Celebrating Henry House During COVID-19

By Melissa Cole, Curator

While editing our latest issue of Historical Happenings (our quarterly newsletter for Oshawa Historical Society Members) which is dedicated to celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Henry House as a museum, I began to reflect on my time here at the museum.  My career at the Oshawa Museum started 20 years ago.  I started as a Fleming College Museum Management and Curatorship intern in the archives, working with past Archivist, Tammy Robinson.  One of my first projects was to work on a display celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Henry House officially opening as a museum: a come and go tea was held in the garden of Henry House. 

Letter from former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien acknowledging the 40th anniversary of Henry House.

Twenty years later, I never would have thought we would not be on site to celebrate the 60th anniversary of what I consider one of our largest artefacts and that we would celebrate virtually.  Before Henry House became a museum, it was the home to many families such as the Henry Family, Smith Family, and Mackie Family.  The home is furnished in belongings from various families that once lived in Oshawa.  In this post I thought I would highlight a few of my favourite pieces that are currently on display in Henry House, artefacts you would see on a tour with one of our knowledgeable Visitor Hosts.  Some of the items I will highlight belonged to the Henry family. 

Lets go on a curatorial tour!

Walking in the front door, something I miss the most is the smell of Henry House.  I realized how much I missed this smell the other day when I walked into Henry to check on the collection.  The smell is comforting, and it may have to do with the fact it has become my home away from home over the last 20 years. 

In the study, as you walk into the room you will find a beautiful mahogany spinet desk that once belonged to Dr. Franklin Luther Henry, grandson of Thomas Henry.  This particular desk was once located in Dr. F.L. Henry’s home and dental practice located at 231 King Street East in Oshawa.  This building still stands and is now home to the Harmony Health Centre. 

As you enter the parlour there is a beautiful Edwardian settee along the south-east wall, that once sat in Centre Street United Church.

Settee that once was at the Centre Street United Church

Located nearby is a beautiful embroidered child’s folding chair that once belonged to Thomas and Lurenda’s youngest child Jennie Henry.  As you enter the dining room there is another lovely artefact that once belonged to Jennie as well, a vegetable warming dish that was a wedding gift for her and John McGill.  They were married in Henry House on January 1, 1873. As you leave the dining room on the south hallway wall is a frame containing six tin types of the Henry children,

Jennie (Henry) McGill’s vegetable warmer

One of the popular rooms in the house containing the most activity was the kitchen; my favourite artefact in this room is not attributed to any particular family member.  It is a common kitchen gadget that many people still use in their home today, likely in the form of an SOS pad.  If you have visited our site in the past you have probably already named it, the pot scrubber!  You just never know what guesses our visitors will come up with for this item. 

Not on display but within the corner cupboard is chinaware similar to what was found during the 2018 archaeological dig in the backyard of Henry House.

Lastly the main floor bedroom, on the east wall is a pair of oval framed tin types of Thomas and Lurenda Henry. Further along this wall is a bird’s eye maple dresser that once belonged to the Robinson Family.  I have to mention, on top of this dresser are three exquisite pieces of hair jewellery, made from human hair.  This was a great way to recycle hair.  After brushing, the hair would be removed from the brush and kept in ceramic hair receptacles.  Sometimes the hair may have been from someone who had died, and this was made in memory of them. 

I have to be honest, all the artefacts in the home are my favourites for different reasons because these objects assist us in sharing the unique stories about our community and the people that helped shape it.  I wanted to bring a few to life today. 

To discover more about Henry House, you can check out our blog archive which goes back to 2013; the handy search bar makes searching easy.

We also have videos on our YouTube channel featuring Henry House – Our Henry House Playlist is a curated list of videos about Henry House or the Henry family: Access it HERE

Making Butter

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Since mid-March, the Oshawa Museum shifted our visitor engagement online. I had a lot of fun filming a few short videos at the Museum, with the hopes that even if you can’t physically visit the Museum, you can still experience some of our favourite tour features.  Thanks to a suggestion from my best friend, we also created a short video tutorial on how you can make your own butter at home! You can watch that video HERE.


For many centuries, butter has been a staple in Canadian homes. For a Victorian family of the 19th century, butter making would have been a routine chore. Butter was used in the same way we use it today: as an ingredient in recipes or as a spread for bread, scones and tea biscuits, but it would also be used for barter at the local grocers.

