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Box 14-090 TO MR. JAMES WATERS, from Rev. Calvin McQuesten
Jun 18 1960
To: Mr. Jas. Waters, Superintendent of Hamilton Parks Gage Park Hamilton Ontario
From: Whitehern Hamilton Ontario

Hamilton, Canada

Dear Jim,

I have been spending quite a bit of time lately, sketching out a plan for the arrangement of the contents of this house when it will be thrown open to the public.1 It will take a bit more time to complete. If I should be bumped off suddenly I should like you to know that it is in a large black loose-leaf book in the top, left-hand drawer of my desk. Do not speak of it to my sisters. They adored my brother Tom, and are inclined to think that everything should remain just as he left it.2

Yours truly,

Calvin McQuesten


Glass and metal barriers should be placed at all four doors of ground floor rooms, at door of lounge in basement and of bedroom in North-West corner.

Portrait of Queen Victoria
(Library Door)
Queen Victoria's Wedding
(Dining Room Door)
Portrait of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII
(Now behind front door)
Queen Victoria's first Drawing Room
Cardinal Woolsey receiving Red Hat
At south end of Hall put tall mirror now in basement
Portrait of Wellington, now beside Dining Room door
Anniversary of Waterloo
Dinner in Windsor Castle
Two figures in mufti are artist and engraver
Portrait of Nelson now at south end of Hall
Wag-at-a Wa' Clock which belonged to Col. Gardner, killed at Preston Pans
(Drawing Room door)
Landscape painting Paul Kane's group of Red Jackets, famous dispatch runner of 1812
General Foch - Commander-in-Chief of Allied Armies in War of 1914-18


It might be well to remove door.

On Mantle Piece

Model of Queen Victoria's private yacht "Victoria" purchased by I.B.McQuesten of his infant son, Calvin, in 1876.

The porcelain Canada Geese are by the distinguished American sculptor-ceramist, Edward Marshall Boehm, and cost $125.00

Habitant man and wife from Quebec.

Pictures above Mantel

Goldwin Smith

Prof. Croft
Latimer preaching from St. Paul's Cross-with old St. Paul Cathedral in background
The Sun Dance of the Bloods, witnessed by Rev. Calvin McQuesten who lived for a year on the reserve
Dr. Calvin McQuesten

Prof. Vander Smissen.

Prof. Croft (Chemistry) after whom Croft House in University College is named was Captain of the University Company of the Queen's Own Regt. At the Fenian Raid.


The dinner table should be spread with a linen tablecloth and napkins in silver rings.

Then set it with the dinner set in the closet next the door and the glass goblets in the other closet. The porcelain fruit baskets might be filled with artificial fruit, and the pewter cover for the meat platter will be found in the attic. There are also pearl-handled dinner-knives in the closet.

The engraving between Gladstone and Bright shows Lord Palmerston as Premier addressing the British House of Commons. On his right are Cornwall Lewis, Lord John Russell, Gladstone and further back, John Bright. On his left are Disraeli, Randolph Churchill, and Buliver Lython (with "goatee").

The portrait in oils is Christopher Columbus in prison.

The engraving over the mantle is the Corso in Rome, where horses who raced without riders are being caught up after race.

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VII is in the stand.

The elk antlers were sent to Mrs. I.B. McQuesten from British Columbia by her brother, Dr. John Baker of Seattle.


As the table and chairs in this room are similar to those in the dining room, they might be removed and given to Jas. Steele, son of Ernest Steele, 27 Echo Drive, Guelph, as they belonged to his great-great-grandfather, Rev. Thos. Baker. They would be better replaced by the Sheraton Table, now in two pieces in the dining room, and the "fiddle back" chair belonging to it, now scattered all over the house. This should be set for tea, alternating the two sets of China in the West cupboard of the dining room and the two silver sets of teapot, hot-water jug, cream jug and sugar bowl in the East cupboard.

Also, since this room should have a barrier at the door, the desk with glass cupboard above might be put in hall basement, where contents could be looked at closely. The sofa might be put in its place, and the sideboard now against the south wall of the dining room, put against the North Wall.

