Billings Estate National Historic Site

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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 to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm

General admission 

  • Adult - $7.59
  • Students and seniors - $6.28
  • Play free: free general admission for children and youth (aged 17 and under) and accompanying adults.

*Please note that registration or admission fees may apply for programs and special events. 

Can you dig it?

Can You Dig It?

Thursdays, July 4 to August 22 from 10:30 am to 12 pm
Ages 8 to 11
Cost: $7.35 per child. Advance registration is required.

History detectives, artefact hunters, and curious minds (ages 8 to 11) are invited to join our excavation team at Billings Estate National Historic Site. Inspired by Canada’s first paleontologist, Elkanah Billings, we will be digging for artefacts, identifying our mysterious finds, and learning research methods still used by scientists today.

To register, visit Register Ottawa and search for the program using the activity codes listed below.

July 4 (74760) or August 1 (74764) – Archaeology
Tour the museum and learn about the Billings family’s connections to archeology. Head to the dig site and practice survey mapping, excavating, and piecing together the artefacts you uncover.
July 11 (74761) or August 8 (74766) – Geology
Learn about Elkanah Billings, the first paleontologist at the Geological Survey of Canada. Try your hand at excavating and identifying geological samples.
July 18 (74762) or August 15 (74767) – Paleontology
Explore how scientists work with the fossils of plants and animals. Work together to carefully excavate and piece together your discoveries.
July 25 (74763) or August 22 (74768) – Beyond the pit
Put your storytelling skills to the test! Using items you and your team have excavated, create a display for the museum that best present the history of the site and your dig.

Notes:

  • The primary language of delivery for this program is English.
  • This is a drop-off program. Parental participation is not required.
  • Activities take place outdoors. Please dress your child for weather conditions and in clothing and shoes you are comfortable with getting dirty. A hat, sunscreen, and bug spray are recommended, as well as packing water and a snack.
  • Sessions with insufficient registration may be cancelled. If the session cannot be rescheduled, a refund will be issued.
  • If you have questions or concerns regarding accessibility, please contact the museum at 613-580-2088 or by email at museums@ottawa.ca. Additional information about accessibility can be found on the museum webpage

Time travellers

Time Travellers

Fridays, July 5 to Aug 23 from 10:30 am to 12 pm
Ages 5 to 7
Cost: $7.35 per child. Advance registration is required.

Kids (ages 5 to 7) will step back in time to early Gloucester Township and help characters tackle day-to-day challenges inspired by life on the Billings family farm. Each week they’ll explore different heritage chores, skills, and pastimes through fun, hands-on activities as they put their creativity and problem-solving skills to the test.

To register, visit Register Ottawa and search for the program using the activity codes listed below.

July 5 or August 2 – Botany
One of the Billings family members is feeling unwell. Help us use Lamira’s remedies and ingredients from her garden to get them back on their feet.
July 12 or August 9 – Bugs
Help Braddish Billings II investigate the insects living around the house and grounds, then build a bug hotel for the Estate’s garden.
July 19 or August 16 – Building
The Billings family house is almost 200 years old—but it’s not the only home that can be found on the Estate grounds. Explore our site and help us build a small bird feeder.
July 26 or August 23 – Butter
Explore the Billings family’s legacy as dairy farmers, make your own butter, and learn about cows.

Notes: 

  • The primary language of delivery for this program is English.
  • This is a drop-off program. Parental participation is not required.
  • Activities take place outdoors. Please dress your child for weather conditions and in clothing and shoes you are comfortable getting dirty. A hat, sunscreen, and bug spray are recommended, as well as packing water and a snack.
  • Sessions with insufficient registration may be cancelled. If the session cannot be rescheduled, a refund will be issued.
  • If you have questions or concerns regarding accessibility, please contact the museum at 613-580-2088 or by email at museums@ottawa.ca. Additional information about accessibility can be found on the museum webpage.

Historic cemetery tour

Historic Cemetery Tour

Thursdays, June 27, July 18, and August 22 from 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Ages 16 and up
Cost: $20.35 per person.  Advance registration is required

Spend a quiet evening at beautiful Billings Estate National Historic Site and explore a lesser-known corner of our park grounds on a guided tour of the Settler’s Cemetery. A museum interpreter will take you beyond the walls of our traditional exhibition spaces as you learn about life, death, burial, and disease in 19th century Gloucester Township. The cemetery is one of Ottawa’s oldest community cemeteries and members of several well-known early settler families are laid to rest within its gates, including the Billings, Evans, Brouse, and Firth families.

Notes:

  • The primary language of delivery for this program is English.
  • This program runs rain or shine. Please dress according to weather conditions. The route is largely outdoors and includes uneven, grassy, and gravel terrain.
  • Bug spray is recommended. Wooded areas can be habitats for ticks. For more information on preventing tick bites, please visit Ottawa Public Health.
  • If you have questions or concerns regarding accessibility, please contact the museum at 613-580-2088 or by email at museums@ottawa.ca. Additional information about accessibility can be found on the museum webpage.

