Posted by: Bob Fisher | March 1, 2011

Heritage Homes, Local History and Oreo Cookies


A podcast with Bill Barclay of the Beild House in Collingwood, Ontario

To listen to this podcast, click on the Play button below.

The Heritage Movement in Canada

The Heritage Movement, which has become increasingly a priority in the “New World” of North America, has expanded exponentially as travellers continue to look for meaningful travel destinations in which social history is a principal theme. And in Canada, on a local, regional, and national basis, cultural heritage has become a priority; in part because this country has always been a nation built on immigration.

The Heritage Canada Foundation, which promotes heritage conservation, is a national, membership-based organization and registered charity established in 1973. In the Foundation’s Mission Statement, you will find the following:

“The Heritage Canada Foundation (HCF) is a national, non-governmental, not-for-profit corporation established by the federal government as the National Trust for Canada in 1973. HCF was given the mandate to preserve and demonstrate and to encourage the preservation and demonstration of the nationally significant historic, architectural, natural and scenic heritage of Canada with a view to stimulating and promoting the interest of the people of Canada in that heritage…. and [it] has continued to serve the heritage movement with commitment and rigour, pursuing our mission to engage and inspire the general public, share tools and resources, build coalitions and partnerships, and influence policies and laws.”

For more information on the Heritage Canada Foundation, click here.

The Beild House

This heritage home in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada is one of the best examples I have seen of the principles and practices of heritage conservation. What Stephanie and Bill Barclay have done in their very eclectic home is to preserve and enhance some of its best architectural features. At the same time, they have created in it a highly integrated sense of personal and local history through a free flow of art, antiques, and social history. This is also a home that includes many whimsical touches as well as a narrative that highlights a particular time period in Canadian society. Moreover, as a model of heritage preservation, The Beild House is also an excellent example of the universality and timelessness of social history.

More than memorabilia

Although cultural heritage implies and includes physical landscapes, buildings, arts and crafts of all kinds — the list could go on and on — there are also intangible elements in it. Oral history, folklore, customs and traditions, language, dialects, belief systems, and ethnicity, to mention a few, are also integral to a real “sense of place.”

Heritage is also about meaning and meaningfulness. Understanding why and how a community and its people have evolved culturally makes for a much deeper appreciation of the travel experience. Memorabilia is of course part of the experience, but in the objects and physical spaces there is also an intrinsic collective memory that transcends time. As Oscar Wilde put it, “Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us.”

Cultural heritage is also a contemporary issue. Consider for example how the past can enlighten the present (or future) in terms of urban or rural planning. What lessons of history were learned or not learned? And today, one of the most important lessons young people learn is the art of predicting. In order to do that they need a comprehensive and enlightened understanding of the past.

In brief, heritage is the artful blend of the universality of social networks.

Take a virtual tour of The Beild House

To see images and imagery of this heritage home, click here and then click on Slideshow in the upper right-hand corner.


(a) The Beild House website

(b) The Georgian Triangle Tourist Association

(c) The Town of Collingwood website


In the podcast, Bill makes reference to a number of themes and historical events. Below you will find links to some of these.

(a) Eden Smith and the Arts and Crafts Architectural Movement. For additional information, click here.

Eden Smith was the architect who designed the Beild House. He was also an architect who emphasized simplicity of style and the beauty of natural materials.

(b) The railway from Toronto to Collingwood. Railway transportation is essential to the history of Collingwood. For more information visit the Craigleith Heritage Depot. For any railway buffs (and they are legion), this is a must see.

(c) Black Loyalists, an article by John Sewell former mayor of Toronto.

For those who may not be familiar with the history of Canada and the United States, the Loyalists were the people who, during the American Revolution, chose to stay “loyal to the Crown” as opposed to becoming part of the new republic to the south. Some of these Loyalists were actually African-Americans escaping slavery.

(d) The Riel Rebellion and other military history

The Riel Rebellion of 1885 was a defining moment in Canadian history.

(e) The Niagara Escarpment

The Niagara Escarpment is not only a fascinating study of geology but is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

(f) Petun Indians

These First Nations people were instrumental in the trading routes of the region; and also have a unique history in North America.

(g) The Bruce Trail

For anyone who has experienced the Bruce Trail, especially that section which is found in the Niagara Escarpment near Collingwood, will understand why the preservation of such interconnected green spaces is vital in the 21st century.

(h) Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons is an hour’s leisurely drive from Collingwood and affords spectacular views of Georgian Bay along the way. Georgian Bay, by the way, has been referred to as “the sixth Great Lake.”

(i) Collingwood’s shipbuilding history

As a shipbuilding town, Collingwood was well-known especially for its lake steamers, lake freighters, tug boats, car ferries, tankers, and even the famous Sir Wilfrid Laurier Icebreaker. During the First and Second World Wars, the people of Collingwood also built minesweepers for the British Royal Navy, Corvettes for the Royal Canadian Navy, and other bulk carriers that were used in the war effort. To see a full list of these ships, click here.

(k) Mr. Christie

As mentioned in the podcast, Bill Barclay is the great great grandson of William Mellis Christie the namesake for the Canadian Mr. Christie brand of cookies and biscuits.

Mr. Christie, you make good cookies!

To watch this vintage television commercial, click here.

A letter from from William Mellis Christie to his son Robert on the occasion of the latter’s coming of age (including quotes from Proverbs 15:1 and the poetry of Robert Burns)

The Beild House contains many archival materials amongst which is this letter:

My Dear Son:

On this, the early morning of your 21st birthday, I pass you over to yourself, trusting that you will exercise due care in the preservation of your health. At the present time, It think it is fair to “middling”, so from that stand point you will have little to upbraid me with. As for the many weaknesses which you have inherited from your parents, you will have to struggle with them as they have been passed on to you, doubtless little less virulent than they were received.

It will be for you to cultivate the virtues and subdue the vices inherent in your heredity, bearing in mind that truthfulness and honesty of purpose, in all your actions will do much to make a respected man of you. Control as far as in you lies your temper, “A soft answer turneth away wrath”. “Mankind is an unco [remarkable] set, and little to be trusted”. “When self the wavering balance shows it’s rarely right adjusted”. These quotations are from different sources in the narrow sense, but in a wider sense they are but the experiences of humanity.

Let me say that the wise man benefits by the blunders of others. All our knowledge is but the experience of others. perhaps in a few cases new truths are discovered by individuals and in course of time become the common property. Let every new step which you may take be well considered before taken, again bearing in mind other people’s experience. At the same time bearing in mind that time once lost can never be regained, you can turn back the hands of the clock, but you cannot send back time.

When you are disposed to make any departure from the ordinary course, weigh well the pros and cons, consult some one with experience, and known good judgment on general subjects, especially men who have attained at least middle age. And especially those who have proven their good judgment by making a success of their undertakings. Money is very useful in its way and little can be done without it. But it is not the “Chief end of Man”. Good health, a clear conscience and happiness is almost sure to follow.

Cultivate good manners, speak civil even to a beggar. Control your temper, remember that “He who ruleth his spirit is greater than he who taketh a city”. If you cannot rule yourself, how can you rule others? Much more might I say if time permitted. What a poor excuse for stopping. I close this with the best wishes a father can have for the welfare of a son.

Your rather indulgent father,

W. Christie.

Stephanie and Bill Barclay, your hosts at the Beild House

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