Billings Estate National Historic Site

On this page

About us

The Billings family settled on the shores of the Rideau River in 1812 and took an active role in shaping the community as it evolved over time and until the 1970s when they left the estate. They helped build farms and churches, ran a dairy operation, and contributed to the development of the Byward Market by providing produce for sale and building the "Farmers' Bridge".

This National Historic Site on 8 acres of green space is also home to one of Ottawa's oldest community cemeteries where well-known Ottawa pioneers, such as the Evans, Brouse and Firth families, are laid to rest.

Hours and admission

Hours of operation: 

Wednesday - Sunday
10 am to 4:30 pm

*Please note that the museum will be closed from Thursday, September 29 through Sunday, October 2 as we complete regular maintenance. Thank you for your understanding.

Book your visit online.

Regular Admission: 

Adult - $7.25
Students and seniors - $6.00
Youth (ages 6 to 17) - $4.25
Child (5 and under) – Free
Family (2 adults and accompanying children under 18) - $18.00

*Special pricing may apply for programs and events.

**Please note that the Ottawa Museum Network (OMN) has suspended their library pass program with Ottawa Public Libraries for 2022. For more information regarding the OMN, visit: OttawaMuseumNetwork.ca.

Programs and special events

Historic Cemetery Tours

Fridays and Saturdays at dusk from October 1 through November 12.
Cost: $15.25 per person.
Ages 16 and up.
Advance registration is required.

Experience a unique guided tour of the grounds at Billings Estate and the Settler’s Cemetery at dusk. Hear true tales of death, burial, and disease from 19th century Bytown and Gloucester Township. This one-hour tour will take you beyond the walls of a typical visit to the museum. Learn about life and loss in early Ottawa under the canopy of a 200-year-old oak tree, discuss the evolution of funerary practices in the Tombstone Garage, brave the Ice House basement, and explore one of the region’s oldest community cemeteries as night approaches.

Notes:

  • Tours are presented in English.
  • The tour discusses difficult subject matter (e.g. disease, violence, death, etc.) and visitor discretion is advised.
  • Tickets are not available at the door; advance registration is required. Tours with insufficient registration may be cancelled. If an alternative tour date cannot be accommodated, a refund will be issued.
  • Please arrive 10 to 15 minutes before your tour’s scheduled start time.
  • Tours will take place rain or shine. Dress for weather conditions, wear comfortable shoes, and bring bug spray.
  • The tour route includes uneven and grassy terrain as well as gravel pathways. If you have questions regarding accessibility, please contact 613-580-2088 or museums@ottawa.ca.

How to register:

Registration for the Historic Cemetery Tours is completed using Service Ottawa’s online system with the barcodes listed below. You can also find the program listing by navigating to “Activity Search”, clicking on “Advanced Search”, and using the keyword “Billings”.

October

Saturday, October 1 at 7 pm – 1636959
Friday, October 7 at 6:30 pm – 1636960
Saturday, October 8 at 6:30 pm - 1636961
Friday, October 14 at 6:30 pm – 1636962
Saturday, October 15 at 6:30 pm – 1636963
Friday, October 21 at 6 pm – 1636964
Saturday, October 22 at 6 pm – 1636965
Friday, October 28 at 6 pm – 1636966

November

Friday, November 4 at 6 pm – 1636967
Saturday, November 5 at 6 pm – 1636968
Friday, November 11 at 4:30 pm – 1636969
Saturday, November 12 at 4:30 pm – 1636970

Makers at the Museum: Victorian Art of Mourning

Saturday, October 15 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Ages 16 and up.
Cost: $70 per adult; $63 for seniors.
Advance registration is required. The deadline to register is October 8.

Learn to make sculptural flower art using hair with artist Cindy Stelmackowich. This workshop will explore Victorian mourning traditions, including hair wreaths and jewelry. While it might seem macabre today, the practice of weaving the hair of a loved one into intricate pieces of art was considered both sentimental and fashionable in the19th century and was part of a wider trend toward public demonstrations of mourning inspired by Queen Victoria.

As part of this workshop, participants will use synthetic* hair and wire to sculpt a bouquet of flowers while enjoying the ambiance of Ottawa’s oldest wood frame house at Billing Estate National Historic Site. Unique mourning artefacts from the City of Ottawa Museums collection will be on display. Light refreshments will be served.

*Participants are welcome to bring hair they would like to incorporate into their piece, however synthetic hair and all other required supplies are included in the cost of the workshop.

Artist bio: Cindy Stelmackowich is an Ottawa-based artist whose work explores the materiality of the body. In 2011, Cindy was artist-in-residence at the Bytown Museum where she researched the Museum's mourning and Victorian hair artefacts. The solo exhibition that followed featured hair sculptures and installations. Cindy’s artworks are in the collection of the Canada Council Art Bank, the Ottawa Art Gallery, and York University.