The ships model in straw case was made by French prisoners in England during the Napolenic Wars.

The porcelain Orioles on Tulip-tree were the only ones made by an English woman who never repeats.


This room contains not only the original furniture placed in it by Dr. McQuesten when he bought the house in 1853, but also the original carpet and even the original wallpaper with figures of gold leaf laid on.

The fretwork desk, the piano and of course, the fiddle back chairs were not part of this; and the last should be transferred to the South-East Room.

The desk and the etagere in the far corner should be interchanged, the latter placed as close as possible to the glass and metal barrier. The door should be opened right back against the wall, the drop-leaf table replaced against it, with the exquisite piece of Chinese carved ivory placed on it.

Dr. Chas. Currently, founder and first curator of the Royal Ontario Museum said that the small Chinese bowl on the etagere was more than 400 years old. The punch bowls were brought from China by the grandfather of Rev. Thos. Baker, a Captain in the Merchant Marine, decorated in England and then taken back to China to be glazed. As the South East bedroom was used by T.B. McQuesten, and before that by his grandfather Baker, the portraits of the latter and his wife might be taken up to that room, and also the water colour of his first ship the "Antelope" done by a fellow midshipman. These might be replaced by the water colour paintings of Pheasant-Eye Narcissi and Virginia Creeper, above the beside the drawing-room door and the Trilliums above the dining room door, which were done by Ruby Baker McQuesten, sister of Hon. T.B. McQuesten. The Baxter print against the fire-place might be given a place with the others in the North-East bedroom.

The interesting engraving of London's first Railway Station (Paddington Street) should be hung as close as possible to the door.

Paul Kane's painting of Red-Jacket et al, resting against the piano should be moved to the hall.


This room was occupied first by Rev. Thos. Baker and later by his namesake, Hon. T.B. McQuesten.

So I would suggest removing the two engravings of Fisherman and "A Concert of Birds" to the East and West walls of the upper halls and replacing them with the photos of Rev. Thos. Baker and Mrs. Baker.

The engraving of the Battle of Drumclog shows the only battle won by the Covenanters of Scotland against the Calvaliers. The engravings in the narrow gilt frames are copper engravings, which are quite rare. Dr. Bogue on the South wall was principal of the Theological College in Portsea which Thos. Baker attended after returning from Navy.

The books in the book-case were the library of Rev. Thos. Baker. I would suggest removing a few from one of the shelves and placing on it the bronze model of a ship's gun of Nelson's day, now on Library mantle, the little silhouette of young Midshipman Baker, taken in Lisbon, which is now on Drawing Room wall, and the work-box made for him by the ship's "joiner," now on the table, and containing an interesting account of his first voyage on the Antelope.


This was my parents' bedroom. The furniture is "Pollarded" Oak, and on this bed my sisters and I were born, and my father and mother died. Tom was born at Hespeler where my father owned mills, (the original Hespeler Mills). These mills caused my father to lose the last quarter million that his father had made in the Hamilton Foundry.3

The washstand of this set is beside the stairs to the attic. And it is the brown and white china that goes with it. This set is on the attic floor, on the other side of the stairs. The collection of Baxter prints with the one against the fireplace in the drawing room is so beautiful that no barrier should be placed at the door. But the ornaments on the mantel-piece might be protected by some sort of glass or plastic casing against theft. The sofa might be placed against the foot of the bed, and washstand set in the North East corner.

The bureau belonged to an army officer and comes apart in the middle transportation or active service.

The small Baxter print by the bed shows Napoleon and his staff on the deck of the Bellerophon to which he surrendered. And as my mother's uncle, Wm. McIlwaine was a midshipman on this ship at the time, we say that the small boy leaning over the rail in the background is our great-uncle.


This room might be made into a children's room. the bed could be removed. There is a doll's four-poster bed in the attic and small children's chairs, and the truck under the skylight in the attic are a variety of toys including a steam engine fired with methylated spirits also a steam boat and a child's penny bank of a darkey boy riding a mule; when a coin is put in his mouth, and the button pressed, the mule throws the boy over his head and a vizor of his cap striking the log, releases the coin.

