Thursday, February 1, 2024

Not the King

Following another suggestion taken from “111 Places in Toronto That You Must Not Miss”, we walked down to visit the Mackenzie House Museum which was not far from the condo. It was a damp day with rain threatening so we did not want to venture too far. 

Mackenzie House Museum

Sandwiched between another old house and overshadowed by a massive new condo construction we located the narrow brick house identified by a nice “Free Admission” sandwich board out front. The museum signs all said “open” and clearly pointed to an entrance door which, when tried was securely locked. Slightly confused we turned to leave, but noticed a friendly face inside waving and gesturing for us to come back. 

After an apology for the locked entrance, we were welcomed to the museum and offered a guided tour. Our friendly museum employee, was a cheerful young lady who really seemed to enjoy her job as she guided us through the house. 

The Mackenzie house museum was the home of William Lyon Mackenzie. He was the first mayor of Toronto as a city, a newspaper publisher and the grandfather of William Lyon Mackenzie King, the tenth Prime Minister of Canada. 

A really good guide

The house tour itself resulted in another apology from our guide, for the house had suffered serious damage from a flood caused by a faulty sprinkler system and many walls and ceilings had to be torn out and the furniture had been moved to storage. As a result pre-flood photos and descriptions from our helpful guide allowed one to imagine what the house must have been like. Having done a bit of framing and carpentry in my time, I actually enjoyed seeing the exposed skeletons of the rooms and the talented commentary of our guide filled in the missing plaster, wallpaper, and furnishings. 

I assumed that as a newspaper publisher and city mayor, the home owner would have been wealthy but in fact Mr. Mackenzie struggled financially all his life and this house had been purchased for him by supporters and he had difficulty maintaining it. At one point he had to let their maid go because he could not afford to pay her, and the family lived in only a section of the house in the winter to cut down on heating costs. 

A house in need of repair

Attached to the house was also a replica of the sort of printing facility Mr. Mackenzie would have used. His actual printing press was located in another building downtown, but the various authentic period printing machinery gave a picture of how Mr. Mackenzie made his living. Our guide demonstrated the printing press and we left with a printed copy of one of his newspapers. 

I had expected that the museum was dedicated to prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie (King), but the information about his grandfather was very interesting and I walked away with a greater understanding of this city and it’s history thanks in large part to our really dedicated tour guide. 

The front room (Use your imagination)

The kitchen in the basement

The Printing Press

Printing equipment

Printed papers

Just a nice picture

Tools of the trade

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