The Hiram Walker Historical Museum

The Hiram Walker Historical Musuem
Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Installed in the old Francois Baby House, the
earliest brick house in the Northwest, dating back
to 1811. The Baby House was restored by Hiram
Walker and Sons and depictis early life in the district

This postcard likely dates to 1958, when the building was first rehabbed and opened as a museum. Note how the river was visible from Pitt St. Today, the site is enclosed on all sides by the riverfront hotels and the Cleary Auditorium St. Clair Centre for the Arts.

The building is on the register of historic places, despite it being in far from original condition.

As you can see in the mid 1930’s the house looked like a Victorian era duplex.

There is a good history of house at the Walkerville Times.

The ensuing years were not kind to the Baby House a fire in 1850 caused considerable damage and Baby did not have the energy to do much to restore his home. After his death in 1852, the house was passed down to his son Edmond who made several major structural changes including reducing it to two stories.

Further changes by future owners significantly altered the exterior of the structure the addition of bay windows and gingerbread trim transformed it into a “Victorian” dwelling. In 1930, the house was abandoned and soon became a virtual ruin.

In 1933, George MacDonald, a Windsor merchant with a growing collection of local historical artifacts, wrote to Baby’s great granddaughter in Detroit asking her if she would sell the house for museum purposes.

Although he did not receive permission from her, when the house reverted to the City of Windsor for non-payment of taxes at the end of the decade MacDonald got his wish.

But it wasn’t until 1948 that restoration of the house began. The Windsor Historic Sites Association was formed that year to help facilitate the restoration and accepted title to the property for a token one dollar.

Lacking the original plans, the work was based on research of what the house may have looked like when it was built although the ten feet removed by Edmond Baby was never restored.

Encroaching urban development among other things, including the proposed Cleary Auditorium, threatened it. In 1956, Hiram Walker’s & Sons Ltd. stepped in with funds to save the museum. (Interesting fact: the exhibition galleries are lined with cypress saturated with Canadian Club salvaged from Hiram Walker’s old fermenting vats!)

Other donations allowed for successful completion of the project and The Hiram Walker Historical Museum opened its doors in 1958.

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