The house was built in 1895 by Hugh Williams, a miller. It has an abundance of gingerbread decoration on the exterior, with flower-patterned, wrought-iron cresting at the top of a bay window. The town bought the house in 1964 but it had become derelict by the time Hughes bought it from the town by tender in 1984.
Please take care of our heritage homes as they are only around once.
In 1980 an old frame house near Old Sly’s Lock was going to be renovated and turned into a world class museum called Heritage House. Not everyone believed in the project, and some thought it should be located closer to town and more accessible to those on foot. Of course there was the fact that the structure was frame and not stone like the stone mill that was in disrepair at the time. Many thought attention should be made to stone and not frame. In the end the old mid century home sold for the sum of $13,500 and the property was Crown land administered by Parks Canada.
Photo- Linda Seccaspina
The frame building that had suffered a fire and neglect still had a lot of historical value as it was once inhabited by Truman Russell Ward, his wife Annabelle Chambers and their two children. Truman was the son of Able Russell Ward founder of the town of Smiths Falls. Anabelle’s Dad Captain McGill Chambers had donated the land and original building to the Smith’s Falls Hospital and the land to St. Francis Roman Catholic Church.
The house had many mysteries which were: hidden walled over fireplaces, a built in bake oven, and an unusual glass pattern in the casement windows. Plans were called to restore eight rooms in 1860s fashion and a rotating display room in the upper floor of the shed with the bottom floor housing a gift shop. Parks Canada plans at the time called for vegetable garden and an apple orchard.
If you have not visited this museum — you are missing a real historical treat.
Abel Russell Ward was the first resident of Smith Falls in 1826 or 1827, building a log house on what became Beckwith Street, close to the site of the canal locks soon to be built. When the Rideau Canal was first being constructed, and early settlement of Smiths Falls had begun, the two largest landholders in the area were Abel Russell Ward and William Simpson. Both of these men set aside plots of land for their own private cemeteries. When the settlers living in Smiths Falls needed a place to bury their dead, they would often approach Ward or Simpson, requesting space in their private burial grounds. CLICK HERE FOR MORE
Able Russell Ward – one of the founders of Smiths Falls. I am told that this headstone, which sits in the area to the left of the office, has the letters UEL (United Empire Loyalist) on the stone. I am also told that United Empire Loyalists were people who in some way participated in the War of Independence in 1776. Historians tell me that there is no way that Mr. Ward could have been a member of UEL as he wasn’t born until 20 years later! Though he may well be the child or grandchild of a member.
Lavenia Mirrick, the wife of Able Russell Ward. Directly related to those who founded Merrickville and also the person behind the names Lavenia Street and Merrick Street. Also of note, Able Street, Russell Street, and the fact that at one time, a part of Smiths Falls was named Wardsville.
A visit to Heritage House includes a tour of 8 period rooms furnished to depict the lifestyle of the times. The Museum’s unique mirror-image facades, indoor brick bake oven and two-story privy preserve an atmosphere of the past in the once derelict house. Enjoy a picnic near our gardens or take a short stroll through parkland to the Rideau Canal and Old Sly’s Lockstation. Presented year round are changing exhibitions and art shows, a variety of special events, workshops and school and children’s programs. Also available are meeting space rentals, gift shop and a Victorian setting for wedding ceremonies and photographs.
11 Old Sly’s Rd,
Smiths Falls, Ontario, K7A 3M3
Heritage House Museum–Smiths Falls- photo–Expedia.ca
You know what’s disturbing in today’s world? When a story about a lost pig in Dalhousie Township gets way more views than a local museum parting with one of their prime time players. Heritage House Museum in Smiths Falls losing its curator Carol Miller really upset me because everyone needs to realize that this could happen in any of your towns, any day, anytime. If we don’t do anything to stop the hemorrhaging; I can guarantee you that these local gems will slowly disappear.
Getting people inside the door is important to keep the local lights on. Sure, dinosaurs get people into the larger doors, but what about the smaller museums that showcase the inventiveness and the life stories of local individuals and events?
I admire our larger national museums, but these are not the places that teach me about the history of your Grandparents and the people who built our communities. Of course they have spectacular exhibitions and elaborate marketing– but in reality, there are limits to how big they can grow, unlike our smaller museums. Personally, I want to involve myself in a world that lets me experience the vision of a passionate local citizen and the community these people lived in.
Long ago museums used to be similar to a men’s club and you were not allowed to ask questions or even touch in their pristine sanitary world. Now, because of grants being cut and the loss of major donations, museums have had to create a new way of thinking and exploration. The curators and their dedicated volunteers have to learn a new perspective for planning, budgeting, and organizational assessment, and they should be appreciated and supported, not have hours cut, or laid off.
