The House

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Explore the rooms of Eldon House


GROUND FLOOR

kitchen

The Kitchen

The kitchen is part of the 1877 addition and at that time held a large wood-burning stove placed where today’s refrigerator stands. The small gas hot plate is vented to its old chimney. The staff ate at the centre table while the other table was the cook’s work space – there were no counters. Appliances and objects in the cupboards show equipment available in the late 1920s, the period to which the kitchen has been restored. This part of the house was continually kept up to date by the family, who remained in the house until 1960, the year after Milly Harris’s death. Above the door are the bells, once activated by the bell pulls in the family’s part of the house. These were answered by the parlour maid.

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the_larder

The Larder

Conveniently located next to the back door is the unheated area used for the storage of bulk food and large items of kitchen equipment. Groceries were delivered to the house by local tradespeople; the family’s cows provided milk, and vegetables and fruit were grown in the garden by the river.

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front_hall

Front Hall

The entire hall area is covered with Japanese faux leather wallpaper bought in 1897 when the family travelled in Japan. At the entry are an elephant foot umbrella stand, a coco-de-mer, or double coconut, from The Seychelles and a greatly weathered rock once used as a door stop. At the foot of the stairs hangs James Hamilton’s 1841 painting of Eldon House, which shows the house and property looking much as they did when John and Amelia Harris moved into their new home in 1834. Next to the front door is a print of The Great Military Steeple Chase 1843, showing the Court House and the area at the Forks of the Thames.

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library

The Library

During the years 1834 to 1877, this room was the family parlour and the scene of many lively social gatherings; it then became the library and was used as a family room would be today. The cedar ceiling was installed in 1895 and the Japanese wallpaper in the late 1890s. A large cabinet in the room was part of Lucy Ronalds Harris’s inheritance from the Ronalds family and was made in England in 1821 to contain volumes of pressed flowers from Kew Gardens; lower shelves display souvenirs of world travel and other Harris mementos. Delft fireplace tiles belonged to Amelia Harris’s Dutch ancestors. Originally there was a fireplace in every room, the only heat sources in the house. An embroidered pole screen was used to protect a lady’s face from the direct heat. Other notable items include a Art Nouveau leather screen, a needlepoint bell pull used to summon the maid, a small painting of the Rebellion supply ship Caroline, and a document signed by George III making Amelia Harris’s father, Samuel Ryerse, a judge in the new colony of Upper Canada.

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morning_room

The Morning Room

The morning room as it appears today can be considered as a ladies sitting room or office. During the early years of Eldon House, the room was John and Amelia Harris’ bedroom, while their eight (and soon 10) children slept upstairs. In the latter 19th century, the room became a space in which the ladies, Mrs. Harris in particular, would spend the duration of the morning doing their “work.” The work that was enacted included handcrafts such as embroidery and sewing, letter and journal writing, as well as giving daily direction to the servants. Because the “work” of the day was to take place in the morning, it was socially understood that visits to or from friends ought to be short: hence the array of uncomfortable small chairs which can be found in the room. The morning room in Eldon House faces west, which in some Victorian homes was deliberate; there was an assumption in that period that morning sunlight was harmful to the skin, and so the “morning” room’s location tended not to face east. Surrounding the fireplace are blue Delft scriptural tiles that echo the colours of the extensive collection of Chinese and English porcelain. Two Japanese cabinets, acquired during George and Lucy Harris’s around-the-world trip in 1897 to 1898, are separated by three Japanese scrolls mounted as a screen. A larger cabinet, elaborate with carving and ivory panels, holds a variety of Japanese artifacts; a smalle oner, decorated with mother-of-pearl flowers and birds, was used as a radiator cover in the early days of central heating. In sharp contrast is the painted early Canadian etagere with its embroidered door panels; it belonged to John and Amelia Harris when they were married in 1815. The keyboard instrument is a melodeon, a form of miniature organ.

