Box 08-140 SPEECH BY REV. CALVIN MCQUESTEN
Nov 3 1959 Monday
At the regular meeting of the Hamilton Parks Board on Monday, November 3rd, when Dr. Connell, chairman of the Parks Board, had conveyed to the McQuesten family the thanks of the Board and the people of Hamilton, Reverend Calvin McQuesten rose and replied, "Mr. Chairman, gentleman; this is definitely a case where it is more blessed to give than to receive. The completion of this transaction has brought me more pleasure and satisfaction than anything that has happened to me since, more than sixty-two years ago, I first began to realize the greatness of God's love for me and to recognize that the greatest fact in life for me is the fact that God is my Father and that He loves me more than any human father ever loved a son.
"There are two reasons for this happiness and satisfaction which I feel tonight. The first, and lesser reason is the joy of knowing that this house, of which Professor Eric Arthur1 says that he 'knows of no house in Canada so worthy of preservation,' will not fall into the hands of the wreckers; and the many interesting and beautiful things in it be scattered to the four winds.
"The second and deeper reason for my satisfaction and happiness is that in this transaction I am able to make reparation for a great wrong committed by my family and many other families in a similar position.
"You will often hear old people of a certain class lament the passing of an age of 'gracious living' as exemplified in such a home as Whitehern. I do not. And I say so with the greatest intensity of emphasis of which I am capable.
"For in the very next block to the north-west of Whitehern was 'Bread-ticket Row' -- the meanest slum in Hamilton. 'Bread-ticket Row' was so called because the man who built it, and lived in the large stone house north of it on Main Street, recently occupied by the 'One-Two Club,' used to collect the rent in person, and when a tenant was unable to pay all his rent in cash, and he saw any bread-tickets lying around, he would pick them up and put them in his pocket. When he built 'Bread-ticket Row,' even though land must have been cheap in those days, he chose what was probably the narrowest block in Hamilton -- so narrow that the back yard of each was smaller than the smallest room in Whitehern except the hall bedroom and the bathrooms, so small that there was no room for anything but the clothes-lines, with which many of the tenants wives eked out a meager living.
"Whitehern, with its spacious and lovely lawns and gardens occupied just an even acre. The twelve houses of 'Bread-ticket Row' were all crammed into about a quarter of that space.
"Gentlemen, I am glad that instead of such shameful inequality between the 'gracious living' of homes like Whitehern and the wretched squalor of slums like 'Bread-ticket Row,' we may drive or walk today through miles of streets of lovely little homes of equal size and an incredible variety of beautiful designs, each owned by the family living in it.
"And I hope that many of the people who in earlier years knew the bitterness of the squalor of such slums and the children who were born in them may enjoy, whenever they please, the beautiful rooms of Whitehern and eat their lunches in its pleasant garden."
1 Calvin had enlisted the help of Professor Eric Arthur from the School of Architecture at the University of Toronto in order to help convince Mary and Hilda to give the house to the city after their deaths. At the time this particular letter was written, Mary's, Calvin's and Hilda's ages were (respectively) 84, 82 and 81. Neither they nor any of their siblings had any descendants to whom the property could be bequeathed.
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, 1959/11/03
Box 09-233, 1959/11/04
Box 14-090, 1960/06/18
Box 04-113a, 1971/05/04