Not-So-Quiet on the Western Front
The exterior of Montgomery’s Inn.
Montgomery’s Inn is usually a quiet place. Located in the west end at Islington Avenue and Dundas Street West, the historic house and museum barely receives more than a few dozen visitors each week. While the Inn didn’t receive a Don Jail–style turnout during Doors Open, it did manage to draw in 475 guests. We went behind the scenes to better understand the process and to see how the inn’s volunteers transform into “historic interpreters.”
Stephen Michalowicz/Torontoist as a tour guide in the barroom.
Even for small venues like Montgomery’s Inn, Doors Open requires a lot of preparation. Planning for the weekend began several months ago, and twenty-seven staff members and volunteers were enlisted to ensure that everything, from the tours to the tea room, ran smoothly. Volunteers don’t just memorize a speech or study from a tour booklet. “We had a course that lasted all winter,” explained Terry Brown, one of the inn’s volunteers and historic interpreters. “Once a week on Tuesday, we had training; a week on fabrics, windows, cooking…” Volunteers and staff members are also expected to study regularly. “I always reread my notes,” said Brown. “I read them Friday morning, and then I read them this morning.”
The sitting room.
During the Doors Open event, most of the visitors were respectful, but we did encounter a few personalities: know-it-alls who kept interrupting other guests’ questions, people who couldn’t keep their hands off the historic artifacts, and one elderly gentleman who kept trying to pocket the photocopied documents left out as references. Some of the guests were also confused about the museum’s background and mistook it for Montgomery’s Tavern, the famous spot where William Lyon Mackenzie launched the Rebellion of 1837. The oddest thing we overheard was a conversation between two teenagers: “You see, I told you,” explained one of the kids, pointing out a spelling mistake in one of the photocopies of Montgomery’s ledgers. “Spelling didn’t matter until the 1940s, because people usually only had a grade school education.”
If you missed Montgomery’s Inn, or any other historic museum, during your Doors Open excursions, don’t worry; from July 4 to August 30, the city is granting free weekend admission to all of its historic museums.
All photos by by Ayngelina Brogan. Additional reporting by Kaori Furue/Torontoist. Stephen Michalowicz is a curatorial assistant and a volunteer at Montgomery’s Inn.