Notes:

  • This workshop will be presented in English.
  • Advance registration is required and the deadline to register is Saturday, October 8. Workshops with insufficient registration may be cancelled. If an alternative cannot be offered, a refund will be issued.
  • The workshop will take place in the ballroom which is located up a set of stairs on the second floor of the museum. Please contact museums@ottawa.ca if you have questions regarding accommodations to facilitate participation in this workshop. Additional information regarding accessibility can be found on the museum web page.

How to register:

Registration for this workshop is completed using Service Ottawa’s online system with the barcode listed below. You can also find the program listing by navigating to “Activity Search”, clicking on “Advanced Search”, and using the keyword “Billings”.

Barcode: 1636861

Tea on the lawn

Tea on the Lawn has closed for 2022. Thank you for a fantastic summer! When offered, seasonal or themed teas are listed under “Programs and Special Events”.

Picnic on the museum grounds

Visitors are welcome to bring their own snacks and picnic on the museum grounds. To preserve the artefacts in the museum, no eating or drinking is permitted in the exhibition spaces. Outside food is also not permitted in the tent where Tea on the Lawn is served.

Collections and exhibits

Artefact collections

A large portion of the Billings Estate National Historic Site artefact collection received Canadian Cultural Property designation in 1996 because of its significance as material evidence of the historic development of the nation's capital. The eclectic collection contains more than 27,000 artefacts - many of which are on exhibition at the museum - that belonged to the family and their neighbours, including furniture, household goods, personal possessions, an extensive library, tools, entomological specimens, agricultural equipment and a 1959 Cadillac. 

Exhibits

The museum's exhibitions are designed to tell the stories of the estate and the community's evolution over more than 150 years, beginning in 1812 when the Billings family settled on the Rideau River.

Permanent exhibition - The Billings Family Story

Always at the museum is our permanent exhibition that explores the story of pioneers carving out from the wilderness a new life, the progress of relationships and families through good times and bad, the history of industry and agriculture in the area, and the community that grew over the years.

Interactive features like a touch-screen family tree, audio recordings of poetry readings and the Oath of Allegiance, as well as radio programs from days long gone by round out the experience, with telescopes showing a peek into the past. We've made sure there's a scavenger hunt for our young visitors, too. An accessible audio tour is also available.

Billings Family virtual exhibition 

The Billings Family virtual exhibit, presented by the City of Ottawa Archives, gives a view of the Billings Family and their interactions with the growing city center of Ottawa and Billings Bridge Village. The histories are written from the perspective of one family’s experiences and activities, within the context of Ottawa’s development as a city.

Cabinet of Curiosities virtual exhibition

Cabinets of curiosities displayed the strange and the scientific, the weird and the wonderful. Our team has gone through our collections and picked out the artefacts that appeal most to them to create our very own cabinet of curiosities. You can enjoy this exhibition from the comfort of your own home while learning the history of each artefact and why it stood out to our staff. Enter Cabinet of Curiosities here!

Our volunteers

The City of Ottawa Museums are committed to offering residents meaningful and rewarding volunteer experiences.

Heritage volunteers play an invaluable role in preserving our unique heritage and in providing museum visitors of all ages with opportunities to appreciate our shared story.

Thank you to all our volunteer team members for their continued support.

The museums are not currently accepting new volunteers. If you have any questions about the volunteer program or would like to be notified when volunteering resumes, please contact heritagevolunteers@ottawa.ca.

Rentals

Reminiscent of a country estate, the nearly 200-year-old manor house and surrounding eight acres of landscaped greenspace and gardens provide a picturesque and historical backdrop for your special event.

For more information, please contact our Customer Service Booking Clerk. Call 613-580-2088 or email museums@ottawa.ca.

Accessibility

Work with us to shape your experience. Contact the museum before your visit to discuss your needs. Information about accessibility at the facility, programs, and services is available upon request.

The accessibility features of this facility are detailed below. While the City of Ottawa is constantly working to improve access, please note that not all parts of every facility are necessarily 'accessible for all' as facilities were built to meet accessibility standards of their time.

Parking

  • 2 designated parking spaces 
  • Accessible path of travel from the parking lot to entrance
  • 100 metres from parking space to the door

Passenger Loading Zone

  • Access aisle

Entrance/Exit

  • 2 accessible entrances (Main House and Tombstone Garage)
  • Ramp
  • Wide door for wheelchair passage
  • Automatic door opener
  • Direct access to the main floor, lobby, elevator

Interior

  • Accessible seating available
  • Wheelchair available for patrons

Reception desks

  • Accessible counters
  • Floor area for manoeuvring a wheelchair

Signage

  • Directional signs
  • High contrast signage
  • Large lettering

Washrooms

  • Accessible washrooms on 1st floor and basement
  • Large stalls to allow transfers

Telephone

  • Volume control
  • Accessible path

Museums, galleries, and archives

  • 2 exhibition spaces are accessible
  • Non FM-loop system available
  • Good visibility for patrons in wheelchairs
  • Interpretive labels or panels in large font

Learn more about Inclusive Recreation and accessible services.