Did you know that early settlers in Toronto used tobacco in their mattresses to keep bugs out? Paper patterns for dress making didn't begin until the 1860s! Flowers were grown not only for their beauty but to freshen the home with potpourri. Much of the dishes that are thought to be 'Pennsylvanian Dutch' were in fact manufactured in England and considered to be gaudy! Children drank beer at meals in some early Toronto homes. Each of this little tidbits of information can be found during a visit at Black Creek Pioneer Village.
Located in the Steeles Avenue and Jane Street area Black Creek Pioneer Village allows visitors to see what life was like during the 1860s. Most of the forty homes and buildings in the come alive with real people who play the roles of our earliest Toronto ancestors. Each building is an important piece of our history, showing how those who settled in Toronto lived and thrived.
Many in the city think that going to Black Creek Pioneer Village is for schoolchildren but the village is for everyone to enjoy. It is true that the kids roam the village during school trips. Chris Bagley, General Manager, said that this year there was an increase of school tours at the village.
One of the pleasures of visiting the village as an adult is taking the time to sit and relax with the historical interpreters and trades people. Chatting with those donning authentic period clothing is a truly unique way to learn more of our early history. Nancy is one of the true gems of the village. This remarkable woman has a vast knowledge of how women helped to provide for their families in the time before electric stoves and grocery stores. She is a talented crafter using beads to decorate pin cushions and more which can be brought at the site's gift shop. Today we talked about some of the ways women would bring a bit of beauty into their homes while remaining very practical. After chatting and enjoying biscuits and creamy sweet butter we walked over to the Laskay Emporium. There Nancy took the time to explain the importance of the wares within the store. One of the most important wares for the ladies of the village would have been the fabrics for sell. The fabrics on display at the store can be seen throughout the village. Each bolt has been used to craft the authentic clothing that the staff wears. The general store was also the location of the post office, one that served customers into the 20th century.
Nancy can be found at Daniel and Elizabeth Stong's Second House. The home has survived on its original site built in 1832. The Stong family moved from their original homestead, built in 1816, after the family had established their farm. The two-storey home was where they raised their eight children.
Each of the historical interpreters have their own role in the working village. These are not idle hands, all of the staff do much of the work in the village to keep it running. Nancy not only crafts but cooks, feeds the pigs, does the dishes and whatever other chores that her ancestors would have during their normal day to day life.
The Half Way House Inn built in 1849 is the perfect place to take a break. With a wonderful restaurant and brewery in the basement one can relax while taking in the history. The restaurant is modern with air conditioning, a positive on a hot day. Much of the food served was grown on the property or purchased from local farms.
Black Creek Historic Brewery is the first in Toronto to have brewed One-Mile Beer! While still in the early stages the historic brewery brews new batches of beer each week. At the end of the growing season special batches on the One-Mile beer will be brewed using hops and barley grown in the gardens. So far this year the hops and barley are doing remarkably well. Last year about 30 to 35 "Growlers" (two liter jugs) of the handcrafted ale was produced. This year Chris Bagley said that amount should be doubled or even tripled.