Walking through Black Creek Pioneer Village, it’s easy to forget that the city of Toronto is just beyond the treeline, with thousands of commuters and traffic racing by only a few steps from the property.
Opened as a museum in 1960, the site offers a range of tours and activities that take place among its collection of heritage buildings, which include several that have been restored after being relocated from other locations in Ontario. Costumed interpreters bring to life the history of rural Ontario and show how people lived in Upper Canada during the 19th century.
“We’re on land that was owned by the Stong family, and the Stongs farmed this land through the 1950s,” said acting general manager Wendy Rowney. “They started farming in this area in 1816.”
“Black Creek is unique in Toronto in that it’s the only place you can come and really experience what life was like in the middle of the 19th century in terms of how a community operated,” Rowney said. “So not only can you talk to costumed, knowledgeable staff about the time period, you can become involved through workshops, through apprenticeships, through going on a behind-the-scenes tour to really get a better understanding of what it was like to live in the 19th century.”
Programming highlights include events such as the Battle of Black Creek, which recreated a U.S. Revolutionary War-era military encampment, a festival that recreated a 19th-century carnival, and Quilts at the Creek, a series of activities involving handmade quilts.
Visitors are also encouraged to come for a full-day costumed workshop to learn how to make beer, work with iron or spin wool.
Rowney says one of her favourite buildings is Burwick House, the home of a middle-class family. “We talk there a lot about gender roles in the 19th century and how people’s behaviours and thought patterns were formed by their time period, and [we] compare that to where we are today,” she explained.
In 2009, the museum opened the Black Creek Historic Brewery as a way to attract an even larger audience. Beer is brewed on-site and served in the same way as in the 1860s.
For more about the museum and upcoming events, visit blackcreek.ca.