Spadina Museum, often called "Toronto's Downton Abbey," is the City's only museum representing the 1920s and 30s.
Spadina Museum offers a glimpse of Toronto during the 1900-1930 period through the lens of the Austin family. The museum highlights the effects of transformative events on the Austins such as the First World War, the Great Depression and societal changes in Canada. Spadina Museum opened in 1984 and completed an extensive interior restoration in 2010. Spadina's artifacts feature the family's contributions to the financial, business and cultural development of Toronto through an intact collection and archival holdings, music, art and decorative arts.
The site includes six structures: a three-storey large house built in 1866 and enlarged several times up until 1912/1913; a two-storey garage and chauffer’s residence built in 1909; a stable/ gardener’s cottage circa 1850; and a greenhouse built in 1913.
Spadina Museum provides visitors an opportunity to go back in time to a very unique period in Toronto's history. The site offers guided tours of the house and garden, school programs, changing exhibits and workshops, and also hosts one-of-a-kind special events throughout the year.
Seniors (65+): $5.75
Youth (13-18 years): $5.75
Children (6-12 years): $4.87
Children (5 years and under): Free
Holiday season admission (mid-November to early January)
Seniors (65+): $7.08
Youth (13-18 years): $7.08
Children (6-12 years): $5.75
Children (5 years and under): Free
Prices do not include applicable taxes.
Hours of Operation
Group bookings are accepted 7 days a week; morning, afternoon, and evening, year-round.
January 9 to March 31, 2017
Saturday & Sunday: Noon - 5 p.m.
Holiday Mondays: Noon - 5 p.m.
Open for March Break
Monday to Friday, March 13 to 17: Noon - 5 pm
April 1 to Labour Day, 2017
Tuesday to Sunday: Noon - 5 p.m.
Holiday Mondays: Noon - 5 p.m.
September to January
Tuesday to Friday: Noon - 4 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: Noon - 5 p.m.
Holiday Mondays: Noon - 5 p.m.
Closed Mondays (except holiday Mondays), Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day
On-site Services and Accessibility
- Spadina Museum and its grounds can be rented out for special occasions
- Paid parking next door at Casa Loma
- Special needs: fully accessible
Yonge/University subway to Dupont subway station. Exit station and walk north to the Baldwin Steps at the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Davenport Road. Spadina Museum is located at the top of the Baldwin Steps next door to Casa Loma. For specific TTC route and schedule information call 416-393-4636 (INFO) or visit the TTC website.
For over a century, Spadina was home to three generations of the Austin family. In 1866, the property was purchased by businessman and financier James Austin, founder of the Dominion Bank and president of Consumers Gas. The Austins and their children used their 80 acres for farming until James, and later his son Albert, subdivided and sold most of the land. The remaining 5.7 acres include an orchard, a grape arbour and a kitchen garden, along with the more formal areas of lawn and display beds.
The historic house illustrates the evolution of styles from mid-Victorian to 1930s Colonial Revival and includes items from both the Arts and Crafts and Aesthetic Movements, as well as items in the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles. The influence of new technologies such as gas lighting, central heating, electricity and the telephone can be seen here.
Description of Historic Place
Spadina Museum is a brick mansion located north of the Baldwin Steps on Spadina Road at Davenport Hill. The original building was constructed in the Second Empire style by the Irish immigrant James Austin and his wife Susan Bright Austin in 1866. Albert and Mary Austin, James’ son and daughter-in-law, carried out a number of major extensions in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. These extensions included the construction of a new third storey, the renovation of many ground and second-storey rooms, and the addition of a porte-cochère, greenhouse, terrace, garage, and other landscape features.
The Ontario Heritage Foundation (now known as the Ontario Heritage Trust or OHT) and the City of Toronto acquired the property from Albert and Mary Austin’s daughter, Anna Kathleen Thompson, and her son, Austin Seton Thomson, in 1978. The restored Spadina Museum, operated by the City of Toronto, opened to the public in 1984 under the joint ownership of the City and the OHT.
Statement of Heritage Value
- Spadina Museum is located at 285 Spadina Road in Municipal Ward 22. The Museum is a designated historic site under by-law 124-76, adopted by City Council on June 20, 1973 and passed on March 31, 1976. The designation specifically refers to the architectural, historical and contextual value of the house, garage, porte-cochère, and greenhouse.
- The Ravine and Natural Feature Protection by-law is associated with the protection of the local natural landscape; the property is situated on the shoreline of the ancient Lake Iroquois that is protected under by-law 513-2008, added on May 27, 2008. (City of Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 658, Ravine and Natural Feature Protection).
