In the early 1850’s the lure of plenty of water power and the promise of railway development attracted Joshua Bates, founder of nearby Farmersville (now Athens), to a site beside the roaring waters of Old Sly’s Rapids on the Rideau Canal. Bates built two mills on property leased from the Crown and promoted the development of the Brockville and Ottawa Railway Company. After suffering considerable losses in his milling operations and investing heavily in the now bankrupt railway company, he began construction of his large frame house in 1861.
Despite his optimism for the future, fate did not allow Joshua Bates to recoup his fortune or to enjoy his new home. He died in debt on January 1st, 1864. His home and mills were acquired by his business competitor Truman R. Ward, eldest son of Abel Russell Ward, a founding father of Smiths Falls. After many years of neglect, the Corporation of the Town of Smiths Falls purchased the once dignified country estate from the Gleeson family in 1977 for use as a community museum.
Today, the Smiths Falls Heritage House Museum functions as a community museum and historic house, depicting the upper middle class life of the Bates Family circa 1865-1875 and featuring a changing displays of Smiths Falls artifacts and history, traveling exhibits and art shows. A visit offers unique mirror-image facades, an indoor brick bake oven, period rooms, exhibition galleries and a famous two-story privy.
The grounds are located on the picturesque Rideau Canal waterway at Old Sly’s Lock Station and offer the perfect backdrop for an afternoon picnic, nature respite or family gathering. Ask us about our great rates for group bookings, meetings, and weddings!
Family researchers should also note that the Lanark County Genealogical Resource Centre is located on site. Library access is $5 per day or $20 per year and can be purchased at the Museum.