Editorial By: Barbara Teatero | Photography By: Dr. Christopher Cooper
Exceptional for many reasons, Ireland House is a valuable historic structure – an architecturally intact farmstead – which remained in continued use by one family for five generations. While Burlington has grown from a small village to a city, the traditions of the past have been preserved in Ireland House. In addition to its role in the community, Ireland House represents the evolution of family life from Georgian times to the present.
The front entry hall
Ireland House was the home of Joseph Ireland, who was one of Burlington’s earliest settlers. Following his oldest brother’s footsteps, Joseph emigrated to Canada from Bowes, Yorkshire, England in 1819 and established himself on 100 acres in Nelson Village. By 1835, Joseph had bought the land on which Oakridge Farm was built.
The south side of the house shows off a lovely portico with original 12/8 and 12/12 sashes
The working summer kitchen stove is still used for programs at the museum.
The main part of the house was constructed between 1835 and 1837. The home was built in the late Georgian style from local fieldstone and appears to have been influenced by the architecture of the manor homes in Joseph’s native Yorkshire. The stone construction was parged with scored stucco to give the illusion of ashlar stonework. Although the house shows the classic elements of Late Georgian, it exhibits a distinct Canadian vernacular appearance – a myriad of Classic, Greek Revival, and Regency elements. An addition to the house about 1840 altered the original symmetrical Georgian balance, and appears to be a variation of the Neoclassical ‘five-bay front’. Further, a woodshed and summer kitchen was added to the west end of the house in 1890.
The workroom cellar with a beautiful cobbled floor.
The home exhibits many late Georgian designs based on symmetry, proportion and an overall simplistic design. Among these elements: the main doorway centre of the façade with two equally spaced windows on either side; the second storey corresponding windows above with a fifth window over the doorway; a steep pitched roof with large chimneys inset on either side; a central hallway running full depth with principal rooms disposed equally on either side; the second floor has an identical layout to the first with a central hall and bedrooms off either side; the windows set close to the outer surface of the splayed window opening with panelled, folding, interior shutters.
A 1920’s bedroom, all the furniture and even the toys were owned by the Ireland family.
Among the elements that deviate from the Georgian style are: slightly smaller windows, a Neoclassical feature; the back porch covered with a skirt roof; plain, unadorned supporting columns along the north side or back of the house is reminiscent of the Regency style; the six-paneled front door, at one time having an unobstructed view of Lake Ontario and Burlington Bay is flanked by sidelights and exhibits a Greek style.
A very original hall stove has been ingeniously placed between three spaces to provide heat, with the stove pipe heating bedrooms upstairs
Exquisite Faux finish work is well executed throughout the house.
Ireland House at Oakridge Farm was occupied by Joseph and his descendants up until 1985. In 1987, the City of Burlington purchased the property from the estate and established a museum, restoring the homestead to three distinct time periods: 1850s, 1890s and 1920s. Ninety percent of the furnishings are original to the Ireland family, while the restoration of other missing elements brings the Museum back to its feeling of a period home and significantly, a working farm. The property consists of four acres of woodland, gardens, potting shed, cottage/drive shed and picnic areas.