McQuesten House / Whitehern National Historic Site of Canada
© Parks Canada Agency / Agence Parcs Canada, 1989
41 Jackson Street West, Hamilton, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1848 to 1848
1852 to 1968
Event, Person, Organization:
Richard O. Duggan
Thomas B. McQuesten
McQuesten House / Whitehern
Research Report Number:
Set in a rare walled garden and enriched by its interior decoration, Whitehern is a remarkably intact example of mid-19th century residential architecture. The lingering influence of the Palladian Style combined with Neoclassical motifs is seen most clearly in the symmetrical facade with its central frontispiece capped by a pediment, and in the sturdy yet graceful entrance porch supported by Ionic columns. Constructed about 1850, this house built of locally quarried stone reflected the affluence and status of new business and professional elites emerging in pre- Confederation Canada.
Description of Historic Place
McQuesten House / Whitehern National Historic Site of Canada is an elegant mid-19th-century stone residence that sits in a walled garden at 41 Jackson Street West in Hamilton. This two-storey neoclassical house was the home of a prominent family, the McQuestens, and retains many of its original Victorian and Edwardian fittings and furnishings. It is now used as a museum. Official recognition refers to the house and its grounds.
McQuesten House / Whitehern was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1962 because: McQuesten House / Whitehern is a remarkably intact example of mid-19th-century residential architecture.
McQuesten House / Whitehern is a superior example of the residential architecture of the mid-19th-century and is very much characteristic of large Ontario houses built during this period. The house was built in 1848 for Richard O. Duggan as the centrepiece of a residential estate. In 1852 it was purchased by Dr. Calvin McQuesten and remained in the McQuesten family until they donated it to the City of Hamilton in 1959. Under the Honorable T.B. McQuesten, a well-known Ontario cabinet minister, some modifications were made to the house, the estate was reduced in size, and the gardens were re-designed by the landscape firm of Dunnington-Grub. The house was restored as a museum between 1968 and 1971.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, May 1962, February 1992;
Commemorative Integrity Statement, 2004.
Key features contributing to the heritage value of this site include: the prominent siting of the house on a raised terrace within landscaped grounds; the separation of the grounds from the streets by a low stone wall on the south, east and north sides and the surviving original materials in the east wall; the circulation paths through the grounds, notably the walkway on the terrace leading around the house and the original entrances from MacNab and Jackson streets; those elements of the house typical of mid-19th-century residential architecture, notably its rectangular, two-storey massing under a low hipped roof, its five-bay symmetrically organized façade with evenly spaced large, multi-pane sash windows, and its central entry door with a Palladian window above; the presence of neoclassical elements including the central, projecting frontispiece with an Ionic columned portico and pediment at roof level, and a paneled front door with sidelights; its dressed limestone on the north and east elevations with coursed rubble stone on the others; the integrity of the only slightly evolved interior layout and notable interior features including the grand central staircase with wall niches, ceiling mouldings, paneled doors, some original wall and floor coverings, woodwork, interior shutters, attic and cellar staircases, mantels, mechanical systems such as the dumb waiter, servants’ bells and hot air vents, and three gas light fixtures; the surviving elements of the 1848 garden including the estate wall, the walled garden and terraces; the archaeological evidence of an early bake oven and outbuildings, entrance path, landscape features and walls; the surviving elements of early varieties of plants, and planting locations as well as the original landscape designs, notably the formal heart-shaped flower bed at the front of the house.