There are also some doll's dishes in the drawers of the china cup-board now in the sitting room.


The original washstand in this room was made into the writing desk. But there is a black walnut washstand in the attic, which could be brought down. The china for this is the exquisite white and gold set in the attic including the foot basin by the cross-beam.

In the black box under the dressing table is a gorgeous Chinese bed-spread of embroided satin. I do not like the idea of this being handled by sight-seers, and so a barrier at the door is indicated.

This would mean an entire re-arrangement of furniture. I would suggest tentatively that the so handsome wardrobe be set against the West wall, and the head of the bed against the South wall. The wash-stand could be placed by the door on the chest of drawers and the mirror on top might be removed altogether.


I would like to have this room made into an Arthur Heming Room.

The bed could be removed altogether, and the bookcase put in the room at the foot of the kitchen stairs. The desk in this room might be brought up in its stead.

I would not expect to get original paintings for this, but only coloured prints. There are already two of these in the room. There is another in the bedroom next to it, and one below the mantel in the library, though I would rather like to have this last left where it is, and a second copy obtained.

I intend shortly to discuss this with Arthur Heming's sisters in Ancaster, Mrs. Acres and Mrs. Nixon. They have a self-portrait of their brother and some clippings from London newspapers expressing enthusiastic admiration of the exhibit of his paintings held in that city. With their help and that of his nephews, who run the Travel Bureau, a worthwhile display should be achieved.


The cupboard and shelves on West wall of this room should be removed and the walls and ceiling redecorated. Mr. W.G. Welby has agreed to contribute a fine collection of coloured prints of old down-town Hamilton which should be hung on the walls of this room along with a large reproduction of the painting of Hamilton, which is hanging in the basement hall. The other print of Hamilton might be placed in this room if there is space for it. But it is not important.


On the West wall of this Hall is a brass rod on which should be hung the large picture rug of the Queen Elizabeth Way, presented to Hon. T. B. McQuesten by the Good Roads Association of Canada, when he was its President. This is now in large "Treasury" in the attic along with a very beautiful rug showing a sunset scene of a log cabin in the woods in winter, also presented to him by the G.R.A, which should be hung either in this hall or the large lounge - perhaps under the long West window.

The desk with the glass cupboard on top, now in the sitting room should be brought down to this lower hall, so people can get a close view of its contents. And the glass cupboard now in the little front room in the basement should also be brought into the basement hall. On one shelf of it could be placed Dr. McQuesten's medical saddlebags and the "Cupping" (bleeding) machine in a walnut case both of which are now in the attic. The photo of Dr. McQuesten now on the mantel of the dining room might also be paced on this shelf.

On another shelf could be placed mementos of his older son, Dr. Calvin Brookes McQuesten, who was in his final year in Medicine at Darmouth when the Civil War broke out. He at once enlisted as a surgeon in the Northern Army, and served all through the war including Gettysburg, where a brother officer gave him a sword cane he had picked up. This now is in the long drawer in the library. On this shelf could be displayed the very valuable and interesting 3 volume edition of an old "Medical Botany" now on the second shelf of the glass book-case beside the library door. One or two volumes of this could be laid open. On this shelf should be placed the exquisite "Ambrotype" portrait of his ladylove, Lizzie French, who died of "Consumption" in her teens, which is in the little black case along with one of himself on the library mantel. The one of C.B. McQuesten and two friends, hanging on the wall behind it should also be included as well as other Ambrotypes in the little drawer of the desk on the West side next the window. There is also a very handsome gold fob watch chain with an amethyst seal hanging in top deep drawer of my dressing room, next to the big bathroom, which belonged to him, and might be shown with the gold pocket watch he gave me which is now in the upper little drawer next to it along with a watch on a pencil-case, given to T.B. McQuesten by Jim Franceschini, the millionaire road contractor. In this drawer there is also a little leather pouch of old Roman coins given to Rev. C. McQuesten by his University class-mate and life-long friend Dr. Chas Currelly, founder and curator of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.


