History Lesson: The Beautiful & Mysterious Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario

800px DundurnCastleSummer

A source of fantasy of mine since I was 8 years old, Dundurn Castle is a Regency masterpiece in Hamilton Ontario.  Both the castle and its grounds are simply spectacular.  Word of caution though…. If you go on a day  that I go… I WILL reenact the Norma Desmond scene on the stairs. 

Steeped in history, mystery and endless beauty, Dundurn Castle is a historic Neoclassical / Regency estate on York Boulevard in Hamilton, Ontario, simply BEGGING for you to spend a day snarfling through its lofty chambers and halls (Do a video tour of the castle HERE). Built between 1832 and 1835, this sprawling 18,000-square-foot mansion took three years and $175,000.00 to build… that figure translates into $ 39,000,000. dollars in today’s cost of materials and labour.  

The elegant Entrance hall with its sculptural staircase and gorgeous tile floor

The seventy-two room castle (really such a sensible size if you think about it) featured the latest conveniences of the era including the then revolutionary usage of gas lighting and running water.  Dundurn is now owned by the City of Hamilton, and they’ve spent nearly $3 million renovating the site to make 42 of the original 72 rooms open to the public and in keeping to the year 1855 when its owner Sir Allan Napier MacNab, 1st Baronet, was at the height of his career.

The plaster mouldings in the formal Dining room are a gorgeous celebration of detail and the magnificent chandelier with its crystal and Wedgewood inserts is a visual delight, especially at dusk.

Historically informed, passionate and fully costumed interpreters guide visitors through the home, illustrating daily life from the 1850’s (I LOVE how knowledgeable the guides are and how much they enjoy their historic “performances”). On a side note, the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker-Bowles is the Royal Patron of Dundurn  Castle. Of special not for the “Ghost Hunter” crowd… Dundurn is rumored to be a MAJOR nexus of spirits and ghosts from its history of tragedy and numerous deaths at the castle.  To plan your Ghost Hunt inside the mansion check Haunted Hamilton for the “hot spots”.

A view from the rear lawns … elegant, inspiring and poetic in its beauty and calm majesty.

Dundurn was Designed and created by the brilliant Architect Robert Charles Wetherell in the Neoclassical / Regency style and reflects both MacNab’s lofty aspirations and the latest in style and fashion of the era.  The property for the castle was purchased from Richard Beasley, one of Hamilton’s early settlers, who due to financial difficulties, was forced to sell his beloved lands at Burlington Heights (present day Dundurn Park) to MacNab, who then built Dundurn Castle on the foundations of Beasley’s Georgian brick home (also the site that 12 “traitors” to the crown were hung) . Once built, Dundurn Castle became famous across the country for its grand entertainments and massive balls. Sir John A. Macdonald and King Edward VII are among those who stayed at Dundurn Castle to name a few.

Looking down the winding stairs from the upper landing… PERFECT to make a grand entrance at your soiree or to reenact the Norma Desmond scene from Sunset Blvd.

 The overall feeling of Dundurn … despite the cacophony of patterned carpets and fabrics (SO fashionable at the time) is one of overall grace and fluidity.  I especially love the exterior facade of the mansion and its many wings and outbuildings including the stunning Dovecote… a spectacular piece of architecture in and of itself.  Make the time to visit and spend an afternoon soaking up the beauty and mystery of Dundurn.

The Dovecote in the side wing and the inner private courtyard to the stables

 The exquisite detail of the Dovecote…. I would love to make a study in the 2nd floor

The exquisite front facade of Dundurn Castle… gracious, elegant and welcoming

The Drawing room at Dundurn Castle… and yes… I’ve always loved that the room is entirely Pink.

The upper hall Family lounge … picture it with a variety of ottomans, carpets, hides, games table and a cacophony of family, heatedly talking about politics and who wore what at the last ball…

The Children’s Nursery … if you can’t send them off to boarding school… a room in the attics is the next most sensible option… so Flowers in the Attic.

When you’re feeling very “Edward Gory” ennui or a general sense of malaise … you can retire to a Recamier in the Sick Room

A different angle of the Dundurn

  1. MelissMeliss11-23-2012

    HAHAHA! “Flowers in the Attic”…Robin, you’re so bad.