Photo by: Gordon Beck
Written by: Russ Disotell, Brockville Blog
Homewood Museum deserves a prominent spot on your summer itinerary. Located on the north side of Highway 2, east of Brockville near Maitland it is one of the oldest surviving homes in Ontario. The house was built by 1800 by a master stonemason, Louis Brière (Brilliere) of Montreal in 1800 for Dr. Solomon Jones, a prominent United Empire Loyalist. Jones was a well regarded doctor, indeed the only doctor between Cornwall and Kingston at the beginning of the 19th century. He also served as a judge.
The two-storey field stone house built in the Georgian style served as home for six generations of the Jones family. It serves as an illustration of how a house changed architecturally to meet the changing needs of a family. Pamela Peacock, former Coordinator, Eastern Ontario Museum Sites for the Ontario Heritage Trust (owner of Fulford Place Museum and Homewood) says, “You can see the development of the family in the bones of the house. It’s very special in that way.”
The original main floor plan included Solomon’s surgery, a kitchen, parlour and bedroom, which was unusual for the time as main bedrooms weren’t usually on the ground floor. After Solomon’s death in 1822 son Dunham changed the layout of the main floor turning the surgery into a drawing room, complete with arches and decorative trim. He also added a back kitchen, turning the original into a formal dining room complete with a magnificent Rumford Fireplace, with characteristic sloping sides. Further alterations occurred in 1927 when the home was divided into a duplex and the mid 1930’s when the west wing was expanded with stones selected to match the original materials.
One fact, little known today, is that the site was a division of the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa, known as the St. Lawrence Fruit Station. Solomon’s great-grandson inherited his ancestor’s zeal for agriculture and developed five new varieties of apple. The Jones Red Fameuse was probably the most famous of the varieties and was renowned for “its crispness and suitability as a premiere variety for baking and apple pies”. Many of the station’s trees still bear fruit today in the carefully restored orchards.
There are also a number of outbuildings still intact on the property, including the ice house, apple shed, log shed and barn. Archeological excavations on site have located nearly 30,000 artifacts as well as the locations of the original smokehouse, privy, ash shed, carriage house and drive shed.
One note on the clock which appears amongst the accompanying photographs, by way of illustrating the methods of transportation used for breakables. It was purchased in the United States in the 1760’s and transported in a feather bed along with the family’s china, strung between two horses. A slow and cumbersome method, to say the least.
So there you have it, something for everyone. One of the oldest houses in the province, steeped in history, the structure mimicking the changing needs of the family that owned it, lovingly restored and furnished with pieces from the original Jones estate. One thing more, did we mention the grounds?
Homewood is located on a slight rise overlooking the St. Lawrence River, with a huge, gently sloped front lawn. Pack a lunch or pick one up from a restaurant in the area as the grounds provide a perfect spot for a summer picnic, with plenty of shade trees.
1372 County Road 2, between Maitland and Prescott
Telephone: 613-348-1246 (summer), 613-498-3003 (off-season)
May 19 to September 2 – Wednesday to Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
French tours available by appointment
- Adults – $3
- Students (16 and under) – $1.50
- Group rate (15 or more visitors) – $2 per person
- Passport (combined admission to Fulford Place in Brockville) – $6