Castle Kilbride, a historic monument in Baden, Ont., is currently decorated for “The Merry Victorian Christmas” and people from around the region can come to marvel at the castle’s preserved beauty.
Built in 1877 for James Livingston, a flax industrialist, politician and entrepreneur, the grand Victorian home, named after the birthplace of Livingston in East Kilbride, Scotland, has been the centrepiece in Baden for 140 years. Designed in the Italianate style, the castle served the Livingston family for three generations before being sold in 1988 to a development company. After many years of deterioration, the Township of Wilmont bought the castle in the hope of returning the castle to its former glory.
Castle Kilbride is now a national historic site, designated by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and is open to the public as a museum for tours.
Upon taking a step into the building, visitors are immersed in the Victorian Era. Filled with so much natural beauty and artifacts, the castle has something for everyone. From young children to the elderly, there were many residents of Baden and people from around the region who showed up this week to see the castle.
Tracey Stone, a resident of Baden for 16 years, had never been to the castle, but decided she wanted to see the building from the inside to get into the Christmas spirit.
“I am way more impressed than I thought I would be,” she said. “This exceeded all my expectations. Being able to see original artifacts from the building and the Livingston family was very intriguing,” said Stone. “I was amazed to see how big the building really is from the inside, as it doesn’t look that big on the outside and how such an old building, which is considered to be a centrepiece for Baden, can be preserved over so many years.”
A main feature in the castle is the Trompe l’oeil ceiling and the wall murals that provide optical illusions of depth. Originally painted by German artist Henry Scharstein, the artwork appears three-dimensional, but with shadows and highlights to provide the illusion of depth, visitors can spend hours marvelling at its creativity.
“Castle Kilbride has the most original artifacts of other historic site in Canada,” said Colleen Herner, a member of the Castle Kilbride advisory committee. “We really love it when people come out to see the castle and its beauty.”
On a recent evening, visitors were able to tour through the house that was decorated for Christmas. Bursting with many Christmas trees and lights, there was an immense amount of work that went into the setup of the castle. There was live entertainment, a silent auction and, at the end, visitors got to enjoy a cup of old-fashioned hot apple cider.
The castle was not the only thing on exhibit that night; there was also Dave Herner’s miniature Dickens Village on display in the Belvedere Gallery, located in the attic of Castle Kilbride. With a storyline with every tiny house and person, it left visitors staring at the large collection for hours.
Looking over the village is one way to view all the pieces, but in order to see all the full details, Herner suggested visitors get down and look through the streets and buildings to see each unique story.
“The best view is when you bend down and look through it,” said Herner. “I have 130 major pieces, like buildings, and another 250 smaller pieces, like the people and the trees. It takes roughly 30 hours to set up just to make sure all the pieces are in the right place.”
While most of the miniature buildings were illuminated and bursting with life, there was one building that was not illuminated. That was the home of Ebenezer Scrooge. Herner said he keeps it in the dark until Christmas Day, when Scrooge gets his Christmas spirit. It really expressed the art form of the collectibles and that there really is a story to tell from each piece.
Herner’s Victorian Dickens Village is on display at Castle Kilbride until Jan. 7 and the volunteers and employees at Castle Kilbride encourage more people to visit and immerse themselves in the glamour of the historic Victorian home.