- Spadina Museum is historically significant for its association with the Baldwin and Austin families, whose members made important contributions to Toronto’s political, social, and industrial development. The Spadina residence was a manifestation of the growing wealth and status of these families, first as a country estate and later as an urban dwelling in the heart of the city.
- Spadina Museum reflects a complex archaeological and architectural history. The mansion contains a range of interior and exterior architectural elements that were introduced by the Austin family, as well as some remnants of the earlier Baldwin home. The house and grounds have been subject to regular archaeological assessments since 1982 that have uncovered many thousands of artifacts and traces of older buildings and landscape features.
- Spadina Museum is significant within the context of a larger heritage landscape and community. The property is situated on top of a ridge that once marked the shore of the prehistoric Lake Iroquois, and provides views of downtown Toronto and Lake Ontario. The house is located in its original site within a historic country estate that was gradually absorbed by the expanding city. Spadina Museum is also one of the few surviving examples of the Victorian mansions that were built on Davenport Hill by some of Toronto’s most prominent citizens. The Davenport neighbourhood was an elite, close-knit community that consisted of many relatives, acquaintances, and business associates of the Austin family.
Character Defining Elements
Key elements that define the heritage value of this site include:
- Spadina is associated with the Baldwin family, and is an exceptional example of an early nineteenth-century Upper Canada country estate. The Irish immigrant Dr. William Warren Baldwin (1775-1844) was related by marriage to the Honourable Peter Russell and William Willcocks, who were involved in the planning and governance of the town of York; Dr. Baldwin and his son Robert also occupied a number of public positions in the settlement. William Willcocks was the first owner of the original two-hundred-acre property that had been granted to him in 1798 by John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada. The land passed from Willcocks to the Russell family, and finally to Baldwin’s wife Phoebe upon the death of Peter Russell’s sister, Elizabeth. In 1818 Dr. Baldwin built a two-storey frame house on the crest of Davenport Hill; the name “Spadina” was derived from a native term, perhaps “ishapadenah” or “espadinong” meaning a hill or a sudden rise in the land. The first frame house burned down in 1835, and a smaller one-storey building was built on its ruins one year later.
- The current mansion was constructed on the foundations of the second Baldwin house by James Austin (1813 - 1897) and Susan Bright Austin (1817 - 1907) after they acquired the estate at auction in 1866. James Austin immigrated to Canada from Ireland in 1829 and became a successful wholesale merchant. He apprenticed to William Lyon Mackenzie from 1829 to 1837, and supported Mackenzie’s cause during the 1837 Upper Canada Rebellion. James was a founder and president of the Dominion Bank, as well as the president of the Consumers’ Gas Company in 1874. The estate was significantly altered by James’ son Albert William Austin (1857 - 1934) and his wife Mary (1860 - 1942), who provided the house and grounds with their modern appearance.
- Spadina was home to four generations of the Austin family. The Austins were involved in many aspects of Toronto’s industrial and cultural development; like his father Albert was a board member and director at the Dominion Bank and the Consumers’ Gas Company, as well as the Canada North-West Land Company. He was also a founding member and president of the Spadina Golf Club (later Lambton Golf and Country Club) and the Royal Canadian Golf Association. Albert’s sisters Margaret Louisa and Anne Jane Arthurs were both talented painters; Anne Arthurs was a patron of the arts and young artists in the city, while Mary Austin (née Richmond Kerr) was connected to the Women’s Art Association of Canada, Chamber Music Association and Chamber Music Society, and was both the first vice-president of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the president of the Women's Musical Club of Toronto and the Women’s Orchestral Association.
- There is a significant collection of documents and artefacts relating to the Austin family at the Spadina Museum. The documentary evidence consists of artefact inventories, letters, diaries, photographs, and receipts, many of which are stored on-site. This material has been a valuable resource for the restoration and interpretation of the house and grounds. Additional materials are also available at the City of Toronto Archives and the Archives of Ontario.
- The Museum artefact collection is extensive; it includes original furniture, artwork, gas and washroom fixtures, and miscellaneous objects owned by the Austin family. These artefacts are displayed on-site, and are also stored in various City artifact collection storage facilities.
- James and Susan Bright Austin constructed the third Spadina mansion in 1866 on the site of the earlier Baldwin houses. The Austin home incorporates elements of the Second Empire architectural style along with a combination of later Victorian and Edwardian components; these were added by Albert and Mary Austin during the course of three extensions between 1897 and 1913. The buff brick building is two-and-a-half storeys high, and approximately eight bays long and three bays wide. Some significant exterior elements include the dormer and bay windows, the semi-circular conservatory and surrounding brick and stone terrace, the brick chimneys, the projecting frontispieces on the east and west façade, and the drip molds with botanically-themed carved keystones.
