T H E L E G A C Y O F Celebrating the man who inspired Annandale House OSCAR WILDE B reak out the sunflowers and silk, Annandale National His- of building their retirement dream home at Annandale farm at the time and were open to new interior de- sign ideas. Board as the best surviving example of the Aesthetic Arts movement in Canada.”

toric Site is having a party. No, we’re not talking about Turtlefest, or Canada’s 150th birthday, or even the much-anticipated NHL Centen- nial Fan Arena festivities. Rather, this party will celebrate beauty, art, nature, and the endlessly fascinating man who dared to profess that such things mattered. Welcome to Wilde Week , a unique week-long celebration of Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde—or as he’s better known in Tillsonburg, the man who inspired the decora- tion of Annandale House. “In 1882, Irish author, playwright and poet Oscar Wilde criss-crossed Canada and the U.S. by train, giv- ing lectures on the Aesthetic Arts Movement,” says Patricia Phelps, curator of Annandale National His- toric Site. “On May 29, he arrived in Woodstock wearing royal blue vel- vet knickers, lacy cuffs, and carrying a sunflower.” Among the many people who came out to hear Wilde’s renowned “House Beautiful” lecture was Mary Ann Tillson, wife of Tillsonburg mayor and industrialist E.D. Till- son. The couple were in the midst

From the elaborately hand-paint- ed ceilings to the intricate inlaid floors, Annandale House is an aes- thete’s dream. “The aesthetic arts movement was about transforming and glo- rifying the ordinary things of life,” says Beechey. “The idea was that ‘art

“Why two people in their ‘50s would follow the teachings of the unusual Mr. Wilde will always re- main a mystery,” writes local histo- rian Laurel Beechey. “But follow it they did and proud of it they were.” Although Wilde’s imprisonment for homosexuality didn’t occur un- til a decade later, he was nonethe- less flamboyant. Not only did his outlandish dress challenge Victorian ideals, but he was unabashedly criti- cal of much of the art and architec- ture of his day. Echoing the ideas of Aestheticism’s founder, William Morris, Wilde taught that beauty should be found in everyday life, in “your own men and women, your own flowers and fields, your own hills and mountains. These are what your art should represent to you.” “Annandale House is a magnifi- cent structure for many reasons, but certainly the elaborate decor choices made by E.D. and Mary Ann have generated incredible interest over the years,” says Phelps. “In fact, An- nandale’s interior is recognized by the Historic Sites and Monuments

Mary Ann Tillson hired an interior designer, schooled in the Aesthetic philosophy, after hearing Oscar Wilde speak in Woodstock, Ontario.


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