In 1978 Anna Kathleen Thompson, daughter of Albert Austin, donated Spadina house, its contents, and the remaining land, to the City of Toronto Cultural Services with the intention of it becoming a museum. Since then, a remarkable team of historical specialists, curators, conservators, collections co-ordinators, archivists, museum administrators, and craftspeople have restored and dressed the home as it would have appeared during its glory years in the 1920s.
James Austin, founder of Toronto Dominion Bank and Consumer's Gas, acquired the property in 1866 and created a home for 4 generations of the Austin family. The museum features many new and exciting technologies from this progressive era - central heating, gas lighting, electricity, modern bathrooms, and a telephone room. Most importantly, it is an absolute dream of home decor as the Austins had immaculate aesthetic taste (think Downton Abbey but less grand and Canadian).
The textures of the family's history, and their existence in the home during the 1920s, is palpable as you move from room to room. The atmosphere is perfect, from authentic paint colour, to carpet pattern and material, wall paper reproduction, linoleum flooring, portrait placement, plant collection, and item arrangement. Anna Kathleen Thompson seemingly kept everything, allowing the museum to be entirely accurate and specific to the family and their lives spent there. Our tour guide told us that the kitchen oven, present in the museum today, had been in use when the house was donated to the city. Not much had changed over the centuries save for the addition of such modern items as a television (I imagine in some resemblance to Grey Gardens, though I'm sure that the house didn't suffer nearly the same neglect).
In Part 1 we featured the unfinished 3rd floor where some of the servants quarters have since been completed and are now open to the public. In Part 2 we featured the extraordinary grounds and gardens, as seen during our visit last spring. In addition to our previous posts, I also recommend visiting the virtual exhibition, Romance Under Foot, curated by Neil Brochu (who once allowed me the honour of ironing and placing a table linen) to review information about oriental rugs, carpets, decorating trends and view some images of the inhabited Spadina house.
PS - you many notice my attention towards the dried flower arrangements. They're created by a volunteer that I simply must meet and express my admiration for her work.