They now have major challenges searching new directions and especially dealing with traditional thinking board members. New ideas to some of these folks are downright scary in part because they challenge traditional professional standards, roles, and practices. Now smaller museums have entered an era in which it is more important than ever to demonstrate that the history that built their local towns are relevant today to their communities. The traditional activities of collecting, preserving, researching, exhibiting, and interpreting are simply no longer adequate. In this day and age of social media, let’s face it– people want to be entertained.
My only argument in all of this is– that some museums need to pick up their game and really understand how huge social networking is. There could be so much attention and curiosity that a couple of million people could bring to them. Smaller museums could turn their curating into wonderful tools that would in turn encourage patronage to investigate the local ambience of the lost time from which those objects and people have come to us.
But, all of this can only come from the original sources of local and personal stories that our local museums house and protect. We need to look through the lens of the past and realize what we wouldn’t have if our local museums didn’t exist, or were even worse– were rolled into one regional museum. All of us need to seriously think about what a 911 situation this whole matter has become and do something about it today as– there might not be a tomorrow.
Small details make perfection.. But perfection is no small detail–Michelangelo
“The LOW family has always been an adventurous sort. While in 2008 a trip from Ottawa to Buffalo could easily be done in a day, a century ago, this was a true adventure. James Low, then age 47, along with his three oldest sons, John Edward Low 19, James Low Jr 18 and William Wilson Low 15 travelled from Ottawa to Niagara Falls and Buffalo by car, steamer, and train”.
The Rideau Hotel, built by Charles O’Reilly in 1901, as photographed circa 1910 with an automobile taxi, horse drawn and horseless hotel busses out front preparing to drive to the CPR station to pick up travellers. This photo is taken from the publication, Smiths Falls A Social History of the Men and Women in a Rideau Canal Community, 1794 -1994, by Glenn J. Lockwood.
Paying a visit to Heritage House on Thursday in Smiths Falls.
The pathway to beautiful exhibits– THIS WAS LAST YEARS BUT THE DISPLAYS REMAIN THE SAME.
Lustre Ware you say ? Oh my lustre!
Calling cards were mass-produced in the 1850’s when printers often had calligraphers on their staff to pen the customer’s name on lavishly colored printed cards. But it wasn’t until after the Civil War in 1865 that calling cards became a highly ritualized social grace where both men and women used the cards at all manner of social occasions. Floral designs were used by both men and women and cards were available in rectangle as well as oval.
Obviously the help worked here:)
Laundry or Lustre Ware? Oh that choice is easy.
Ladies pursued their card leaving rounds according to the rules that finally appeared in etiquette books from the 1880’s and on. Featured in most Victorian homes in the entry hall was always a table where parcels could be left and more importantly, where a silver tray or porcelain receptacle sat for receiving calling cards. The height of the card pile might be interpreted as a clue to the social standing of the hostess. Harper’s Bazaar reported in the 1890’s that “cards were dropped by the thousand.”
Men kept their cards usually in their vest pockets, while women carried theirs in elegant cases sometimes made of silk or leather, ivory, tortoise shell or silver.
Suitor flowers? Oh my word!
Etiquette dictated that a married woman would leave her card for the lady of the house along with her husband’s card, even if he wasn’t with her. She also left a card for each of her adult daughters.
A new dress perhaps?
Leaving cards at important homes also served as a means of social advancement. Most afternoon social life was spent making calls, allowing 30 minutes per visit, and leaving a card at each house. The woman of the house, the hostess, was usually in afternoon dress…always choice and delightful. Her guests might find her busy with some elegant lace or wool-work, writing letters, or sketching.
Like the fan, the calling cards carried meaningful messages. If a young man should present a young lady with his card asking if he might escort her home, she could either rest her fan on her right cheek, meaning “yes” or she could return the card with the appropriate corner turned up indicating yes or no. Or she could hand her card to the chap she most wanted to accompany her.
Hand painted and beautiful
Behold my surprise when I find an amazing doll house in one of the rooms of the museum. Every little girl’s dream!
A vistor folded down the upper right hand corner if she came in person.
A folded upper left corner indicated she stopped to leave her congratulations.
A folded lower right corner said goodbye.
A folded lower left corner offered condolences.
By the turn of the century the excitement of calling cards had faded. With a little searching one may still find calling cards in antique shops.
A visit worth every penny- bring the family and bring a picnic..Picnic area available
A visit to Heritage House built by Joshua Bates includes a tour of 8 period rooms furnished to depict the lifestyle of the times. The Museum’s unique mirror-image facades, indoor brick bake oven and one of only two-story privy in eastern Canada (more on that later) preserve an atmosphere of the past in the once derelict house. Enjoy a picnic near our gardens or take a short stroll through parkland to the Rideau Canal and Old Sly’s Lockstation. Presented year round are changing exhibitions and art shows, a variety of special events, workshops and school and children’s programs. Also available are meeting space rentals, gift shop and a Victorian setting for wedding ceremonies and photographs.