In the video demo, and when we make butter with visitors, we use:

  • whipping cream
  • clean mason jar with tight fitting lid
  • marbles, to help with agitation (optional)
  • Salt (optional)

To make butter like we did in the video, place your cream into your container, filling it about halfway, not all the way.  This is where you can add your optional marbles, which help with agitation, and salt for flavour. Tighten the lid and start shaking.  After some time, the result of all the shaking is your butter and buttermilk.

Copy of DSCN2442

Victorians likely would have used churns when making their butter, and we have a few churn examples in our collection. Likely the example that comes to mind first is the churn and dash. By pumping the dasher up and down, the cream inside the churn would be agitated and eventually separation would occur – the fat and protein of the dairy, and the remaining liquid, the buttermilk.


This churn is another example, where the crank on the outside is turned, and there are paddles on the inside which cause the agitation.


Perhaps an artefact that is asked about on most tours is the rocker churn.  Our example was made in Fenelon Falls, and at first glance, you likely wouldn’t guess it’s a butter churn.  When the lid is removed, you can see wooden bars on the inside and yes, you guessed it, those bars act like the dash and agitate the cream.  There is even a spout near the bottom where the buttermilk could pour out.

The 1851 agricultural census gives us a snapshot of what crops Thomas Henry had on his farms and what animals were being cared for.  That year, Thomas had 11 cows: 4 bulls, oxen or steers; 3 cows/heifers; and 4 milch cows, which is a cow in milk or kept for her milk. It is likely that among the chores that Thomas’s children would have helped with, his sons would have cared for the animals, and his daughters may have turned that milk into butter.


Be sure to check out the Museum From Home page for other at home activities to try!

It Isn’t Easy Being Green

Until April, our feature exhibit is called The Vintage Catwalk, looking at interesting fashions through the years.  Featured in this post are artefacts in our collection (that may or may not be on exhibition), and with St. Patrick’s Day later this month, the theme of the artefacts is green!

Be sure to visit the exhibition before it closes!

Note, the skirt appears to have repairs/changes through the years, especially notable when you look at the bottom hem.

Green hats, including one from Scouts Canada.


From inside our 2017 feature exhibit Celebrating 60.  Our earliest donation included this green suit, owned by Premier Gordon Conant.

FAV (3)

Finally, our most notorious green textile – the arsenic green dress.  This dress, part of the collection of our exhibit partner The Costume People, was dyed with copper arsenite; the dye often proved fatal for the wearers and especially for the women who worked directly applying the dyes in the manufacture process.  Our summer student Lauren shared the story of these dresses in a post last summer.

Student Museum Musings: Guide Uniforms 1987 vs Today

By Victoria, co-op student

Hi everyone! My name is Victoria, and I am a co-op student at the Oshawa Museum. One of my jobs so far has been to organize and take in the items from the Oshawa Girl Guide House collection. Guide House closed in 2014, and the vast collection of artefacts has been in storage ever since. Now, the Oshawa Museum has gotten some of that collection! As a member of Girl Guides of Canada for almost ten years, seeing the items in this collection has been very interesting. Today, I’ll be comparing two Guide (Guides is the branch for girls aged 9 to 11) uniforms: one from 1987, and the latest uniform, released in 2019. From the long skirts of the 1910s, to the t-shirt of today, uniforms have changed quite a bit over the years.

Image from Girl Guides of Canada Flickr Account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/girlguidesofcan/8203493766/in/album-72157625122062617/

This Guide uniform was released in 1987. Designed by Alfred Sung, a popular Canadian designer, it introduced several changes to the uniforms. One of the biggest changes was pants! Starting in 1991, pants were finally an official option for the “official” uniform. With the addition of pants, a white and blue striped t-shirt, and a blue sweatshirt with red maple leaves were introduced as “official” uniform pieces. Despite the changes, the uniform still retained some of the more formal options from uniforms prior, like a dress, and the belt, though both were redesigned. The uniform scarf was redesigned as well. This uniform was discontinued in 2001, but many people continued to wear it past that date.

