Annandale House in Tillsonburg
Ontario is a National Historic Site and a rare beauty decorated in the
Aesthetic Art Movement. Impressive from the outside, you’ve got to see the
INSIDE of this place to believe it!
I have a new house-crush on a buff-brick beauty. The sweetheart in question is Annandale House in Tillsonburg.
The house was built in 1880. Well, at least that’s when construction
began. It wasn’t until 1883 that the owners moved in. So it took about 3 years
to build. You will understand why when you see all the detail that went into this mansion.
First, a little detail about
the people who commissioned the building of the luxurious Annandale House.
Their name was Tillson – E.D. and Mary Ann Tillson. That’s right, the town was
named after them, but not the house. Well, technically the town was named after
the first Tillsons to settle in the area, E.D.’s dad and mom, George and Nancy
Tillson, who started its first businesses and laid out its first streets. They
came to the area in the 1830s but the town wasn’t officially incorporated as a
town until 1872. At that point, one of their sons, E.D., was old enough to
become Tillsonburg’s first mayor. He was also an entrepreneur. One of his
claims to fame was Tillson’s Pan Dried Oats which were sold around the world. His
special technique eventually wound up in the hands of Quaker Oats. It’s this
man who commissioned the building of Annandale for himself and his wife Mary
Three floors of the house are open to visitors. The tour is
self-guided, but they give you a little print-out with info on the rooms to
take along. The first floor has the public rooms and they are the most
impressive. Take for example the dining room:
The decoration on the ceiling and walls is just overwhelming! These Victorians never heard of the saying “Less is More”. More is More here. And what a joy to see.
The library is impressive as well. It has this huge desk – very intimidating. About the size of a bed!
And look at this “buffalo horn chair” on the left hand side. It could win a prize for ugliest novelty furniture of the century, but I think the contrast between the macho buffalo horns and the delicate embroidered seat is hilarious.
The parlour, where the family did their entertaining, is another area filled with colourful touches. The wife, Mary Ann, played the piano and the organ.
The artist James Walthew spent four years painting the ceiling. There’s
a flower theme here in the ceiling and in the stained glass above the doors.
The stained glass in this house is amazing! The glass in the staircase
windows is very curious. In one scene, a settler shoots at something unseen in
In another, an Aboriginal family stands in front of their tent.
What's going on here?
The second floor is home to bedrooms and a smoking room. Even though
they’re more private, these spaces still get special treatment like decorated
ceilings, but not quite as elaborate as the public spaces below.
The third floor has offices but it also houses a display on the Tillson family and their businesses, which gives you some insight into the community as a whole, since they played such a large part in it development.
Copious flowers surround the mansion and give it a homey look. Out back is a
curious little two-storey shed made of the same brick as the house but much
simpler in design. This was E.D.’s office (or possibly his man-cave, as he
already had that fancy library with the big desk inside).
If you’re going to visit Annandale House, it’s worth your while to check out the lovely little downtown main drag and also the former train station which has been renovated and turned into a charming art gallery selling the work of local artists and artisans. There’s also a very pretty park with a small lake and waterpark for children just a block away from the main street.
You can visit Annandale House at 30 Tillson Avenue, Tillsonburg Ontario.