This was T. B. McQuesten's special room where he stretched out in the chaiselounge in the evening, read biographies and poured over "The Field" to get ideas for parks and gardens, and read his Bible and Greek Testament, and said his prayers morning and evening.

Most of the bearuiful[beautiful] things in it were given to him by associates in building roads, and making parks. The painting over the mantel and the white marble lamps in the North-West corner were given him by Jim Franceschini, the millionaire road contractor. The big chunk of quartz with the light inside on the floor by George Raynor, a friend from his student days who built most of the first Toronto subway. The two exquisite pieces of Swedish glass on the window sill and the mantel by Carl Borgstrom, the Landscape Architect who designed and made the Western Entrance to Hamilton. Most of the old silver was given to him by Francis Farwell, President of Canada Coach Lines, and the chunk of gold-ore containing $300.00 worth of the precious metal in the walnut case on the long table, by a Northern mine owner.

A glass and metal barrier will be needed at this door. And some of the articles most worth close inspection could be put on the long table, and the old work-box set open near the door.

The Wanzer Lamp on the floor has a clock-work fan which makes a clear flame without a glass chimney and can boil a kettle.

The Southern two-thirds of this room was the old kitchen. The Northern third was divided into two rooms, a pantry and a bedroom for the cook.

The fire-place is the original cooking fire-place with its face lifted from brick to granite. In the Dutch oven beside it, bread was baked after the ashes of the wood-fire had been withdrawn.

The old carved oak chairs are those in which King George VI and his Queen Elizabeth sat at Niagara Falls when Hon. T.B. McQuesten as Chairman of the Niagara Parks Commission made the presentations to them as shown in the framed photos on the North Wall of the sitting room.

In a box in the bureau in the wash-room is a magnificent Chinese robe which might be displayed someplace.


The easel against the foot of the basement stairs, containing a very fine and valuable collection of engravings should be placed in this room after the unpainted cupboard has been removed, and the walls and ceiling freshened.

Also there are two large portfolios of coloured prints of Game Birds and Game Fishes behind the sofa of the drawing room should be placed on easels here.

And pictures crowded out from other walls might be placed here.

But this room should be kept locked and the key entrusted only to responsible people with a special interest in such things.

1 This letter had been given the number W8747 when it was found in the archive, but the second part of the document, the actual list, has been entered here as Box 14-090. This occurs when the item has been photocopied and then found in two different places in the archive. We have brought them together here.

The original letter, envelope and Black Binder mentioned in letter no. W8747 is in the Whitehern Archives: "Box--Site History--2, W8747 to W8750.6."

2 This comment suggests that Rev. Calvin and his two sisters, Hilda and Mary, did not enjoy a happy relationship. Calvin found it necessary to manipulate his siters into agreeing to his plan to leave the house to the City to be used as a museum. They likely preferred that it be left to the Church. 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
W8697a, 1958/10/06
W8701a, 1958/10/06
W8273, 1958/11/06
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

3 Isaac McQuesten and his partner John Harvey operated the cotton and wool mill in Hespeler in the 1880's until it went bankrupt circa 1887, approximately one year before Isaac's death on May 7, 1888 (W2652). However, Isaac's father, Dr. Calvin McQuesten, had been quite successful in his iron foundry which he, along with his cousin John Fisher and their partners Priam Hill and Joseph Janes, established in Hamilton circa 1835. Although they encountered significant anti-American sentiments at the time (they were from the northern U.S.) and many financial and social difficulties, the foundry eventually gained a strong footing in Hamilton and earned Dr. McQuesten the wealth that his younger son, Isaac, would eventually lose. See footnote on John Fisher in W-MCP5-6.240. See W2511, W2520, for footnote on Isaac.

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Copyright 2002 Whitehern Historic House and Garden
The development of this website was directed by Mary Anderson, Ph.D. and Janelle Baldwin, M.A.
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