Eldon House takes visitors “behind the ropes” for detailed tour at the historical site

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Londoners got a glimpse behind the ropes at Eldon House on Saturday, as the city’s oldest standing home opened its doors for a special sneak peek.

Appropriately called the “Behind the Ropes” tour, guides shared secrets and little-known facts about the home’s past inhabitants – four generations of the Harris family – and their many possessions.

“I’ve been coming to Eldon House for 45 years, and I’ve never had a tour like that,” Edith Tovey said after making the rounds of the home and surrounding buildings.

The house is unique. Unlike many other historical homes, Eldon House is full of original artifacts used by the Harris family, which were donated to the city along with the buildings and property in 1960. That gift included Harris Park, which historical interpreter Nikki Michienzi described as the family’s “backyard.”

Those personal collections make for an interesting look behind the curtain at Eldon House. Many members of the Harris family were avid travelers, and sent souvenirs from their trips back to London. Visitors on Saturday saw everything from Egyptian statues to an umbrella stand made out of an elephant foot.

Other highlights:

-Much of Eldon House is covered with an intricate Japanese wallpaper from 1897.

-The home includes an elevator, now out of service, that the ladies used to get from the ground floor to the dressing room.

-A bathroom was added in later years, but some members of the Harris family still preferred to use a commode chair, because entering the bathroom made it “obvious” to others that the person was using the toilet.

-Ronald Harris worked as a mining engineer in Africa, and hunted a wide variety of animals – usually for food, not sport. Animal head decor graces many of the walls in Eldon House.

Now a historical site and museum, Eldon House was built in 1834 by John Harris, a British Navy Captain who settled in Canada after serving in North America during the early 1800s.

Eldon House is under renovation right now. As much as possible, updates are made in a historically accurate way, Michienzi said. In an upstairs bedroom where the ceiling is being repaired, a contractor is using period-specific techniques – including rabbit glue.

“With a building this old, it needs a little TLC every now and again,” Mark Tovey, vice-chair of Eldon House, said after the tour.

“We anticipate the scaffolding will be coming off soon, and there will be a beautiful…building underneath it. We’re tremendously excited.”



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