|The year is
1882. Henry J. Bird and his family have just moved into
Woodchester Villa, their new eight-sided hill-topped home in
Three generations and
over a hundred years have passed but scenes from a century ago
linger on in Woodchester Villa. Stepping through the entrance of
Woodchester Villa, visitors will find their senses flooded with
images from the past. The house, rooms and furnishings send out
clues about what life must have been like for the Bird family.
That life was coloured
by the character and style of Henry J. Bird, one of Bracebridge’s
founding citizens. He established a woollen mill and played a
major role in bringing pumped water and electricity to the
His curiosity and
farsighted approach to life probably accounts for the building
of Woodchester Villa. The eight-sided design was inspired by the
writings of Orson Squire Fowler, a 19th century architectural
philosopher. Fowler believed that the octagonal design promoted
physical and mental heath. He also thought the shape to be the
most economical use of building materials and living space.
Henry Bird incorporated
many other innovative features into the house. It was the first
home in the area to have electric lighting. It also boasted
indoor plumbing, forced air heating, ventilation ducts, a dumb
waiter and a speaking tube.
In 1977, the
Bracebridge Rotary Club bought the house and lobbied to have it
designated as a historic site. In 1978, they succeeded in having
the house designated under the Ontario Heritage Act and
transferred ownership to the Town of Bracebridge.
Visitors to the site
are able to tour the house with the assistance of a museum