law under the “Ravine and Natural Feature Protection By-law”. This estate originally included 200 acres of farmland.There were 200 feet of trees between the house’s initial frame and the edge of the ridge in the south of the property, still providing an unbroken view of Downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario.

Spadina House’s landscape features include formal gardens, the old Orchard, the stone pergola, the fieldstone wall, and the Battery constructed by James and Susan. There are presently 6 acres of restored 1905 Gardens. These 6 acres hold more than 300 varieties of flowers and vegetables.

The first house constructed on the site was built in 1818 by Dr. William Warren Baldwin. He named his 200-acre property and estate Spadina, which derived from the Ojibwe word espadinong, which translates as "hill" or "sudden rise of land"; it is located at the top of an escarpment. 
In terms of pronunciation, most Torontonians would say Spa-dinah (i as in mine). The museum is referred to as Spa-dee-na, which turned out to be the way the upper class would pronounce it back in the day. Nevertheless, it appears that it ought to be pronounced with i as in mine.

Baldwin himself designed the two storey wood frame house. The house burnt down in 1835, and owing to the three mile (5 km) trek from the estate into York, he moved to a house on Front Street. He built a smaller country estate on the property in 1836.
The interior of the house showcases the Victorian and Edwardian components through its floating staircase in the central hall, high baseboards, ceiling medallions, plaster crown mouldings and hardwood floors. This home is separated into 14 rooms and six common areas, in which various new art pieces and decorations are showcased.

The remodelling in 2010 added specific studied reproductions of the original family’s artefacts.

Stuffed wolves found in the family’s archives are now placed at the entryway of the museum.

In 1866 the property was acquired by James Austin, founder of The Dominion Bank (now the Toronto Dominion or TD bank) and Consumers Gas.
The Dominion Bank joined with the Toronto Bank to form TD.

King St. West

A branch on Yonge St. taken in 2018. I will get another photo as it is now being incorporated into a tall condo building.

This magnificent building, erected in 1905, was designed by E. J. Lennox, the famous Toronto architect who designed Casa Loma and the Old City Hall at Bay and Queen Streets.

It was modeled on the Pantheon in Rome.

For over a century, Spadina was home to three generations of the Austin family. The Austins and their children used their 80 acres for farming until James, and later his son Albert, subdivided and sold most of the land. The remaining 5.7 acres include an orchard, a grape arbour and a kitchen garden, along with the more formal areas of lawn and display beds.

 Immediately east was Sir John Craig Eaton and Lady Eaton's massive Italianate palace and estate, Ardwold. Just around the corner on Austin Terrace, on the lot adjacent to Spadina House, is Casa Loma, a stately pile built in 1911 by Major-General Sir Henry Mill Pellatt.
Click here to visit Casa Loma.

James Austin was born March 6, 1813. His family immigrated to Upper Canada (Ontario), arriving in York (Toronto) in October 1829. For two months, the Austins sought to establish themselves on a farm close to York (Toronto). Unsuccessful, they settled in Trafalgar Township in the Oakville area. When James was sixteen, he was apprenticed to William Lyon Mackenzie in his printing shop. Austin spent four and a half years with Mackenzie before establishing his own printing business. After the rebellion of 1837, he relocated to the United States, since it was too risky to remain in Toronto for anyone with connections to Mackenzie, “the rebel.” In 1843, Austin determined that it was safe to return to Canada West (Ontario).
Austin had earned sufficient funds while in the United States to open in Toronto a wholesale and retail grocery business in partnership with another Irishman, Patrick Foy. Austin eventually amassed further funds by investing in banking and natural gas.
Click here to visit the Mackenzie house and printing shop.

The last member of the family to live in the house was Anna Kathleen Thompson, a daughter of Albert Austin, who lived there from 1942 until 1982. The aged house had outdated wiring and needed a thorough overhaul, that would have been far more expensive than rebuilding it. While the house could have been sold to private interests, the family decided instead to donate the house and all of its furnishings to the city. In 1984 it opened as a museum, jointly owned by the city and the Ontario Heritage Foundation and operated by the City of Toronto.

The drawing room (parlour), the most impressive room in the house, was on the right-hand (south) side of the entrance hall. For the comfort of guests, due the room’s size, it possessed two white marble fireplaces, one at each end of the room.

