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Hillary House celebrates new outdoor exhibition, grant funding

·3 min read

If you think Hillary House, Aurora's only National Historic Site, is just a red-brick building renowned for its gothic revival architecture, you have much more to explore.

On a snowy afternoon this past Friday, Newmarket-Aurora MPP Christine Elliott, Mayor Tom Mrakas, and representatives from both the Aurora Historical Society and the Ontario Trillium Foundation came together to both celebrate the opening of A Look Outside Hillary House, a permanent and interactive outdoor tour of the Hillary House grounds, and to recognize recent grant funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to ensure the building and grounds continue to be a community showplace for generations to come.

Funding grants recognized last week included a Trillium grant to the tune of $36,000 to restore the Yonge Street-facing verandah, and another through the Resilient Communities Fund to help the Aurora Historical Society further its fundraising endeavours through the Hillary House Ball, scotch tastings, seminars and more.

“It helped us bring in some technology we would not have been able to do without that,” said Patricia Wallace, President of the Aurora Historical Society. “We are very grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for helping us navigate through the system which gives us very important funding.”

Ontario Trillium Foundation representative Shelley Wister Smith said the Society (AHS) presented a “very strong case” for a grant.

“I am so pleased we could help you with our ongoing commitment to building awareness of our history in our community,” she said.

This was a sentiment shared by Ms. Elliott, who said the funding will help ensure Hillary House is “safe and easy for our community to access.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for many families and organizations across York Region, including the Aurora Historical Society,” said Ms. Elliott. “Our government will continue to support you during these times as we work to protect the progress we have made in our fight against the virus.

“Earlier this year, the Society was awarded $21,300 through the Resilient Communities Fund to help rebuild and recover from the effects of the pandemic. This grant has helped the Society hire a permanent part-time contractor and purchase PPE, AV equipment and software to diversify the Society’s fundraising and programming initiatives. This funding builds on the first grant of $36,000 the Ontario Trillium Foundation approved in September of 2019 to help improve and restore its infrastructure.”

While MPP Elliott heralded the grant funding, it was left to Mayor Mrakas to formally open the A Look Outside Hillary House exhibition, an initiative led by AHS curator Kathleen Vahey.

“Thank you to the Minister and the Province of Ontario for these important funds which will help Hillary House continue to be a vibrant and important site in our community,” said Mayor Mrakas. “This exhibition [will teach] visitors about the architectural significance of Hillary House, the importance of outdoor spaces to 19th and early 20th century families, more about the history of Hillary House and the families who lived there, and its grounds.

“I look forward to seeing the Hillary House and Koffler Museum of Medicine continue to flourish, grow and be a favourite place to visit in our Town. This is an imperative piece of our Town’s history that must be cherished and preserved for many years to come.”

Brock Weir, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Auroran

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