Description of Historic Place
Hillary House, at 15372 Yonge Street, is a Gothic Revival style, one-and-a-half-storey structure situated in a neighbourhood replete with late-19th and early-20th century buildings. Built in 1862 as a doctor's home and office, the white decorative bargeboard, the white columns and trellis of the wrap-around verandah and the white railings of its small balcony stand out against the red brick of the building. A small wooden fence, mature trees and extensive shrubbery shelter it from the busy thoroughfare it faces.
Hillary House has been recognized for its heritage value through the Town of Aurora By-law #2540-82.
Hillary House is associated with four prominent local physicians, and their families, who lived there. Originally known as "The Manor," the house was built in 1862 for Dr. Walter Geikie, who lived there for seven years before moving to Toronto to establish the Trinity Medical College and serve as its Dean for 32 years.
In 1869 another physician, Dr. Frederick Strange, bought the house, as it was already conveniently adapted for use as a doctor's practice. Dr. Strange was Coroner for the County of York until he moved to Toronto after seven years of practicing medicine in Aurora. He continued to practice medicine, but also served in the military (serving as a surgeon in the Northwest Rebellion), and pursued a career in politics (becoming the youngest member elected to Canada's federal parliament).
In 1876 the Hillary family moved into the house and made it their home for three generations (1876 to 1993). Dr. Robert William Hillary, operated his practice, and with his wife, Annie Fry, raised their seven children here. Robert Michael Hillary, their eldest son, joined his father's medical practice in 1891, after training with both Dr. Geikie and Dr. Strange in Toronto. Robert Michael married the daughter of the local Anglican rector, and they had nine children. He and his eldest son Robert Stuart fought in WWI; Robert Stuart died at Vimy Ridge in 1917. Their daughter, Edith Nora, lived in the house until her death in 1993. The house is now owned and operated by the Aurora Historical Society as the Hillary House and Koffler Museum of Medicine.
Hillary House is one of the best and most complete examples of the Gothic Revival style in Ontario. The red brick of this one-and-a-half-storey building is complimented by the yellow brick quoins and coursing, the white wood of the ornamental bargeboard, the columns and trellis of the wrap-around veranda and the balcony's railing. Emphasizing the Gothic design is the repeated use of the pointed arch in the veranda's trellis. Built originally in a rectangular plan, the addition constructed in the rear resulted in a T-shaped plan. The main entrance leads to a foyer with three doors: to the right is the original dispensary, to the left is the original examining room and straight ahead is the entryway to the house itself. The scientific value of Hillary House is contained in the medical rooms still in evidence and in the medical instruments, all of which form the foundation of the Koffler Museum of Medicine. The design of the rooms and the display of the various instruments provide the visitor with a sense of what it must have been like to practice medicine during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In addition to the main house, the property also contains an old barn and the course of an old creek. The lot is covered with mature trees, bushes and tall plantings, providing a cooling effect in the summer as well privacy from traffic on Yonge Street.
Sources: Heritage Designation Brief, Hillary House, Town of Aurora By-law #2540-82.
Character defining elements that embody the heritage value of the Hillary House include the:
- one-and-a-half-storey red brick walls
- decorative yellow brick of the quoins and triple row coursing
- cedar shingled roof with centre gable
- decorative bargeboard trim
- wraparound veranda with bell curved roof, clustered columns, and spring pointed wooden arch trellis
- small balcony with clustered column railings
- main entrance with sidelights, transom, and scrollwork
- fenestration, including the pointed arch centre gable window, six over six sash windows and casement windows on the second storey
- wood window labels, sills and louvered shutters
- wood fence sheltering house from the street
- barn itself, along with its position on the site
- layout of the site including the relationship between the house, barn, fencing and original creek course, now a dried bed