The art of tea and tasseomancy

The Art of Tea and Tasseomancy

Saturday, August 10 from 11 am to 1 pm or 2 pm to 5 pm
Ages 16 and up
Cost: $45.20 per person. Registration opens soon

Learn the art of tea leaf reading (tasseomancy) at Billings Estate National Historic Site. Join Amy Lou Taylor from the Museum of Tasseomancy to explore the art and practice of divination through the interpretation of symbolic pattens made by tea leaves in a teacup. Amy will introduce participants to the rich history, superstitions, tools and approaches associated with tasseomancy. You will then use your new knowledge to try your hand at reading your own fortune. Amy will also share unique objects from the Museum of Tasseomancy’s collection. This collection has recently been on display at the Buckland Museum of Witchcraft  & Magick in Cleveland, Ohio.

Participants will also have the opportunity to explore the museum’s latest temporary exhibition, “Steeped in Traditions: Ottawa Tea Cultures and Rituals.” Admission to the museum is included as part of registration. Light refreshments will be served.

Notes:

  • This program is delivered primarily in English. 
  • The "Steeped in Traditions" exhibition is located on the second floor of the museum and is only accessible by stairs. Visual aids are available for those unable to access the exhibition.
  • If you have event participation questions due to disability or have concerns regarding the accessibility of the event, please contact the museum by phone at 613-580-2088 or by email at museums@ottawa.ca. Additional information about accessibility can be found on the museum web page.

Traditional Japanese tea ceremony

Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony

Sunday, July 14 from 10:30 am to 11:30 am and 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm
Ages 16 and up
Cost: $16.95 per person. Advance registration is required. *Please note that registration is now full. A waitlist will be maintained.

Join us at Billings Estate National Historic Site for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony demonstration hosted by members of the Ottawa Japanese Cultural Centre Tea Ceremony Study Group. Urasenke Sadou (the way of tea) involves the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha green tea. Participants will enjoy tasting tea and Japanese sweets, and OJCC study group members will be available to answer questions after the ceremony.

Participants will also have the opportunity to explore the museum’s latest temporary exhibition, “Steeped in Traditions: Ottawa Tea Cultures and Rituals.” Admission to the museum is included as part of registration.

Notes:

  • The "Steeped in Traditions" exhibition is located on the second floor of the museum and is only accessible by stairs. Visual aids are available for those unable to access the exhibition.
  • If you have event participation questions due to disability or have concerns regarding the accessibility of the event, please contact the museum by phone at 613-580-2088 or by email at museums@ottawa.ca. Additional information about accessibility can be found on the museum web page.

Victorian tea

Victorian Tea

Saturday, July 13 with seatings at 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:30 pm.
Cost: $24.15 per person (taxes included). *Please note that reservations for the Victorian Tea are now full. A waitlist will be maintained.

Join us for a special afternoon tea at Billings Estate National Historic Site! Wear your finest garden party attire (Victorian costume is encouraged) and enjoy a three-tier tea against a backdrop of beautiful gardens and Ottawa’s oldest wood-frame house.

Your tea service will include a pot of tea, finger sandwiches, a scone with butter and jam, and a selection of mini desserts, all freshly prepared in-house and inspired by 19th-century menus. Try your hand at traditional outdoor entertainments including croquet, badminton, egg-and-spoon races and the game of graces.

Explore our special exhibition, “Steeped in Traditions: Ottawa Tea Cultures and Rituals”, to see tea-related artefacts, objects, and images from the City of Ottawa Museums and Historic Sites, City of Ottawa Archives, Korean Cultural Centre, Ottawa Jewish Archives, Khayrhaye Somali Cultural Museum Centre, as well as private collectors.

Reservations

Reservations open on Thursday, June 13 at 10 am. Once reservations are full, a waitlist will be maintained.

1. To request a reservation, please call 613-580-2088 ext. 35258 and leave a message including the information below:

  • Name
  • Phone number
  • Number of seats you would like to reserve. The maximum reservation size is 10. Large groups will be split between tables of 4 and 6. Due to the layout of the space, tables cannot be pushed together and large groups cannot be guaranteed neighbouring tables.
  • Preferred seating time (10:30 am, 12:30 pm, or 2:30 pm)
  • Food allergies or dietary restrictions (e.g., vegan or gluten-free). We will make all reasonable efforts to accommodate allergies and dietary restrictions identified during the reservation confirmation process but cannot guarantee a fully allergen-free environment and may be limited in some instances by the availability of fresh ingredients. Regrettably, last minute requests for accommodations at the time of service cannot be met.

2. Reservation requests will be processed in a timely manner; thank you for your patience. Reservations will be confirmed in the order requests are received. After you are contacted with a reservation confirmation, you will receive instructions to complete advance payment. Payment can be completed online or in person at the museum. If advance payment is not received within the indicated timeframe, the reservation will be offered to the next guest(s) on the waitlist.

