Ireland House in Burlington Ontario is a living history museum with a treasure trove of four generations of family heirlooms.
This museum on the outskirts of Burlington Ontario features a lovely limestone farmhouse built in the Georgian style, outbuildings, farm equipment, and a new but weathered-looking interpretation centre.
The house is a treasure-trove of interesting antique furniture, photos, toys and décor items from the 19th and early 20th centuries. The museum hosts special events during the year that add to the appeal. A recent one that we attended was the Christmas celebration featuring an old-fashioned you-know-who:
One of the remarkable things about Ireland House is the fact that the home was occupied by only one family, the Irelands, for nearly 150 years!
The first Canadian member of the family was Joseph, who came over from England in the early 1800s. He built the house, and four generations lived here and died here. When Lucie Ireland, the last member of the family to occupy the place, died in 1985, she gave the property and its contents to the City of Burlington.
Today, when we change cities as frequently as we change houses, it seems strange to imagine a house staying so long in the possession of one family. We’re so used to putting our own print on places we occupy that it’s hard to picture what it would be like to inherit a home with layers of impressions already built into its foundation. I guess this home is less an individual work of art, and more a group project, with each generation adding layers and touches of its own to a work-in-progress.
Those layers still linger here, although the family is gone, and the museum curators have thoughtfully arranged different rooms to show those different eras. You'll find, for example, a parlour from the first generation, a sitting room from the second generation, and a bedroom from the third generation.
Since the Ireland family were packrats, they rarely threw anything out. The house retains many of the prized possessions of its earliest generations – another rarity, as so many house-museums are decorated with antiques "from the era" but not original to the house.
In a farmhouse, the kitchen was the most important room, and this house has two of them: one in the basement (the first kitchen) and one built onto the side of the house (the 1920s kitchen). If you go during a special event you'll likely find volunteers cooking up treats, as we did for the Christmas event.
Tours and Special Events
On an ordinary day, the price of admission includes a personal tour. You'll be greeted by a guide and taken through the house room by room.
On a special day, like the Christmas event we recently attended, you'll find volunteers posted in each room to give you information. You might find other heritage demonstrators on the grounds, as well, like this blacksmith, making nails (talk about labour-intensive work!).
If you're lucky, you'll be entertained, as we were, by some local musicians as well:
For more information about Ireland House
You can find current information about hours and admission fees at the museum's website at Museums of Burlington.
You may enjoy
Another great history museum that's just a short drive away is the Joseph Schneider Haus in Kitchener Ontario.