Guiding has changed quite a bit since that uniform was introduced in 1987.  In between 2001 and 2020, there were several redesigns to the uniforms. When compared to the 1987 uniform, this latest one is wildly different. Introduced in 2019 as part of Girl Guides of Canada’s rebranding, it is a navy-blue shirt (available in several lengths/fits) with a small white trefoil on the chest. A large white trefoil logo is printed on the back of the shirt. Unlike previous uniforms, this one does not require a badge sash, or a scarf.

Basic RGB
Image from Girl Guides of Canada website: https://www.girlguides.ca/web/GGC/Home/GGC/uniform.aspx

As you may have realized, this uniform is wildly different from previous ones. Uniforms have always changed to reflect the times, and this latest one is no different. This uniform is the first one to consist of only one piece (a t-shirt), and the first to be the same for all branches. This means that everyone, from Sparks to Guiders, has the option to wear the same uniform. And though the uniforms have changed, many of the values and ideas of Guiding stay the same. After all this time, the motto is still “Be Prepared.”

Want to read more? Jill has written about her memories of Guiding and Scouting! Give it a read!


Girlguides.ca. (2014). Girl Guides of Canada – Guides du Canada Fun Facts. [online] Available at: https://www.girlguides.ca/web/uploads/File/media_room/media_kit/ggc-fun-facts.pdf.

Girlguides.ca. (2017). Our History – 1990-2009. [online] Available at: http://www.girlguides.ca/web/ON/Girl_Program/ON/Our_History/Our_History_1990_2009.aspx.

Girlguides.ca. (2019). The Girl Guide uniform – English. [online] Available at: https://www.girlguides.ca/web/GGC/Home/GGC/uniform.aspx.

Guidehistory.files.wordpress.com. (2016). Guide Uniforms. [online] Available at: https://guidehistory.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/guide-uniform1.pdf.

Szekely, R. (2014). Iconic Oshawa Girl Guide House for sale. [online] DurhamRegion.com. Available at: https://www.durhamregion.com/community-story/4439970-iconic-oshawa-girl-guide-house-for-sale/ [Accessed 2020].

You Asked, We Answered: The Centre Street Church Settee

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. This wasn’t one such question as I happened to know the answer, but I thought it could make an interesting post for the blog nonetheless.

I was recently on tour in Henry House when I was asked about the story of the settee in the parlour. It has an interesting provenance.


The museum acquired the settee in 1973; before donation, it was used in the Centre Street Church, the same church that Thomas Henry preached at decades before.

Centre Street Church A982.64.3

Centre Street Church’s origins lay with the Christian Church, officially organizing in Darlington in 1821. A decade later in 1831, Elder Thomas Henry organized the Oshawa Christian Church and served as its pastor. Meetings were held in homes and schoolrooms until 1843 when the first church was built in the area of Richmond and Church (later Centre) Streets. This church served the needs of the congregation for 30 years, during most of which time Rev. Thomas Henry was its minister.

The Christian Church soon became too small for the congregation; a section of land was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Cade, and a new church was built in 1874 on Centre Street, just south of King Street. It was reported that more than 400 worshipers were turned away from the opening service due to lack of room, indicative of the interest and support for the new building. Four services were held on the dedication day on September 5, 1875.


The church, known as the Oshawa Christian Church, was known for its beautiful lofty spire, and it was constructed with white brick with the roof and spire covered with slate.  Installed in the spire was a bell, a ‘crowning touch’ as reported by the Oshawa Times in 1967.

In 1928 the church joined the United Church of Canada and was renamed Centre Street United Church.

Photo from the Oshawa Times, April 29, 1967

In the 1960s, City Hall was looking to expand, and the church trustees agreed to sell the property to facilitate construction of the Rundle Tower.  The last service at the Centre Street United Church was held on April 30, 1967, conducted by Rev. A.W. Magee.  The congregation merged with the Westmount United, forming Centennial United. Eventually the congregation merged once again with Albert Street United to form Centennial Albert United Church which stands today on the southeast corner of Rosehill Blvd and Bond Street.


Other vestiges of the Centre Street United Church remain, besides the bench and amalgamated congregation.  The ‘crowning touch’ bell can still be found today outside the Rundle Tower at City Hall, where the church originally sat, and a keystone bearing the date 1874 is a feature of the Henry House Heritage Gardens.

Gardens May 2017 (10)