Box 04-114 TO MR. HOWELL FROM ERIC ARTHUR
May 4 1971
To: Mr. Howell Hamilton Ontario
From: 41 Weybourne Crescent, Toronto Ontario
Dear Mr. Howell,
The enclosed will amuse you [two letters]. On Nov. 7, 58 I called at Whitehern & was taken in to the library by the Rev. Calvin who promptly shut the door, indicated a chair for me & then went down on all fours looking through the keyhole--fearing that the unspeakable Hilda might be listening to our converstion. The letter, really, might be called the "minutes" as nearly everything is repeated. Except a story you might like. On a previous meeting which he had forgotten when he & his sisters were all over 70, he told me that he approached Hilda with the complaint that his room in the attic was cold & the floor carpet threadbare--"Hilda could I not have that suite of Tom's on the second floor--it is years since he died?" "My sister Hilda fainted & I never mentioned to matter again."
He explained the junk in the basement room where a huge chesterfield was built for Tom facing the fireplace. When a bronze cannon arrived at Xmas for the Minister of Highways [Tom] from Franchescinni the road builder, Tom said pack that up and send it back. Hilda refused on the grounds that Tom had gained nothing from Politics & now was his chance. Tom, the incorruptible, was helpless & the cannon was kept, followed the following year from another road builder. This time a vessel under full sail. It is a terrible room & I don't know what the present "restorer" will do with it, not knowing the story.
I first knew Tom & the house when I was chairman of the jury that judged the "Entrance to Hamilton Competition," but so long ago I have forgotten the date.
It gave me an interest in Hamilton. Council invited me to discuss Piggott's suggestion of the Court House & City Hall combination on that lovely square with a saving in the common joining wall of $297,000 [small sketch included showing two buildings with a common passageway between them]. I remember that Roscoe was nervous when I said I had not checked that figure & the meeting was five minutes away. We discussed it over food; & between mouthfulls, I said it was a ludicrous proposal & stupid figure. I also said I had travelled from Dundurn on a slummy street (York?), & that Hamilton needed to spruce up! The result a committee of one, the final site next to my favourite house & 11 1/2 acres. I was rather proud of that.
I have most of the material for a book on Hamilton's historic buildings, but wonder whether I shall ever do it.
I have marked the letter confidential. The gift was immense even though the donors were eccentric. I would not like to see them objects of ridicule.1 Show them by all means to His Hon. Judge McCombs.
1 Mr. Arthur need not have been concerned, the two letters mentioned as enclosed were already in the Whitehern Archives, which had been sorted and left for the public by Rev. Calvin McQuesten: Box 04-111 and Box 04-113. It is well known that the three remaining siblings, Rev. Calvin, Mary and Hilda became quite eccentric in their old age and that they often did not agree; they died in their nineties--Rev. Calvin the last to go in 1968. Some of the hositility may have stemmed from the fact that Rev. Calvin had joined the United Church after the rancorous debate about Church Union in the city; the rest of the family remained Presbyterian (see W0127a, W5283). However, Calvin did continue to attend MacNab Street Presbyterian Church.
Whitehern is grateful to Mr. Howell and to Mr. Arthur for these recollections and for donating these letters to the archive.
For the documents related to Calvin's scheme to convince his sisters, and the Hamilton Parks Board's acquisition of "Whitehern," in chronological order, see:
Box 04-111, 1958/09/29
Box 04-012, 1958/11/06
Box 04-113, 1958/11/07
Box 05-002, 1959/02/01
Box 08-140, 1959/03/11
Box 09-233, 1959/11/04
Box 14-090, 1960/06/18
Box 04-113a, 1971/05/04
(now Box 04-114)