Burr House History
528 Carrville Road, Richmond Hill
In 1808, Rowland, the 10 year old son of Reuben Burr, decided to become a carpenter. For the next seven years he worked in his father’s shop in Aurora, learning carpentry and mill construction. He later became one of the outstanding millwrights in York County.
At 17, he went into business for himself and by 23 he had built himself a house. In 1819 he married Hester Lamoureux in St. James Cathedral in Toronto. After the wedding the young couple went to live in the house Burr built on Lot 41 Township of Vaughan – now part of Richmond Hill.
By the late 1820’s Rowland and Hester were living in a four-room Ontario Cottage of plank-on-plank construction; Rowland probably produced the lumber for his house at the mill he had built on the stream to the west in 1828. He and Hester lived there for 20 years, raising one son and five daughters. The sawmill was worked for about 20 years, but Greenfield Mill, the flour mill he also built was destroyed by fire in 1840.
In 1836, he sold his Vaughan Mills house and land and moved to Toronto, but after 1 year moved to a hewn-log house on the Humber River where Woodbridge (then known as Burrwick) now stands. The home he built in the 1840s may now be seen at Black Creek Pioneer Village, where it is known appropriately as Burrwick.
Sometime before he moved from this Carrville Road home, Burr built a blacksmith’s shop where his father, who lived with him, worked. Samuel Sanderson bought the property in 1836 and continued the blacksmithing business until 1844 when Thomas Boothby, another blacksmith, took the property over.
The Boothbys enlarged the house sometime before 1851, adding three brick rooms, including a large kitchen with cooking fireplace and bake oven. The bake oven was removed at some point but has been restored by the Richmond Hill Historical Society.
The Boothbys remained in the house until 1872 after which it passed through a number of owners until George Wood bought it in 1897. The Woods family lived in the house until the late 1960’s when Cadillac Baif bought the land for a subdivision. Burr House was subsequently acquired by the Town, and renovated by the Historical Society on its original site at 528 Carrville Road, now known as Woods Park.
In 1990 the Keefer Small House, a summer kitchen/woodshed found in Vaughan, was rebuilt as an addition to provide a new entrance to Burr House, replacing earlier wings, which had been built at various times during the lifespan of the house.
In 1973 the newly formed Richmond Hill Historical Society urged the Town to acquire the house at 528 Carrville Road. For several years, they operated the house as a working craft house for the demonstration and teaching of hand crafts and pioneer household activities. The building also served as a local museum and later, a craft and gift shop. During this time, Burr House became the home of Richmond Hill Burr House Spinners and Weavers Guild (a group that evolved from students of Burr House Craft classes) and the Hill Potters’ Guild.
The Guild Hall
Guild Hall, built in 1857 by the Evangelical Association of North America, was later moved in 1978 to the Burr House site by the Town of Richmond Hill. Both buildings are currently in use. Guild Hall houses the Hill Potters’ Guild downstairs and the Burr House Spinners and Weavers (upstairs).
In 1982, these two guilds formed a partnership with the Historical Society and jointly took over the operation of the Burr House, converting it to the Burr House Artisans – Gallery, Shop & Tearoom. Over time, the Historical Society stepped away from the operation of the property. The gallery, shop and tearoom, which operated for many years, has ceased. The two guilds currently jointly use the building to showcase fibre art and pottery as well as to run the guilds’ sales and activities.