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Visiting Neilson House, Scarborough, Ontario: pre-Confederation solidity in stone

Updated on December 26, 2011
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Neilson House, Scarborough, Ontario
Neilson House, Scarborough, Ontario | Source
Neilson House, Scarborough, Ontario
Neilson House, Scarborough, Ontario | Source
Map location of Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario
Map location of Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario | Source

Dating from 1864, sometimes known as Elderslie, named for Braveheart's reputed birthplace in Scotland

Formerly a farmhouse, this solid, stone edifice in Scarborough dates from 1864, and is thus — just — a pre-Confederation structure, from a time when what is now Ontario was known as Canada West (1), within the former United Province of Canada.

In 1998, after a program of restoration and refurbishment, Neilson House was opened to the public; a two-day series of events, including heritage activities, tours and displays, was held at this historic property.

The property has sometimes been known as Elderslie, the locality in Scotland's Renfrewshire, which is the reputed birthplace of Scottish patriot Sir William Wallace, also known as Braveheart.

The house was originally built for the McHenry family. At the end of the 19th century, when the House was over 30 years old, it underwent renovation for the Neilson family; hence its current name. When in more recent years the property was restored, it was decided to emphasize the way the property would have looked in 1899, rather than in 1864.

Neilson House is a fine example of 'Georgian' farmhouses which were built in the Toronto area before the city's limits encroached upon former farmland. Indeed, Ontario building contractor work has been known to borrow from features of Neilson House, with their balanced design and historical significance. Among these features is included an L-shaped floor plan. Its wide, front porch is among the property's most noticeable characteristics.

The House serves as a community recreation centre. Surrounding the House is Neilson Park. Toronto Parks and Recreation is the body responsible for the property. With the amalgamation of the City of Scarborough into Toronto in recent years, a property such as Neilson House, once rural in its setting, thus adds significantly to the sheer diverse architectural heritage of the City of Toronto.

Neilson House is situated at 1575 Neilson Road, Scarborough, within the City of Toronto, Ontario. The junction of Neilson Road with Finch Avenue is the nearest major intersection to the property.


(1) 'Canada West' was the former Upper Canada's designation prior to 1867.

Also worth seeing

In Scarborough itself, Thomson Memorial Park, at 1007 Brimley Road, has the historic McCowan Log House and Cornell House, now a museum.

Pickering , Ontario (distance: 14.9 kilometres), the Erskine Church, with its Pioneer Memorial Cairn.


How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to 1575 Neilson Road, Scarborough: 37.4 kilometres). Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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