Description of Historic Place
Castle Kilbride is a two-storey, Italianate villa set on a knoll at the edge of the town of Baden in southwest Ontario. Built in 1877-8, the house is noted for its elaborate mural paintings executed in the Renaissance Revival style of the late 19th century. The villa is set on a 1.2-hectare lot which features a Victorian-style garden, a circular drive and a row of mature trees around its perimeter. A rear extension was added in the mid-1990s and houses municipal offices. Official recognition refers to the building on its original footprint.
Castle Kilbride was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1993 because:
- of its superb decorative mural paintings gracing its principal interior rooms; and,
- Castle Kilbride is a superior example of an Italianate villa of its period.
Castle Kilbride is an excellent example of a late 19th-century Victorian house in the Italianate style, set in a Picturesque landscape. Built in 1877-78 by successful linseed oil businessman James Livingston, it features elaborate wall murals created with linseed oil based paint decorating all the principal rooms of the house. The paintings are outstanding examples of late 19th-century, domestic, painted mural decoration because of their high level of execution, their fine decorative quality, their cohesive integration with the architecture of the house, and their generally good condition. The classical style of the painting illustrates the mid-19th-century attempt to re-establish the lost art of mural painting in the Renaissance tradition. The house shows evidence of skilled craftsmanship in every aspect of design and construction.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1993; Commemorative Integrity Statement, March 2003.
Key elements which relate to the heritage value of Castle Kilbride as a superior example of an Italianate villa include:
- its relationship to its Picturesque grounds, including its placement in the centre of the property, set back from the street, the heart-shaped driveway and wrought-iron fence that separate it from the street, the open lawn, the central walkway with two circular planting beds, the Italianate-style brick privy and the row of mature trees that runs around the perimeter of the property;
- its relationship to the village of Baden, including its elevated position on the edge of town, and close proximity to the former linseed oil complex;
- its Italianate style, evident on the exterior in its rectangular massing, its symmetrical, three-bay façade with a central entry under a columned porch, the shallow hipped roof with wide overhanging eaves, the central belvedere with its pediment echoing that of the main roofline, and the elongated proportions notable in the long, narrow windows and the bay windows on the main façade;
- its decorative wood trim, including bracketing at eave level, ornate window entablatures and the elaborately decorated porch with its slender spiral columns, carved ceiling panels, scroll brackets and pendants, and its yellow-brick construction on a high, fieldstone foundation;
- the picturesque interplay between exterior and interior spaces, evident in the inclusion of a belvedere, porch and large windows;
- its interior plan, typical of the late-19th-century Italianate style, including a centre-hall layout with grand central staircase, large front rooms, and high ceilings;
- the surviving high-quality original interior finishes and features, including the central staircase banister, marble fireplace mantles in the principal rooms, large mahogany mirrors, hand-carved mahogany valances, and original plasterwork, hardware and woodwork;
- viewscapes to the house from the town, and vice versa.
Key elements that relate to the heritage value of Castle Kilbride’s murals include:
- the decorative mural paintings in their design, materials and locations including the ground- and upper-level hallways and their ceilings and which includes faux plasterwork, gilt-framed medallions representing the four elements, and a marble colonnade with a classical sculpture depicted in a niche;
- the more elaborate and brilliantly coloured mural painting in the library, which includes a border of real and faux plaster work containing a series of painted lunettes, gilt-framed medallions with allegorical figures representing the four seasons, painted figurative panels on opposite walls, arabesques of scrolled foliage, and an illusionistic frieze of tassels;
- the less elaborate, early 20th-century decoration of the living and dining room ceilings, including arabesques painted within a real plaster border, and small figurative paintings in the corners;
- the mural work in other rooms, including a small painting executed on the linen-covered ceiling of one of the upstairs bedrooms, and a ceiling painting in the upstairs Smoking Room, depicting a tobacco humidor and pipes;
- features of the paintings which illustrate the 19th-century attempt to re-establish the Renaissance tradition of wall painting, including their classical style, antique and Renaissance subject matter, figurative art, arabesque designs, and trompe l’oeil;
- the integration of the mural paintings with the architecture of the house including the provision of lighting using the device of a glass-domed attic.