Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Visiting Mackenzie House

Mackenzie House is one of ten Heritage Sites operated and maintained by the City of Toronto. It's a great little museum that I visited by chance last Friday - and loved every minute of it.

I was actually on my way to Montgomery's Inn, another Heritage Site, riding the subway westbound, when an announcement on the train told me that the service was temporarily suspended between St. George and Ossington stations. This being a new and unexpected development, I figured it would be a while before shuttle buses showed up, and abruptly decided to visit Montgomery's Inn another day.

Good thing that Mackenzie House is located in the heart of downtown, just two streets east of Eaton Centre, so I could go there instead. Located at 82 Bond Street, it blends in with the area quite well, but you wouldn't miss it.

The exterior of Mackenzie House
William Lyon Mackenzie was Toronto's first mayor, a print shop owner and a total trouble starter. Working in print shops and dealing with lots and lots of politically charged materials (mostly newspapers and pamphlets) got him interested in politics and even more interested in making Upper Canada a self-governing entity.

Mackenzie advocated for the creation of a constitution and an overthrow of the British rule, which culminated in the Upper Canada Rebellion in 1837 (that failed) and his escape and subsequent exile in the US. That didn't stop him from continuing his fight by capturing an island in the Niagara River and proclaiming it a republic (with a flag and everything) to continue attacking the British militia installed in Upper Canada (Ontario). Well done, guy.
A bounty of 1000 pounds was offered for the fugitive rebellion leader and traitor William Lyon Mackenzie.
I won't include all of the stories of Mackenzie's adventures here, because they are best heard from the museum guides! But long story short, Mackenzie was eventually pardoned by the new responsible government of Upper Canada and returned to Toronto in 1850. The house now known as Mackenzie House was purchased for him by his friends and supporters. He died there in 1861.

Mackenzie House was a typical middle-class household. It had a spacious basement kitchen and dining room where the Mackenzie family ate and spent time together.
The basement dining room.
There were two bedrooms and a boardroom on the second floor.
One of the beds in the second bedroom.

Three Mackenzie daughters shared two beds, it seems.
Last but not least, there also were a beautiful parlour and a dining room on the first floor that were only used to entertain guests. (Mackenzie himself used the first floor dining room as his office.)
The dining room/office.

A rented piano (Mackenzies were a middle-class family who couldn't afford to buy one).
The house had no running water or electricity, but boasted gas lighting and appliances that were very modern for its day.
This would be your shower facilities in the Victorian era.

Genuine (and fully functional) gas lamps.
The museum has also recreated Mackenzie's print shop at the entrance of the museum, complete with the original printing press and types.

Hopefully, the cow was claimed by its rightful owner.
You should definitely stay for that part of the tour! This is when you get to try out the press and make a little something for yourself to keep as a souvenir.

Admission to Mackenzie House is only $7, which includes a guided tour by knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides. They also host regular Victorian cooking workshops in the basement kitchen, haunted walks and cemetery tours in the city, as well as a variety of other unique events. Follow Mackenzie House on Twitter and give it a like on Facebook to stay tuned!