Description of Historic Place
Hillary House National Historic Site of Canada is a brick, one-and-a-half-storey, Gothic Revival style house, surrounded by spacious lawns, trees, and plantings. It is located in the city of Aurora, Ontario, just north of Toronto. The house and its grounds provide a fine example of a mid 19th-century villa in the Picturesque style of that era. It is now operated as the Koffler Museum of Medicine. Official recognition refers to the house and the surrounding landscape, including the front, south and north lawns.
Hillary House was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1973 because:
- it is one of the best and most complete examples of the Gothic Revival style in Ontario.
Built in 1861-1862 for the Geikie family, and altered by subsequent owners in 1869 and 1888, Hillary House and its grounds form one of the most complete examples of Picturesque Gothic in Ontario. The evolution of the Gothic Revival is evident in the house’s two successive additions. The 1888 addition was designed by architect David Dick.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1973, 1990; Commemorative Integrity Statement, 2001.
Key elements that relate to Hillary House as an outstanding example of the Gothic Revival style include:
- its massing and composition, consisting of a one-and-a-half-storey structure with a steeply-pitched, centre-gable roof;
- its underlying symmetry and centre-hall plan, in keeping with the mid 19th-century phase of the Gothic Revival style;
- its picturesque profile comprised of steeply pitched gable roofs, prominent chimneys, and king posts;
- its Gothic Revival style detailing such as bargeboards, label mouldings on upper-storey windows, pointed arch openings, polychrome wall treatments, a bell-cast verandah roof, clustered columns, and quatrefoil window tracery;
- its brick construction and detailing, including red brick laid in Flemish bond on the front elevation and common bond on the sides and back, with contrasting yellow-brick quoins and patterned-brick chimneys;
- its generous and varied fenestration, including a large Gothic-arched, centre gable window with label surround, French doors on the main rooms of the ground floor with pointed arch mullions, main door with transom and sidelights with Gothic tracery, and casement windows on the north and south sides;
- the highly decorative verandah running along the front, north and south walls of the house, including its bell-cast roof, pointed arches, quatrefoil spandrels and clustered collonnette supports;
- the surviving, 19th-century interior detailing, including wide moulded baseboards and trim, fireplace surrounds, ceiling rosette, decorative plaster work in the drawing room and ballroom, and the curved stairway with its balusters, rail, newel and trim;
- the integration of house and the landscape through devices such as the verandah running along three sides of the house, French doors opening from the main rooms onto the verandah, bay windows, and a balcony;
- its picturesque setting, created by the set-back of the house from the street, the broad treed lawns which frame it to the north, south and east, and the approach via a curving laneway;
- the survival of an original outbuilding, the Gothic Revival style barn.