John Curtis

A Peek Inside an Abandoned Historic House 


John Curtis worked at the Arboretum when it opened in 1970 as their first Collections Technician. He reminisces about painting the kitchen a “too bright” yellow and how the kitchen decor remained the same when he visited in 2011. He expresses hope that the historic house will be preserved.
Interview by Amy Moffat, HIST*3560 student, University of Guelph.

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0:00 My name is John Curtis So I used to be,, technician.

0:04 I guess they call me there back then and they looked after the plant collections in the operator.

0:11 And the was started in 1970 and just myself with the director who was Doctor Hilton, Doctor Robert Hil Hilton.

0:24 And that, that service center across the road from Harrison House.

0:31That was a, well, it was actually a little bar and we started off in the chicken coop nearby that was a little temporary office.

0:42 And then we got a telephone in there and we got electricity.

0:48 So we had the heater and all that and then we,, gradually decided we had it as a 15 year plan.

0:58 We decided what collection were put in and across the road and across College Avenue.

1:03 That’s the Maple Collection that was started in the following year.

1:09 So I’ve got some paint and I painted interest.

1:11 I, I just, I chose a yellow one that was too bloody and I put some wall paper up and did a lot of things out in winter.

1:19 And, anyway, the next year, my future wife came over from, from Australia and, that was the first house we lived in after we got married years.

1:32 Now, on the one side, on the east side, you’ll see that vine all on the, on the, on the walls, it’s thrown over the windows and everything.

1:40 That’s, that’s Boston.

1:41 I, it’s,, let me see, is I trust the botanical man and I planted that and I sort of regret that I planted it because it wasn’t out of hand.

1:56 Now.

1:56 It’s got out of hand.

1:57 You know, it’s, it’s like the weed now, but it has nice autumn color.

2:01 That was what’s nice about it.

2:03 Back in 2011, I came over there with my wife and my daughter.

2:10 There were students in there then.

2:12 So that’s like 11 years, 11 years ago.

2:15 And they have, they made a few changes in there then.

2:19 And, the kitchen was the same, same color as it was when I did it back in, in 1976.

2:25 Didn’t change at all.

2:28 I think, it would be good to see it renovated.

2:32 I, I, you know, I hate it.

2:34 I don’t let the thing go to disarray because the longer you leave it, the more costly it’s going to get to, to, update it, the interior.

2:43 And I think the, I hope they don’t change it too much.

2:46 I mean, it’s, it was quite nice the way it was.

2:49 , but anyway, I just hope that, it’s, it’s preserved you know, it’s a, it’s an old house that’s really old that 1856.