McDougall Cottage Historic Site Insider's Look

McDougall Cottage Historic Site, 1858

McDougall Cottage Historic Site, 1858

Hand-painted ceiling and frieze, 1906-1907 by Jack Baird


The single-storey cottage at 89 Grand Avenue South, located in a heritage conservation area in the centre of Cambridge, is an excellent example of a worker’s mid-19th century coursed grey granite house. Its first occupant was John McDougall, an immigrant from Scotland, who was a carpenter at the Goldie and McCulloch Company (across the street) for 25 years before his retirement in 1876.


Decorating the front room is a trompe l'oeil ceiling painting and frieze executed by Jack Baird for his brother James, the house’s second occupant. The paintings depict Jack’s travels in Canada, Scotland, and the Philippines. Local scenes include Soper Park (by Gore Insurance on Dundas Street).


The gardens of McDougall Cottage reflect the Baird family’s passion for spring flowers and nostalgia for their Scottish homeland. A 1950s newspaper article recounts how James ordered primrose seed from England. He started the plants by the hundreds in flats on the rear sun porch, and then planted them among daffodils in the garden. Originally, the garden extended from the east side of the cottage to the Grand River, before flood-protecting berms were constructed following the devastating flood of 1974.