It’s been 112 years since Senator George Taylor Fulford finished constructing Fulford Place, his 35-room, 20,000-square-foot Edwardian mansion in Brockville near the shores of the St. Lawrence. Designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1992, it opened as a museum the next summer. Today, it’s open for tours seven days a week in the peak season, and in the off-season general public tours are available every day except Monday and Friday. Stop by to step back in time, soak up a little early 20th century opulence, and find out why this was the ideal residence to host royalty and prime ministers.
George Taylor Fulford
Born and raised in Brockville, Fulford acquired his fortune by securing the rights to a certain pink pill: “Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills for Pale People.” They were marketed restoratives for a wide range of conditions, including partial paralysis, rheumatism, heart palpitations and “all forms of weakness” — and they were extremely successful. Within five years, his company expanded throughout North America, Europe and the British Empire, and as business grew he rose through Canada’s political ranks as well, eventually being appointed to the Senate in 1900. In 1905, at the height of his career, he died from injuries sustained in an automobile accident.
It took 3 years to build Fulford Place, but the wait was well worth it. Constructed in the Beaux Art style, the mansion’s rough-faced stone walls are tempered by projecting and receding bays, stained glass windows, soaring chimneys and balustrades. The grounds, fully restored in 2004, were designed by the Olmsted brothers, the same American landscape architects whose firm designed New York’s Central Park and the grounds of the White House. Inside, the rooms are decorated with pre-fabricated components to give it an ornate, hand-crafted appearance, while certain features signal the Fulford family’s values—the hand-carved mantle of the grand hall fireplace, for example, bears the house’s motto: “Here rest, and call content thy home.”
Many historic sites use reproductions or artifacts from the same time period because few still have original items. Fulford Place is one of the few with an original collection, and because its collection is so large, it can have rotating exhibitions. This year’s special exhibition, entitled Elegance Recalled, features objects that capture the luxurious lifestyle George Fulford’s fortune afforded his family. Explore the cases to learn about items no longer part of everyday life, such as slop bowls, smelling salts, pushers and studs.
Fulford Place’s sweeping verandas are one of its most distinctive features, and in the warmer months you can have a cup of tea out there while enjoying the views of the St. Lawrence. The seasonal Tearoom usually opens at the end of May, but it’s not just about the warm brews. There’s also a rotating menu of food options that have ranged from butternut squash penne in a sage sauce with hazelnuts to pulled pork on a bun to Greek quiche. Hungry yet?
New Reasons to Visit
Doors Open: May 2014
Fulford Place is participating in Doors Open – Brockville and Thousand Islands again this year. For one weekend only, admission is free. Museum volunteers and staff will be on hand to guide the hundreds of visitors who usually show up every year. May 24th and May 25th, 10am to 4pm daily.
Doors Open is often the museum’s most popular event but organizers run a variety of others throughout the year. Slated 2014 events include lectures and free tours in celebration of Ontario Heritage Week (February 17-23), lantern tours, two summer programs for children, a garage sale, antique appraisal sessions hosted by an expert from the Canadian Antique Road Show, and more.
The Friends of Fulford Place Association, the volunteer body who helps the Trust operate and interpret the site, have published a cookbook called Food for Friends. It includes handwritten recipes from volunteers and features recipes from Sarah Read, a saucier at Fulford Place in the 1960s. There’s also a fascinating account of Fulford Place Chef John Rayburn’s infamous 1927 feast—the one he prepared for the Prince of Wales who went on to become King Edward VIII. The book is available in the Gift Shop.
Summer Season: Open 7 days a week
Off-season: guided tours available Tuesday-Thursday at 1pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11pm to 4pm (last tour leaves at 3:10pm)
Groups: Pre-booked group tours of 15 or more are available year-round
Stay tuned to the Fulford Place website for 2014 admission prices. The 2013 prices are:
Adults, $6 + HST
Seniors and Students, $5 + HST
Families (2 adults and 2 children/students), $14 + HST
Children (6 and under), Free
Summer passport (combined admission to Fulford and Homewood Museum in Maitland) $6 plus HST, in effect until August 31.