It’s a piece of our history that parallels the grand and lavish period in which great British estates like the one depicted in Downton Abbey flourished. In partnership with VisionTV, The Spadina Museum: Historic House and Gardens, Toronto’s Downton Abbey, is launching Downton Abbey Tours to give fans a taste of the lifestyle and surroundings that marked the heyday of Victorian and Edwardian living. Tour guests will be able to immerse themselves in a world very similar to the fictional world of the aristocratic Crawleys, only this one actually existed for four generations of Toronto’s prominent Austin family from 1866 through 1982.
James Austin, a financier and founder of The Dominion Bank and the Consumers’ Gas Company, built Spadina House on the foundations of a previous home built by Dr. William Warren Baldwin in 1836. James and his wife Susan lived in their opulent and spacious mid-Victorian home for over 30 years, raising five children, collecting rich furnishings and art, cultivating beautiful gardens and entertaining groups of guests large and small in high style. The property was taken over by James’ son Albert, his wife Mary and their five children in 1882 five years before James passed away in 1897. Albert and Mary made a number of expansions and additions to the home over a twenty year period, including a two-storey addition in 1898 that included a large kitchen, billiard room, servants’ quarters and a laundry room. In 1905, 1909 and 1912 more was added to the house and grounds including a chic Palm Room, changes to buildings and landscaping on the grounds and a third floor containing new servants’ quarters. The final Austin family Spadina resident was one of Albert and Mary’s daughters, Anna, who lived there for forty years from 1942 to 1982. The Austin family decided to donate the house and all its furnishings to the City of Toronto and it was refurbished and reopened as a Museum in 1984.
Today, The Spadina Museum: Historical House and Gardens has been restored to represent the environment the Austins would have lived in in the 1920s and 1930s, much like the Crawleys’ surroundings in the current season of Downton Abbey. To celebrate the launch of Spadina’s Downton Abbey Tours, 40 contest winners from AM740 ZoomerRadio and Classical96.3fm were recently treated to tea and scones and a preview of Spadina’s new Downton Abbey Tour, including a detailed look at the the newly opened third floor servants’ rooms. There, and in other areas of the house, the tour parallels the characters and events from Downton Abbey to the Austin family. Guests will also get to try their hand at setting a formal table service, imagine the bustling activity of a kitchen that would’ve been Mrs. Patmore’s dream and take in the ambiance of a elegant drawing room that would’ve certainly pleased the discerning eye of the Dowager Countess.
The Spadina Museum’s Downton Abbey Tours will be offered Thursdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:30pm. Regular admission applies. For more info including ticket prices visit: www.toronto.ca/culture/museums/featured-events.htm#spadina, call 416-392-6910 or email [email protected].
ZNews’ Darrin Maharaj got a sneak peek at The Spadina Museum’s new Downton Abbey Tours. Watch his two reports here: