by Becky Dumais
This little slice of local antiquity is easy to miss. It’s tucked behind a long driveway on Guelph Line, just north of Pinemeadow Drive in Burlington. You’ve probably seen the signage often enough: Ireland House at Oakridge Farm, but what is it exactly? It’s a must-see historic homestead that allows you to travel back to the Victorian era to see the story of a family unfold.
Joseph Ireland, one of the area’s earliest settlers, emigrated from England in 1819 at the age of 27. He petitioned for the land, and the rest is history. Construction of the home took place from 1835 to 1837, and it remained in the family for nearly 150 years. Today 4 acres of woodland, gardens, a potting shed, a cottage/drive shed, and picnic areas remain intact.
The City of Burlington purchased the acreage from the estate of Lucie Marie Ireland Bush, established a museum, and restored the home to reflect three distinct time periods: the 1850s, 1890s and the1920s. The home is accurately and authentically furnished – ninety per cent of the furniture and accessories are the family’s original possessions.
The Victorian parlour is a grand example of the formal entertaining that once occurred in the homestead and also speaks to the Ireland family’s social standing. The tall grandfather clock in the room, dated 1742, has only one hand and tells the time in hours. The sick room, located on the main floor, is also called the “coming and going” room since it was where family members were born, died and were prepared for burial. With few doctors nearby, families were forced to look after themselves. Most often the mother or grandmother would serve as doctor, nurse and pharmacist.
Although the home has three kitchens, the cellar kitchen is the original. Adjacent to the kitchen is the cellar workroom where food was prepared (from butchering to butter making) and stored. During the 1890s the summer kitchen was used in order to avoid making the house any hotter than it already was. The third kitchen, from the 1920s, features modern day finishes such as a linoleum floor, a Hoosier cabinet, a stove and an icebox.
The enclosed woodshed and privy are side-by-side. The privy conveniently has three holes of various sizes and at different heights. The privy also functioned as a garbage disposal. It seems the only thing worse than taking out the trash these days was having to do it 100 years ago!
In keeping with Victorian attitudes and decorum, the Safe/Slip room upstairs, where some of John Ireland’s daughters slept, must have been good for keeping kids in check. The only way to exit the room is through the main bedroom.
Whether it’s a candlelit tour or a daytime visit, touring Ireland House at Oakridge Farm is a worthwhile family experience and a great way for kids to learn about Burlington’s history.
Ireland House History
According to the 1861 Agricultural Census list, Oakridge Farm had 180 acres cultivated, 128 acres under crops, and 50 acres of pasture, 2 acres of orchards or gardens, 70 acres of woods. The cash value of Oakridge Farm was $20,000 and the farming implements/machinery was worth $657.
Source: “The Ireland Family at Oakridge Farm, Tracing one of Burlington’s Oldest Families”
Mother’s Day Tea & Springtime Celebration
Sunday, May 12, 11am – 4pm
$20 per person
Enjoy tea and other fineries with Mom.
Wedding Expo &
Sunday, June 2, 11am – 4pm.
Features the newest exhibit, “As You Wish: 200 Years of Wedding Fashion History”. Tea-style refreshments will be available.
Museum/Gift Shop Hours
Tuesday – Friday: 10am-4:30pm