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drawing_room

The Drawing Room

In 1877, Eldon House was considerably enlarged. The addition of this formal, high-ceilinged room enabled Edward and Sophia Harris to entertain more elaborately than had Edward’s parents, John and Amelia. For many years, the drawing room was furnished with High Victorian pieces, but the third generation owners, Ronald Harris and his wife Lorna Gibbons Harris, redecorated it in 1936 using many items the family had collected over the preceding 100 years and creating the quiet elegance it has today.

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back_hall

The Back Hall

Lining the walls are mementos of Ronald Harris’s years in southern Africa as a mining engineer; Ronald was one of the three children of George and Lucy. Most of the trophy heads are identified and dated. Many were shot for food. The skull of a lioness that killed a bearer on an expedition is noteworthy, as is the collection of walking sticks in an elephant foot. The curio cabinet contains small objects brought home from travels all over the world. Next to the drawing room door stands a long case clock, c. 1760. It is American made and bears the Ryerse family swan on its pediment. Above the door to the kitchen is a tarpon caught by Miss Amelia Harris (Milly), Ronald’s sister, in the Gulf of Mexico. The nook by the window was intended as a smoking area for the men of the household.

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pantry

The Pantry

The pantry/servery was the domain of the parlour maid. She served the meals and looked after the china and silver stored in the high cupboards. Since the family retained their dinner services and most of the silver when Eldon House was given to the city in 1960, many items on display here were donated by members of the public. This area was often referred to as the butlers pantry but in fact the Harrises seldom employed a b butler. Sometimes the head gardener, in formal evening attire, assisted the parlour maid in serving at large dinner parties.

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dining_room

The Dining Room

This was the largest room in the house before the Drawing Room was added in 1877. At mealtimes, the table was covered with a white damask cloth; a tapestry day-cloth protected the surface between meals. Successive generations of Harris children used a small high chair that is on display. On the sill of the window bay is a copper tea urn, c. 1820, in which water was kept hot for tea by means of a red-hot iron slug inserted into an interior compartment. A Davenport tea set was originally presented to Leonard Tilley, one of the Fathers of Confederation. The oil portraits and many of the miniatures and silhouettes show members of the Ronalds family (Lucy Ronalds married George Harris in 1867). Behind the collection of miniatures is a lincrusta wallpaper that once covered the entire room. It darkened over the years and was replaced in 1986 by the painted anaglyptic paper. Displayed on the mahogany veneer sideboard (Canadian made, c. 1834) are pieces of Irish Waterford crystal. Beside it is a Regency tea poy, or caddy, kept locked as tea was an expensive commodity in the early 19th century. Some fine pieces of French, Italian and German porcelain are displayed on the small etagere. The ceiling is cedar while the fireplace is black walnut. In the small glass-fronted cupboard at the right-hand end of the fireplace is a china menu; it shows the meal eaten at the last dinner party held at Eldon House, in January, 1960. The brass gong was used to call the family to meals and the “Tantalus”, made from a rhinoceros foot, houses a locked liquor decanter.

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servants_quarters

Servants’ Quarters

These two rooms form part of the Servants’ Quarters, an area consisting in 1930 of four bedrooms, two bathrooms (one used in part for hand laundry) and a sewing room, all on this level, and a staff sitting room opening off the kitchen downstairs. The Sewing Room, where the housemaid did the family mending, now is used as interpretation space and has not been restored. The Maid’s Bedroom, the only one of the original four on view, has been recreated with linoleum, wallpaper and window fittings similar to those available in 1930. The furniture is from the Eldon House collection and may once have been in this room or one of the other staff bedrooms. Small artifacts are suitable for a young Scottish maidservant of the period. The uniform on display was donated by Mary (Kidd) Klojggard, parlourmaid here from 1930 to 1937; she last wore it in this house in January, 1960, when she returned to help serve at the Harris’s final Eldon House dinner party. Two pictures of sheep were donated by Mae Bottrell whose aunt, Euphe- mia Deacon, also was a maid here in the 1930s. Miss Deacon was given the sheep pictures by Lorna Gibbons Harris as a memento of her time at Eldon House.

