Description of Historic Place
The Heritage House Museum, also known as the Ward House, is a two-and-a-half-storey Georgian clapboard structure with a one-and-a-half storey board-and-batten side wing. Constructed circa 1862, it is located at 11 Old Slys Road, close to the Old Slys lock station on the Rideau Canal waterway and the Brockville-Ottawa Railway line.
The Heritage House Museum has been recognized for its heritage value by the Town of Smiths Falls, By-law 4330-77.
Joshua bates strategically located the house between the mills, the lock station and the railway line. Living near one's place of business was typical, at that time, as overseeing daily operations was critical to ensuring successful enterprises. By their nature, mills were located on riverbanks and, if possible, near sources of transportation for receiving raw materials and distributing goods and products quickly and cheaply.
The Heritage House Museum was originally the home of Joshua Bates, a businessman from Farmersville (now Athens, Ontario), who relocated to the Smiths Falls area in the early 1850s and became a miller. Bates constructed a grist mill and carding mill in Sly's Rapids, near the proposed Brockville-Ottawa railway line, in which he had invested quite heavily. His investment, however, was unsuccessful and led to a downturn in his fortunes. In order to avoid renting accommodation and to add value to his land, Bates was obliged to construct this house on his mill property. Joshua Bates died on 1 January 1864, only two years after the completion of the building and his family was forced to sell the house to Truman Russell Ward to pay off Bates' debts. From that point on the building was known as the Ward House.
It continued to be occupied as a residence until 1977, when the Town of Smiths Falls bought it from the last resident family, the Gleesons, with the intention of converting it into a museum. The Heritage House Museum was officially opened on 13 June 1981.
The building is an excellent example of Georgian architecture, popular in Canada during the 19th century. Its rectangular floor plan is symmetrical in nature, consisting of the central entryway and hall, a high gable roof, a centred gable facade with three bays and a double chimney on either side of the building. The main entrance contains sidelights and a transom, and is flanked by casement windows. Above the main door is a Palladian window with arched toppers, while beneath the gable is a typical semi-elliptical window. This front facade is mirrored exactly on the rear facade, adding significantly to its architectural value. The building is striking in its simplicity and is a study in contrasts: the white clapboard of the main building against the red ochre of the side addition; the simple lines of the wooden walls against the multi-paned windows. The use of casement windows instead of sash windows suggests that Bates may have used a French-Canadian carpenter who, at that time, would have worked for substantially lower wages than English-Canadian carpenters.
Sources: Glenn J. Lockwood, Joshua Bates: The Hidden Tragedy of the Smiths Falls Heritage House, (Smiths Falls: Heritage House Museum, 1985): Town of Smiths Falls By-law 4330-77; Smiths Falls LACAC Files
Character defining elements that define the heritage value include the:
- building as representative of the history of Joshua Bates, local miller in Slys Rapids
- building as a representation of financial practices of the time (19th century), where numerous people invested in railway ventures
- symmetrical mirror image facade, facing both the railway and the street
- extension off of the summer kitchen containing a rare two-storey indoor privy
- casement windows
- Italianate gable and window on each of the two mirrored facades
- traditional North American steep gable roof line
- front entrance with transom windows and sidelights on each of the two mirrored facades
- orientation between Old Slys Road and the Brockville-Ottawa Railway
- location close to the mills reflecting an earlier tradition of having home and business in proximity to one another