Notes

  • Tea is served under a tent on the museum grounds. Please dress for weather conditions. To fully enjoy the activities and museum grounds, wear appropriate footwear for grass and gravel terrain.
  • The "Steeped in Traditions" exhibition is located on the second floor of the museum and is only accessible by stairs. Visual aids are available for those unable to access the exhibition.
  • If you have event participation questions due to disability or have concerns regarding the accessibility of the event, please contact the museum by phone at 613-580-2088 or by email at museums@ottawa.ca. Additional information about accessibility can be found on the museum web page.

Tea on the lawn

Tea on the Lawn

Complement your visit to Billings Estate National Historic Site with Tea on the Lawn. Enjoy tea and freshly baked goods alongside our beautiful gardens. Heritage staff are happy to highlight the unique history of the estate, making Tea on the Lawn a memorable addition to your museum experience.

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays from May 15, 2024 through September 1, 2024.
*We are currently accepting reservations for Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from July 31 through September 1, 2024 (excluding August 15, 16, and 18).
Seatings available at 10:30 am, 12:30 pm, and 2:30 pm. 
Reservations are required.

2024 menu and prices

  • Three-tier service for one: $20.70
    Pot of tea; finger sandwiches; scone with butter and jam; desserts. Admission to the museum for one visitor is included.
    • Substitute gluten-free options: $3.39
    • Add Devon cream: $3.39
  • Cream Tea: $6.37
    Pot of tea; scone with jam and Devon cream.
    • Substitute gluten-free options: $1.13

Reservations

Reservations are required. Request your reservation online. Reservation requests should be made no later than 4 pm on the Sunday prior to your desired visit.

Please note that submitting a reservation request does not mean your booking is confirmed. A staff person will follow up with you by phone to confirm your reservation. Reservations are filled in the order requests are received.

If you require assistance with your Tea on the Lawn reservation, please email museums@ottawa.ca or call 613-580-2088 ext. 35258.

Additional notes

  • Large groups: Reservations for 10 or more guests must be confirmed by the team room coordinator (call 613-580-2088 ext. 35258). Large groups will be divided between tables that seat four or six guests. To keep pathways clear, tables cannot be pushed together.
  • Allergies: We make all reasonable efforts to meet allergy and dietary restrictions (as indicated at the time of reservation; same-day requests cannot be accommodated). However, we cannot guarantee an environment that is free of all risk of allergen cross-contamination. Alternative menu options may vary with the available of ingredients.
  • Accessibility: Tea on the Lawn is served outside under an open-sided tent with a stone floor which may be rough or uneven for guests using mobility devices. A passenger drop-off and pick-up zone is available in front of the museum entrance. If you have questions or concerns regarding accessibility, please inform staff at the time of reservation or contact the museum by email at museums@ottawa.ca. Additional information about accessibility can be found on the museum webpage.
  • Weather: In the event of inclement weather, Tea on the Lawn service may be moved inside the museum. In the rare case that severe weather conditions or other unforeseen circumstances necessitate the cancellation of a Tea on the Lawn service, all guests with reservations will be contacted directly with further information.

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.

Special exhibition - "Steeped in Traditions"

Steeped in Traditions: Ottawa Tea Cultures and Rituals

February 28, 2024 to October 13, 2024
See museum hours and admission to plan your visit

Steeped in Traditions: Ottawa Tea Cultures and Rituals explores the history, traditions, and aesthetics of our region’s varied tea cultures. The exhibition celebrates human connections to community and the natural environment through the lens of tea consumption. Residents and cultural organizations are contributing to this exhibition by sharing their own stories, photographs, and tea-related objects. In combination with artefacts from the City of Ottawa Museums and Historic Sites collection, these personal touches highlight the commonalities found in this shared daily ritual as well as the unique values and practices of Ottawa’s diverse communities.

Note: This exhibition is located on the second floor of the museum and is only accessible by stairs. Visual aids will be available for those unable to access the exhibition. If you have questions or concerns regarding accessibility, please contact the museum at 613-580-2088 or by email at museums@ottawa.ca. Additional information about accessibility can be found on the museum webpage.

Collections and permanent exhibitions

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. 

Exhibitions

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.

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 museums@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
  • Interior
    • Accessible seating available
    • Wheelchair available for patrons
  • Reception desks
    • Accessible counters
    • Floor area for maneuvering a wheelchair
  • Signage
    • Directional signs
    • High contrast signage
    • Large lettering
  • Washrooms
    • Accessible washrooms on 1st floor
    • Large stalls to allow transfers
  • Telephone
    • Volume control
    • Accessible path
  • Museums, galleries, and archives
    • 2 exhibition spaces are accessible
    • Good visibility for patrons in wheelchairs
    • Interpretive labels or panels in large font

Learn more about Inclusive Recreation and accessible services.