On a sunny Sunday drive a few weeks ago through Niagara-on-the-Lake my husband and I stumbled upon the McFarland House. The road-side “Tea Room Open” sign peaked my interest and so we stopped to investigate. We were greeted at the front door by a polite young woman in Georgian period costume. She asked us if we were here for a tour of the McFarland House or for tea. Having just eaten a large meal elsewhere we inquired about a tour but unfortunately tour for that day had ended.
Today I finally returned for both tea and a tour. Being my 29th birthday it was a special occasion and I had high expectations.
I was seated for tea at a quaint table on the river side of the beautiful and open atrium. It has floor-to-ceiling windows and is tastefully decorated with a mixture of new-world whimsy and old-world antiques.
Not for lack of choices – from fresh-baked scones to cool and creamy afternoon sandwiches – I decided on the Newark tea for two. [We later, during our tour of the house, discovered that before it was Niagara-on-the-Lake, the town was called Newark]. I ordered the Delirium Blossom Flowering Tea and the Mulled Spice tea. The spread of sandwiches, fruit, crackers, cheese and ice-wine jelly is divine and the tea is delicious. In my opinion it was certainly worth the $30 price-tag.
I do have a few suggestions though. Although I appreciated the description of each of the different kinds of tea ie/ black tea, green tea, rooibos, etc … I would have liked to see a description of each individual tea. It would have also been nice to see some information about the food – Was it local fruit? Where were their selection of cheeses from? Do they bake their own bread? I think that details like these always add authenticity to an experience.
After tea, I made my way into the old original section of the McFarland home for a tour ($6.00 per person). Lived in by John McFarland, his 2nd wife Margaret Wilson, and his 9 children (4 from his first marriage), the house was built in 1800. John was a master ship builder for King George III and, in exchange for his work, was given 608 acres of prime river-side land in Newark.
With its original floors and other period pieces, including an impressive 18th century book collection, the house is quite charming. The young guide, studying at the local university to teach history, was very knowledgeable and shared a many-a-detail of both the home and the family.
My favourite part of the tour was when our guide explained some of today’s familiar sayings that originate from the Georgian/Victorian era of the home. For instance, while talking about the rope bed in the servant’s quarters I learned what it meant to “sleep tight” and while exploring the four-poster, thatched, canopy bed in the master bedroom learned where the term “raining cats and dogs” came from.
Not only a beautiful home to John and his family, during the war of 1812 it was used as a hospital by both the British and American armies. When John was 61, he and his son James (from his 1st marriage) were taken prisoner and lived as a POW for a number of years. When the war ended John, age 64, returned home and passed away soon after. The home remained in the McFarland family for many years and in the 1950’s was transferred into the care of the Niagara Parks Commission who continue to take care of the property today.
Nearing the end of the tour I inquired about where John and Margaret rest and it turns out they are in the local cemetery behind St. Mark’s Anglican church in Niagara-on-the-Lake. After learning so much about the family it was only right to visit them there as an end to my afternoon.
All in all, I’d recommend visiting the McFarland home when in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy a delicious meal and explore the rich history of the Niagara region.
For more information on McFarland house you can visit these websites: