Bethune House

Recognized Federal Heritage Building

Gravenhurst, Ontario
View of the east façade of Bethune House, showing the two-storey, asymmetrical, L-shaped plan, 1989. © Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 1989.
Façade
© Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 1989.
View of the west façade of Bethune House, showing the steeply-pitched gable roof, 1989. © Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 1989.View of the east façade of Bethune House, showing the two-storey, asymmetrical, L-shaped plan, 1989. © Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 1989.View of the south façade of Bethune House, showing the clapboard exterior walls, the symmetrical arrangement of the windows, the bay windows and the verandah, 1989. © Agence Parcs Canada / Parks Canada Agency, 1989.
Address : 235 John Street North, Gravenhurst, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property
Designation Date: 1991-06-27
Dates:
  • 1879 to 1880 (Construction)

Other Name(s):
  • Bethune Memorial House  (Other Name)
Custodian: Parks Canada
FHBRO Report Reference: 90-210
DFRP Number: 11176 00

Description of Historic Place

Sited in a landscaped garden amongst mature trees in a residential Gravenhurst neighbourhood, Bethune House is an attractive L-shaped, timber structure. Its gable roof is steeply pitched, while the clapboard exterior features bay windows, ornamental verge boards and a verandah. The designation is confined to the footprint of the building.

Heritage Value

Bethune House is a Recognized Federal Heritage Building because of its historical associations, and its architectural and environmental values.

Historical Value
Bethune House is very closely associated with the early life of Dr. Norman Bethune in Canada. His birthplace acts as a memorial to his career and is a monument to social justice and human welfare, convictions held by Dr Norman Bethune. An internationally renowned figure, he became a strenuous advocate of socialized, easily available medical care. His achievements include several developments in the treatment of tuberculosis and in thoracic surgery, refinements in medical instruments, and the first practical use of a mobile blood transfusion unit.

Architectural Value
Bethune House is a good example of a typical middle-class residence found throughout Canada in the late 19th century. The influence of the picturesque is seen in the steeply pitched roof, the vertical emphasis of the massing and its asymmetrical plan. It exhibits good functional design and craftsmanship.

Environmental Value
Bethune House is compatible with the present character of its residential setting and is familiar to those visiting the region.

Sources: Fern Graham, Bethune Memorial House, 235 John Street, Gravenhurst, Ontario, Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office Report 90-210; Bethune House, 235 John Street, Gravenhurst, Ontario, Heritage Character Statement 90-210.

Character-Defining Elements

The character-defining elements of Bethune House should be respected.

Its good quality materials and craftsmanship, as evidenced in: the two-storey, asymmetrical, L-shaped plan; the steeply-pitched gable roof, the ornamental verge-boards and the brick chimneys; the clapboard exterior walls, the symmetrical arrangement of the windows, the bay windows and the verandah; the centre hall plan with informal layout of rooms and the interior details.

The manner in which Bethune House is compatible with the present character of the residential setting and is a familiar local landmark, as evidenced by: its overall picturesque appearance which complements the landscaped grounds and harmonizes with the residential structures on John Street; its role as an interpretive memorial that make it familiar to the community.

Heritage Character Statement

Disclaimer - The heritage character statement was developed by FHBRO to explain the reasons for the designation of a federal heritage building and what it is about the building that makes it significant (the heritage character). It is a key reference document for anyone involved in planning interventions to federal heritage buildings and is used by FHBRO in their review of interventions.

The Norman Bethune Memorial House in Gravenhurst was constructed in 1879-80. It was occupied by the Bethune family from 1890-93, and is the birthplace of Dr. Norman Bethune. Maintained as an interpretive memorial, it is the property of the Canadian Parks Service. See FHBRO Report 90-210.

Reasons for Designation
The Bethune House was designated Recognized for its historical significance as the residence in Canada which can best be associated with the life of Dr. Norman Bethune, and also for its architectural significance and landmark value.

The choice of Norman Bethune's birthplace as a memorial to his career is a function of the mobility of the family and of Doctor Bethune himself. Thematically, the memorial is a monument to social justice and human welfare, convictions held by Dr. Bethune.
The Bethune House is a very good example of a typical middle-class residence found throughout Canada in the late nineteenth century. The design of the house reflects the Picturesque manner in massing and detail. It has been restored to the period 1890-93, when it was occupied by the Bethune family.

The building's relationship to the grounds remains largely intact, and reinforces the historic residential character of the neighbourhood. The house is a landmark in the community, and has particular symbolic significance for visitors from China.

Character-Defining Elements
The heritage value of the Bethune House resides in its overall design, massing, fenestration and exterior and interior details, and in its residential setting.
The clapboard, asymmetrical L-shaped house is a good example of a basic form popular during the mid-nineteenth century. The steeply pitched roof, vertical emphasis, ornamental verge-boards, bay windows and verandah are all typical elements which are important to the character of the house and should be respected, as should the detailing and symmetrical arrangement of the windows.

The asymmetrical plan reflects the first serious alternative to the more conventional centre hall plan. The rooms are informally disposed around the entrance hall and stairs. Some earlier changes -- the addition of a fireplace, partitions between bedrooms on the second floor have been reversed, and an original window has been covered but is still in place. Generally the layout of the house remains basically unaltered, and should be preserved.

Most of the interior detail and finish is intact and in good repair, and should be maintained.
In future, efforts should be taken to accommodate the interpretive program without unduly altering the original floor plan. The juxtaposing of period restoration with modern museum displays should also be avoided if possible.

The grounds of the house are largely intact. Considerable care has been taken in researching and reconstructing the landscape associated with the house during its use by the Bethune family. This is an important feature of the memorial and should be maintained.

The Bethune house and site reflect the present character of the street, which has remained primarily residential on the edge of the downtown core. This quality should be maintained.