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SECOND FLOOR

bathroom

The Bathroom

Eldon House had no interior bathroom prior to the 1877 addition. Basins, hip baths, a privy and chamberpots were used, and water was carried up and down the back stairs by the maids. The porcelain fixtures seen here date to about 1915 and are at least the second set to be installed. City water was piped from Springbank reservoir by 1878 but the city sanitary sewer system was not complete until 1898.

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nursery

The Nursery

This reconstructed interior contains a collection of children’s toys and games from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Dolls are made of a variety of materials, including wax, porcelain, composition and leather. A Victorian Gothic cradle was used by several generations of Harris babies.

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red_room

Red Room

Harris family tradition says that the black walnut testerbed, as large as a modern queen-size, was John and Amelia Harris’s marriage bed; they were married in 1815. The Jacquard coverlet was made by John Campbell who brought the first Jacquard loom to Ontario in the 1830s. Its pattern incorporates a design of sumac leaves and is coloured with dyes from the sumac plant. The small footstool holds a pair of stone-ware bed warmers or “pigs” and on the table an oil lamp is a reminder of earlier years. Originally two smaller bedrooms occupied this space; late in the 19th century the partition was removed. Over the 125 years that Eldon House was lived in, the designation of the bedrooms has varied, so while the Red Bedroom may more recently have been used as the Master Bedroom, this was not always the case.

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pink_room

Pink Bedroom

The only remaining fireplace on the second floor is located in this room. In the late 19th century, the grate size was reduced so it could burn coal. The English tiles around it illustrate stories from Shakespeare. On the mantel is typical Victorian bric-a-brac. The half-tester bed is early 20th century. On the table, a writing box holds pens, ink and blotting paper. The Harris family constantly corresponded with absent friends and family members, often writing and receiving several letters a day. The bedrooms are furnished as they were after the family size decreased in the second generation, allowing each person a private bedroom.

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blue_room

Blue Bedroom

A Sheraton-style late 18th century testerbed is covered with a handknitted bedspread made by women of the family. A high-backed prayer chair at the foot of the bed allowed one to kneel yet avoid the chilly floor. A large clothes press of calamander wood, a species of ebony, was made in England c. 1870; early houses lacked built-in closets. A Canadian bird’s eye maple chest, c.1840, holds a dressing case with the monogram of Miss Amelia Archange Harris (Milly). Above it hangs a tinted photograph of her mother, Lucy Ronalds Harris. A lady’s writing desk is actually a converted spinet, a small precursor of the piano. Between the Blue and Pink bedrooms is a small bathroom, installed in the 1940s.

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green_room

Green Bedroom

A walnut four-poster bed, with its painted Florentine canopy, was made in England about 1790; it was inherited by Lucy Ronalds Harris from her English connections. The springs are rope and the original mattress was made of feathers. A small footstool was needed to reach a bed of this height. The bedside commode, also c. 1790, is a reminder that Eldon House was built before the days of indoor plumbing. By the window are two tiny Canadian “Churchwarden” Gothic chairs made of black walnut. The chair with the triangular seat is a 19th century machine-made copy of a hand-made Renaissance chair. This room is part of the 1877 addition and was once connected by a door and a set of steps to the Pink bedroom.

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kitchen
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The Kitchen

The kitchen is part of the 1877 addition and at that time held a large wood-burning stove placed where today’s refrigerator stands. The small gas hot plate is vented to its old chimney. The staff ate at the centre table while the other table was the cook’s work space – there were no counters. Appliances and objects in the cupboards show equipment available in the late 1920s, the period to which the kitchen has been restored. This part of the house was continually kept up to date by the family, who remained in the house until 1960, the year after Milly Harris’s death. Above the door are the bells, once activated by the bell pulls in the family’s part of the house. These were answered by the parlour maid.