Built in 1822, Campbell House is the oldest surviving building from the Town of York and an outstanding example of Georgian architecture. Saved by The Advocates’ Society from demolition and moved to its current location in 1972, Campbell House was home to Chief Justice William Campbell, who in 1826 presided over the trial of the rioters who destroyed William Lyon Mackenzie’s printing press, a significant early test for freedom of the press in Canada. Located in Toronto’s justice precinct, at the northwest corner of Queen Street West and University Avenue, the classical house with surrounding park is a contrast to, and a stage from which to contemplate, the urban scene arrayed before it: the skyline of office towers and rising condos, City Hall and the courts, University Avenue, and the retail and cultural strip of Queen Street West. Campbell House is owned by the City of Toronto. The museum is operated by the Sir William Campbell Foundation and the grounds are maintained as a public park by the City on land leased from The Great-West Life Assurance Co.
Campbell House Museum is a vibrant public space where members of Toronto’s diverse communities gather to discuss, to create, to perform and to socialize, giving life to the words “freedom of expression.” The museum maintains its link to the administration of justice by serving as an important meeting and debating place for lawyers and the judiciary. The museum acquires and preserves artifacts related to Chief Justice William Campbell’s life and times, and to Campbell House’s ongoing history. The museum informs and inspires visitors through its history, collections, and unique context in the heart of downtown Toronto
Campbell House is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act for its cultural heritage value. The Sir William Campbell Foundation maintains the 1822 building and collects, preserves, and displays artefacts from the early 19th century, befitting the home of Chief Justice William Campbell.
This early nineteenth century house is designed with a Georgian platinum architectural style and is one of the oldest remaining buildings from the original Town of York.
Although the original house’s contents were auctioned by William Robinson, Campbell House is furnished with artefacts that are typical of an upper-class nineteenth century home, including:
- portraits, paintings, pictures, models
- china, cutlery, pots, cooking fireplace
- piano from 1801
- bed, bath, dressers, cabinets, dining table, chairs
- On the second floor of Campbell House there is a diorama of the York township in 1825. The diorama displays the neighbourhood of Campbell House’s original location. In addition, there is a blown up map of the township above the diorama, as well as photographs of Campbell House being moved to its present location.
- Beside the York township diorama, there is also a diorama of Sir William Campbell acting as a judge in the renowned legal dispute between Sir William Lyon Mackenzie vs. Samuel Peters Jarvis.
- A room for various rotating exhibits is located in the ballroom. Exhibits do not necessarily have historical themes.
- Culinary classes are offered through George Brown Culinary School and through Campbell House. Classes teach participants historic recipes and use historic cooking methods.
- A Museum Training Program is offered for 13 to 17 year olds. Activities include crafts, cooking and learning history.
- Plays are occasionally held in the house and move room to room.
- The Types Trial: re-enactment of famous trial where William Lyon Mackenzie took the Family Compact to court-for secondary students specifically.
- Dancing: Traditional Scottish Dancing accompanied by fife music.
Tours are guided, upon payment of an admission fee or occasionally by “pay what you can.”
Campbell House periodically accepts interns from a variety of post-secondary institutions and programs. Responsibilities vary according to the purpose of the internship and the intern’s interests, but may include helping with events, giving tours, supervising visitors, and creating new displays.
Campbell House also accepts volunteers for weekday interpretation and special events. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the museum directly.
Address & Contact Information:
160 Queen Street West
Hours of Operation:
Tuesday to Friday, 9:30 a.m – 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, 12:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Sundays, 12:00 – 4:30 p.m. from May to September.
The museum is closed for tours from December 24th to January 31, Good Friday to Easter Monday, and Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.
Key Words: architecture, household