Two Centuries of History

The beautifully restored parlour. Photo courtesy: Hutchison House Museum

The Link, Spring 2018
| by T.K Rouse |

Two hundred years ago in 1818 Dr. John Hutchison came to Canada from Kirkcaldy, Scotland. He lived in Cobourg, Cavan and Port Hope before settling in Peterborough in 1830, moving into the wooden house built by Adam Scott. The doctor, his wife Martha and their children soon needed better housing. In then1830s Peterborough houses were few and far between and made of logs or wood frame and plaster. The Hutchisons considered moving on to Toronto. In fear of losing the good doctor, the townspeople offered to build the family a home.

Constructed of local quarried stone and donated materials, Hutchison House was built by volunteer labour. It was a one-and-a-half-storey gable end house with a raised front entrance. The hillside site allowed for a walk-out basement kitchen, giving three floors of living space.

In 1845, the house became the first Canadian home of the young Sandford Fleming; a cousin of Dr. Hutchison. Fleming fell in love with and married Jeannie, one of the daughters of Peterborough County Sheriff James Albro Hall. The Halls were neighbours and Fleming’s first job was working in Hall’s store. Among his many achievements, Fleming invented standard time. His residence here makes the 180-year-old house a place of international historic interest.

“Forty years ago in 1978 Hutchison House opened as a living museum.”

The doctor’s office. Photo courtesy: Hutchison House Museum

Unfortunately, the Hutchison family resided in the house less than a decade. Dr. Hutchison fell victim to a typhus epidemic in 1847. As a woman, Martha was unable to inherit the property and their eldest sons were away being educated in Scotland. Martha and the family stayed in a cottage on the Hall property before eventually moving to Toronto.

In 1851, the house was sold to James Harvey. The Harvey family built a brick addition onto the back. Hutchison House remained in the Harvey family for several generations. The house was bequeathed to the Peterborough Historical Society (PHS) in 1969 by Jeanette Connal Brown. The PHS was established in 1897. Their first museum was located in Inverlea House, which was eventually demolished. They relocated to space in the Carnegie Public Library on George Street when it was built in 1911. The PHS carefully restored the original stone portion of the house to the mid-1800s period and made the building their home base. Forty years ago in 1978 Hutchison House opened as a living museum.

Two centuries of history and now 40 years as a living museum! Exhibit rooms include an 1840s era doctor’s study with furniture, medical instruments, books and an early Victorian parlour. One room is dedicated to Sir Sandford Fleming and it contains Fleming’s 1846 detailed map of Peterborough and Ashburnham, his sextant and survey equipment. There is a children’s bedroom with 1880s toys. Open-hearth cooking is demonstrated in the Keeping Room which is the heart of the house. There are period gardens where cooking and medicinal herbs are also grown.

On May 27, Hutchison House will celebrate its 40th Anniversary. Come celebrate with a visit to this beautifully restored local treasure!

Upcoming Events this Spring

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
April 22 • 2 to 4 pm
Guests are invited to wear their best or craziest hats. A light lunch of savouries, sweets and tea will be served in the Keeping Room. Tours of the house will be led by costumed interpreters. Pre-registration is required as space is limited. Cost $25 per person.

Heritage Luncheon
May 2 and June 6 • Sittings at 12 and 1:30 pm
Call to reserve advance tickets for the delicious homemade heritage luncheons served by costumed interpreters. $15 for a full meal with beverages and dessert.

Rhubarb Spring Fling
May 23 • 1 and 2 pm • Pre-booking is required.
Lovely, seasonal rhubarb dessert and tea served by interpreters in period dress. $7 in advance, $9 at the door.

40th Anniversary Open House
May 27 • 1 to 3 pm
Free admission on this day. There will be tours, speeches and activities for the kids. Refreshments will be served.

Hours are 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday to Friday, June through Labour Day. Admission is $5 adults, $2 students (ages 6-18), children 5 and under are free of charge. Costumed guides are on duty July and August. The museum is open year-round. For more info: 705-743-9710 and www.hutchisonhouse.ca

The Hutchison House Museum is wheelchair-accessible on the lower level for enjoyment of the open-hearth keeping room, the terrace, bookshop and washroom. A virtual tour of the upper floors is available.