On the first floor, below the veranda, is the glassed-in “palm room,” containing a winter garden.
Large doors on the south side of the palm room opened onto the outdoor terrace that overlooked the lawns and the city in the distance, to the south.

This was my favourite room, mainly because of the light.

The other rooms tended to be gloomy.

They had one of the first radios.

In 1892, James Austin passed the title of Spadina and the land surrounding it to his son, Albert William Austin. James Austin passed away in 1897.

Albert and Mary continued to expand Spadina. An extension was added on the north side that contained a new dining room, its windows facing west. As mentioned, the former dining room became a library, but in reality it was employed as an extension of the drawing room. During this period, Albert and Mary added two more bedrooms, improved servants’ quarters, and constructed a circular driveway and new kitchen. One of the most impressive additions was a magnificent billiard room, designed by the popular 19th-century architect W.C. Vaux Chadwick. The room also possessed colourful murals by interior decorator Gustav Hahn, who pioneered Art Nouveau in Canada.

The spacious kitchen was close to the dining room. It was bright and cheerful, unlike most kitchens in wealthy homes of the period, which were in the basement. To supplement the kitchen there was a pantry, scullery, storage space, and a large built-in icebox where the meat was kept during the summer time. The first fridge in Toronto was installed in this very kitchen and it is still in working order. How times have changed!

Because the family was among the most prominent in the city, an invitation to dine at Spadina was highly coveted. During formal dinners in the 1920s, Mrs. Mary Austin (wife of Albert) always sat at the head of the table, nearest to the kitchen, permitting her to inspect the food when it appeared. A small foot-pedal under the table allowed her to summons the staff surreptitiously to remove empty dishes and to signal when the next course was to be served. Thus, she controlled the pacing of the meal.

In 1951 the Nicolay Dancy Company produced the New Era Potato Chips, touted as a newer and healthier version of the potato chip.
At the time that Nicolay Dancy produced the New Era Potato Chip, there was fierce demand and competition among chip makers to produce this tasty,salty delight. New Era’s tactic was to promote the chip as a healthy food on the alkaline side, although I have no idea why alkalinity was thought to equal healthful. New Era backed up this claim with “science says so.” Otherwise-sensible consumers believed it to be true. Straight from the can, because potato chips didn’t always come in crinkly bags, here’s the scientific claim:

Chemical analysis have proven New Era Potato Chips to be a highly concentrated, energy-producing food, 95% digestible, and of greater alkalinity than even fresh, raw potatoes. Feast without fear!

They also had one of the first telephones in a special room to insulate the loud voices when people had to shout to be heard on the opposite end.

The grand curved staircase in the entrance hall led to the second floor.


There was an intimate sitting room at the top of the stairs (the Blue Room). The bedrooms on the second storey were spacious and well furnished.

There were now 13 bedrooms, most of them for guests. By 1913, the house was complete and appeared much the same as it appears today.

The servants at Spadina were housed on the third floor, each having their own room, though they shared a toilet, bath and sitting room.

The attitude towards servants in those days:
All lower level staff had to be invisible. For example, when the flowers in the palm room needed to be watered the servant had to enter the room only from the basement through a hatch in the floor, and if the access was locked it meant that the owners didn’t want to be disturbed. Or the kitchen entrance: it is located in the front close to the main door but you could never distinguish it because of camouflage with the plants. Or a special porch in the dining room where the meals were delivered unnoticed by the kitchen staff to be served by a specially dressed servant of a higher rank.


  1. Very interesting. I have mentally pronounced the name as Spad in ia, not Spa dine ia. I guess I am a bit common then. The first fridge installed in Toronto is still working!!! Remarkable.

  2. ...this grand home is beautiful inside and out. The wealth that some peopl had back then. Thank Jackie for sharing this gem. Enjoy your week.

  3. What a fascinating place. You got some great shots!
    Thank you for sharing at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2019/09/a-visitor.html

  4. Beautiful shots! I have never been there.

  5. Wow! What a spectacular place with so much to see :) I love places like this where you can learn some history as you wander about.

    Thanks for your link on 'My Corner of the World'! It's lovely to see you this week!

    My Corner of the World

  6. The wrought iron structure over the front door is so unusual and lovely! What fun to tour this house and gardens!

  7. I love beautiful old homes and the Spadina House is certainly that. Thanks to you I got to have a nice visit.

  8. What a beautiful place! I love walking around buildings like these, you learn so much.

    Have a fab weekend. x #MMBC

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