November 18, 2018

By DAN MACLEOD

Thanksgiving is a time to get back to one’s roots and celebrate our fine heritage. What better way to do that than to experience this holiday the way William Lyon Mackenzie King did. Canada’s 10th prime minister actually grew up in Kitchener (which was named Berlin at the time) in the 1890s.

Woodside’s 1890 Thanksgiving caters to families. This year it offered games for the kids, scenic grounds for pleasant walks through the autumn splendour and a seasonal treat of free pumpkin cookies made fresh in the house’s wood-burning stove.

Usually tours of the beautifully rustic house are available but it’s currently closed for repairs after a pipe burst in the basement. During Woodside’s Thanksgiving, visitors were greeted by heritage presenters Sarah Simpson and Caitlin Van Horne, who were often dressed in accurate vintage attire and ready to answer any questions and inform guests about the history of the house and the monumental family who lived in it.

Mackenzie King resided in the house for seven years, from 1886 to 1893, with his father, John, his mother, Isabel, his sisters, Isabel (Bella) and Janet (Jennie) and his brother Dougall (Max). The house stood untouched for a few decades, slowly decaying and falling to ruin. It was when plans were made for its demolition in the early 1940s that the North Waterloo Liberal Association bought Woodside and began to rebuild it, salvaging and reusing as many of the original materials (bricks, ornamental barge boarding and stair balusters) as they could.

According to Woodside’s curator Rob Roe, they’ve been holding the 1890 Thanksgiving nearly every year since they opened to the public in 1952. The event ran from Oct. 8 to 16, but it returns every year and is always followed by their “relive a Victorian Christmas” event from Dec. 1 to 23. Get a sense of the heart-warming quaintness of the late Victorian era by visiting Woodside National Historic Site on Wellington Street just off of Lancaster.

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