Chances are you've heard about the big museums Toronto has to offer. Maybe you're even a frequent visitor to places such as the ROM — but have you ever heard of the Spadina Museum? As a point of reference, one might call it Casa Loma's little sister. But what it lacks in magnitude it makes up for in historical knowledge and personal attention. It only costs $7.96 for an adult's admittance and the price is even less for students, seniors and children. The entry fee grants you admission to their unique basement layout, the historical displays they are currently holding as well as a guided tour of the house. That's a whole lot of fun for half the price of a movie ticket!
A Film to Start Things Off
To give you a little bit of a back story before you see the place, a short movie is provided. It gives you a brief description of what was occurring in Toronto in the '20s as well as an overview of the history of Spadina House. In 1866 a man by the name of James Austin purchased the home from the Baldwin family. He then built an entirely new home on the old foundations. Since then, four generations of Austins lived in the home before partially selling, partially donating the building to the city of Toronto for heritage purposes. Although the Austins lived in the house from 1866 to 1978, the majority of it has been returned to the style it was during the roaring '20s. Historians went through photos, documents, the remnants of the home and the accounts of surviving relatives to recreate the home in as close a representation of what it was at that time. This provides you with a one of a kind glimpse into the past. As soon as you walk up the stairs from the basement you will feel as though you have entered a whole new world!
A Tour of the Home
You aren't able to walk freely amongst the upper floors of the house, but don't despair! Under the guidance of a knowledgeable and friendly guide, you are granted a tour of the home that will be far more captivating than if you explored it on your own. The tour begins at the grand entrance-way, then winds through the various sitting rooms — from the living room to the green room, then, by what was once dubbed the "reception hall", through the radio sitting room and then out to the great billiard space. Along the way you'll learn nifty facts such as why old couches all have wheels on the bottom and what technological advances were being made at the time. And you'll certainly want to keep your eyes peeled for all the trap doors in the floor — make sure to ask your tour guide what those are all about! You'll then meander through the servants' side of the house that includes the kitchens and the cold storage. After taking a peek at the elaborate dining room you'll working your way up the grand staircase towards the upstairs readings rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. Don't worry — any feelings of envy you have at the size of their closets and exquisite sitting rooms is completely normal!
Other Exciting Exhibits
Touring the home is an extremely interesting experience. But the museum also offers many other displays you can check out. In the basement they hold rotating exhibits. At the moment, you can learn cool facts about the history and development of carpets, tapestries and rugs. You can also walk through some of the basement rooms where portions of the floors, walls and ceilings have been left uncovered. This gives you a unique look at what went into constructing the foundations of the place — and how those foundations were altered over the years. Because the Austins used the original foundations created by the Baldwins and then continued to make updates as their wealth grew, the layers of building are quite fascinating. Along the way you'll discover cases containing items they found buried in the soil under the house, in the walls and around the grounds while they excavated the site. Aspirin bottles, doll pieces, china fragments, horseshoes, cutlery, animal bones and toothbrushes are just some of the rare artifacts they uncovered. And for a mini botanical tour you can enjoy a walk through the expansive backyard gardens. Each flower bush has a labelled placard so you can learn the names of your favorite ones.
So Much to See!
The regular tours run roughly every hour and last about 45 minutes. And if you visit on the weekend you can experience one of their special tours. For something the kids will really get a kick out of, check out their "It's a Kid's Life" tours on Saturdays and Sundays where the little ones will get a unique glimpse at what it was like to be a child in the '20s.
You'll find the museum at 285 Spadina Road. You can easily access it by walking straight North along Spadina from Dupont station. Or if you're driving, paid parking is available across the street at Casa Loma. For more information, don't hesitate to call them at 416-392-6910. It's sure to be a fun summer activity you and your family won't soon forget!
Seniors (65 +): $4.76
Youth (13-18 yrs.): $5.75
Children (6-12 yrs.): $4.87
Children (5 yrs. and under): Free
Hours of Operation
January – March
Saturday – Sunday: Noon – 5 p.m.
April – Labour Day
Tuesday – Sunday: Noon – 5p.m.
Holiday Mondays: Noon – 5 p.m.
September – January
Tuesday – Friday: Noon – 4 p.m.
Saturday – Sunday: Noon – 5 p.m.
Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve: Noon – 3 p.m.
www: Spadina Museum
address: 285 Spadina Road