The heating system in the garage at the Spadina Museum demonstrates a typical evolution of heating technologies in southern Ontario, Canada during the past 100 years. Because of the preservation of many elements of the system, dating right back to the initial installation in 1912, this is an outstanding site for detailed study of technological adaptation to changing market forces and consumer demand.
The initial installation of a two-pipe, steam hydronic system was presumably state-of-the-art for 1912, designed as it was for a prominent landowner undertaking major capital property upgrades with a view to recognizing and incorporating the latest technological innovations.
As technologies within the heating industry evolved, the change-over to a hot water system was probably mandated by consumer demand for more consistent and reliable indoor temperature control during Canada’s cold winters. Consumer demand again likely drove the conversion of the initial coal-burning system to an oil-fired burner, bringing a cleaner and less labour-intensive lifestyle. Much of southern Ontario underwent this same change during the 1940s and 1950s.
Increasing costs for oil, especially during the 1970s, together with the completion of the trans-Canada natural gas pipeline (during the 1950s) changed the economics of home heating in this country. Economic pressures eventually mandated the conversion of oil-burning to natural gas-fired systems for many Canadian homes, and this dwelling was no exception.
Finally, the late 20th century demand for energy efficient heating and containment of continuously escalating costs likely explains the installation of a new, high-efficiency gas furnace and abandonment of the old cast-iron boiler.
It is to be hoped, when future demands and technological advances continue to drive changes in future heating systems at the Spadina Museum, that these earlier technologies will continue to be preserved, as a permanent record of the past.