Summer is just around the corner and the Aurora Historical Society is whipping up a menu that has something for everyone – from a strawberry tea, to a whiskey tasting, and even a bit of a murder mystery on the side.
Hillary House National Historic Site, home to the Aurora Historical Society (AHS), might be gearing up to once again welcome visitors across their Victorian gothic threshold soon, but society members and residents at large have been keen to stay in touch through virtual programming, including their popular speaker series.
The fun continues this Wednesday, June 23, with The Bachelorette New France: Bigamy, Incest, Witchcraft and Murder hosted by researchers Dawn Kelly and Carol Ufford who have curated fascinating stories on the Filles du Roi and other young women who were encouraged to cross the Atlantic to New France to help populate the colony.
This virtual talk, which costs $7.35, will be followed by several local speakers in the months ahead including Aurora Sport Hall of Famer Karen Stemmle with Life Adventures from Zero to 140km Per Hour, the Toronto Railway Historical Society with “Rails Through Aurora and, this October, Brian North on recent archeological digs on the site of Aurora United Church.
“The speaker series has really been quite successful virtually,” says AHS president Patricia Wallace. “Pivoting to virtual has done just as well and we’re excited about that. It has helped broaden our audience and we have people from out-of-town joining in because they can do it without travelling and that is exciting.”
If a taste of Victorian fare, however, is what you’re looking for, the Society will host a Strawberry Tea from Home on June 26. With a special tea kit – including sweet treats from Maple Teahouse and Bake Shop – ready to pick up from Hillary House from 10 a.m. to noon. A virtual presentation on the history of tea hosted by Lianne Harris will accompany the sit-down from 2 to 3 p.m.
“You’ll get to take home a nice gift bag of goodies with beautifully-presented food from Maple Teahouse as well as a special gift from our gift shop, which will be a surprise for everybody,” says Wallace. “Everybody wants to take part, support, and find different ways to lend their support and we’re trying to give them a venue to do that.”
The AHS hoped present health circumstances would have allowed the Strawberry Tea to take place in person, but while the numbers didn’t allow that to happen, they are confident they can again welcome guests to the expansive Hillary House grounds this September for a Victorian Harvest Tea, an event which was wildly successful last year.
“We’re planning on increasing the capacity of that this year,” says Ms. Wallace, building on last year’s sold-out event. “We also have a scotch tasting coming up and that is going to sell out very quickly. It’s virtual and we’re working with the Aurora Whisky Society.”
If that wasn’t enough, the AHS is pleased to announce the Hillary House Ball will be returning virtually this year after a hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19. The Hillary House at Home Ball will take place October 23, with proceeds going to outdoor restoration work at the Yonge Street landmark – with a specific focus on restoring the gothic revival porch residents and travellers through Aurora have come to know so well.
For more on these and any other programs offered by the Aurora Historical Society, visit aurorahs.com.
Brock Weir is a federally funded Local Journalism Initiative reporter at The Auroran