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McFarland House History

This historic Georgian structure was the home of John McFarland and his descendants for some 140 years. McFarland, a widower with four children, emigrated from Paisley, Scotland in the 1790s. He was granted 608 acres of land by the British Crown in return for his services as boat builder to King George III. Upon settling in Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake) he married Margaret Wilson, a neighbour, and before her death in 1809 five additional children were welcomed into the family.

The home is of particular historical significance as it survived the burning of Newark, a tragedy which took place when the American forces occupying Fort George retreated from the area in December 1813. This makes McFarland House one of the oldest structures in Niagara-on-the-Lake, as well as the oldest building owned by The Niagara Parks Commission. John McFarland and his sons built the house in 1800 from bricks made in a kiln on the property. A back wing was added later in the nineteenth century in order to accommodate the needs of this growing family.

During the War of 1812, McFarland House was used as a hospital by both the British and the American armies and a gun battery was situated on the property to help guard the Niagara River. Further, due to its strategic location, the British raid and capture of Fort Niagara on December 18, 1813 was launched from the ravine behind the home. John McFarland was taken prisoner during the war and sent to Greenbush, New York. When he returned after the conclusion of the conflict he found his house rather worse for wear, with windows, doors and mantels missing. McFarland was heartbroken over this damage and took ill in the spring of 1815, passing away soon thereafter. He rests at St. Mark's Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, where his tombstone bears an inscription listing these lamentable woes.

The garden at McFarland House is illustrative of a typical mid 19th century door yard garden. Gardens located in the door yard (typically defined as the area between the house and the nearby kitchen or barn) were usually used for both culinary and decorative purposes. McFarland House thanks the Garden Club of Niagara for their planning and upkeep of the garden.

Restored by The Niagara Parks Commission in 1959, McFarland House is furnished in the Empire style and portrays life in Niagara between 1800 and 1830. Guided tours of the home are available from mid May until Labour Day.