April 1, 2023


By Melissa Horton

Year-round, the 1,000-square foot McDougall Cottage attracts locals and visitors alike to its historic front door. Although many events take place there, it is its tours that offer the most information about the cottage itself.

As I toured the cottage, I was surprised at the amount of heritage that was linked to this small home. Owned by William Dickson, the founder of Galt, along with a handful of other owners, I found it hard to believe that this quaint little spot was once marked for demolition after the Grand River overflowed its banks causing millions of dollars in damage in the downtown Galt area of Cambridge.
After the Great Flood of 1974, many heritage homes were torn down, but the cottage wouldn’t succumb without a fight. Thanks to the successful efforts of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, the cottage was saved, and a good thing it was.

Steeped in Scottish history, the cottage remains one of the only symbols of how Galt came to be.

“We’re kind of a Scottish cultural centre and museum,” said Joleen Taylor, a teacher at the McDougall Cottage.
Inside, it is fairly spacious which is in stark contrast to its early days. Walls have been moved since then, and since the Dickson family had up to 21 people living there, things were bound to be tight.

In the dining room area, hand-painted scenery covers every square inch of the ceiling as well as the top half of the wall. Some of the paintings include scenes from around Cambridge itself. Jack Baird, who was a family member of the second Scottish family to own the house, painted them.

This artwork is just some of the items on display from the various home owners.

As the tour continued, every part of the cottage revealed more of the history linking it to Cambridge.

Now owned by the Region of Waterloo, the cottage hosts a plethora of activities and workshops to highlight Scottish culture.
From Scottish ceilidhs to wreath-making workshops, there is no shortage of things to do.

“We do high Scottish teas and piping,” said Taylor.

The teas became so popular that now there is a waiting list to get in.

“It was so busy that we made it into a double sitting,” said Taylor.

The popularity has not only come from local history buffs, but from Scottish people as well.

Laura Long, a Cambridge woman who was on the tour, expressed how she felt about what the cottage had to offer.

“Coming from Scotland myself, it’s nice to be able to come and learn still,” she said.

As the Christmas holiday nears, the cottage continues its activities. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday from noon until 5 p.m.

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