Annandale House

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!

Photo by Guylaine Spencer

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. 

The People Behind Annandale House

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 Ann.

First Floor of Annandale House

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:

Ian MacEachern Photo

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!

Ian MacEachern Photo

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.

Ian MacEachern Photo

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.

Ian MacEachern Photo

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.

Ian MacEachern Photo

Staircase Windows

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 the distance.

Ian MacEachern Photo

In another, an Aboriginal family stands in front of their tent.

What's going on here?

Ian MacEachern Photo

Second Floor

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.

Ian MacEachern Photo

Third Floor

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.

The Gardens

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).

Photo by Guylaine Spencer

Tillsonburg Ontario

If you’re going to visit Annandale House, icheck 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 (official site) at 30 Tillson Avenue, Tillsonburg Ontario.

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