- Spadina Museum’s interior also contains a variety of Victorian and Edwardian architectural styles and furnishings. The house features a central hall with a floating staircase, high baseboards, and hardwood floors, as well as plaster crown moldings and ceiling medallions, original marble, tile and wood fireplace mantels, and a eight-panelled door with sidelights and fan transom that was salvaged from the second Baldwin house. Albert and Mary’s renovations introduced significant alterations to the building’s interior layout; their first major renovation in 1897 involved the construction of a number of new rooms, including a new kitchen and pantry, and a thirty-five foot billiard room designed by the architect W.C. Vaux Chadwick that features an Art Nouveau frieze attributed to the artist Gustav Hahn. In 1912 the Austins constructed an extensive third storey that contained two large bedrooms with adjoining sitting rooms, and separate servants’ quarters.
- The Austins introduced new features and outbuildings to the estate grounds, including a circular driveway, split fieldstone and stucco garage, the greenhouse and potting shed, and the wrought iron and glass porte-cochère designed by the New York architects Carrère and Hastings. The oldest structure on the estate is the mid-nineteenth century wood stable that was attached to the old coach house and remained in use as a gardener’s cottage until the late 1920s.
- Regular archaeological excavations since 1982 have uncovered over 30,000 artefacts at Spadina Museum, including ceramics, glassware, bottles, tableware, and construction debris. There are traces of the internal layout of the first Baldwin frame house and of the fire that destroyed it in 1835, and evidence that parts of the second Baldwin house’s stone foundation walls were incorporated into the 1866 Austin building; the uncovered foundations, excavation pits, and various related archaeological finds are currently on display in the Museum’s exhibit areas. Excavations have also uncovered signs of an icehouse as well as the 1851 Baldwin cottage library where Susan Bright Austin lived until 1907.
- A Phase 1 archaeological assessment conducted by Archaeological Services Inc. in 2007 concluded that future excavations on the property may potentially yield significant Aboriginal finds and further information on Euro-Canadian habitation. All site planning related to Spadina Museum should be undertaken with reference to potential archaeological features, in conjunction with the City of Toronto's Master Plan for Archaeological Resources.
- Spadina Museum is situated within a larger historical landscape and a significant heritage neighbourhood. The Baldwin estate included two hundred acres of farm land and was once separated from the town of York by miles of rural countryside. W.W. Baldwin cleared three hundred feet of trees between the first frame house and the edge of the ridge to the south of the property, and this clearing still provides an unbroken view of downtown Toronto and the lake. Baldwin also oversaw the construction of a causeway that passed through the forest from the house to the lake that was later expanded and renamed Spadina Avenue. Aunt Maria’s Road cuts across the lawn next to the modern building, and was named in honour of Baldwin’s sister-in-law Maria Willcocks. The road led from house to the foot of the hill where it met Davenport Road, and was used as the main carriage drive to the Austin mansion’s first front entrance in James Austin’s time.
- Albert and Mary altered a number of Spadina’s landscape features, including the old orchard, the kitchen and formal gardens, the stone pergola, the field-stone wall, and the Battery that was constructed by James and Susan on the ridge at the south end of the property in 1866. This promontory provides an excellent view of the city, and the family gathered here to watch the Dominion Day fireworks on July 1, 1867. The Battery contained one or two cannons, and was further enhanced between 1900 and 1909 by the addition of a brick crenellated wall in a half circle along its southern edge, as well as a concrete floor that was installed at a later date.
- The Spadina estate was one of many prestigious Victorian houses located on Davenport Hill. These were owned by some of Toronto’s most influential citizens, many of whom were related to the Austins themselves. Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Nordheimer lived next door at the Glenedyth estate, while Albert Austin’s sister Anne Arthurs lived nearby at Ravenswood. Ravenswood was demolished in 1909, and the Eaton family purchased the ten-acre property and constructed the Ardwold mansion shortly thereafter. The majority of these estates have been demolished or replaced, although Sir Henry Pellatt’s Casa Loma, another significant heritage landmark, still stands at 1 Austin Terrace on historic Spadina farmland. The city’s steady expansion had gradually consumed the Spadina property; sections of the estate were sold over time, and only six acres remained when the site was acquired by the City of Toronto and the OHT in 1978.