Parkwood National Historic Site of Canada
South Lawn and c. 1917 Mansion designed by Darling
© Harold Clark Photography
270 Simcoe Street North, Oshawa, Ontario
Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
1915 to 1940
1916 to 1917
Event, Person, Organization:
Adelaide Louise Mowbray McLaughlin
Colonel R. Samuel McLaughlin
Lorrie Alfreda Dunnington-Grubb
William E. Harries & Alfred V. Hall
Howard Burlingham Dunnington-Grubb
Frank Darling & John Pearson
Dickie Construction Company
Parkwood Estate & Gardens
Research Report Number:
Existing plaque: astride driveway to right of entrance 270 Simcoe Street North, Oshawa, Ontario
A rare surviving example of the grand estates of the inter-war years, Parkwood consists of a richly decorated house set in 12 acres of grounds. The house, originally constructed in 1916-1917 to the designs of the Toronto firm of Darling and Pearson, was the home of Colonel Robert Samuel McLaughlin, President of General Motors of Canada. His wife, Adelaide, took a particular interest in the gardens designed by H.B. and L.A. Dunington-Grubb in the 1920s and in the magnificent formal garden constructed in 1935-1936 to the designs of John Lyle.
Description of Historic Place
Parkwood is a grand, residential estate developed between 1915 and 1940 by Canadian industrialist Colonel R.S. McLaughlin and his wife, Adelaide Louise Mowbray McLaughlin. The estate comprises a two-and-a-half storey, masonry Beaux-Arts style mansion, surrounded by 4.8 hectares of elaborately designed grounds and ancillary buildings. The interior of the residence is richly decorated in revival styles suited to the function of each space and contains a large collection of period furnishings, fine and decorative arts. Ancillary buildings at the estate include a gatehouse, garages, a teahouse/gazebo, and extensive greenhouses. Substantial hedges delineate the major areas of the property (entrance court, pleasure grounds, service area and stable and farm sectors) as well as individual garden areas. The extensive formal gardens include a sunken garden with a Japanese pavilion, an enclosed Italian garden with a lily pool, a sweeping front lawn with terrace and walkway gardens leading to a summer house, a tennis court, a monotone "white" garden, a rose garden, a cutting garden, an orchard, and an Art Deco style water garden. The estate takes up an entire city block, and is surrounded by a masonry wall along its front and wooden fencing along the other three sides. It is centrally located in the city of Oshawa, Ontario. The designation refers to the estate, its built and landscaped components, as well as the period contents.
The national significance of Parkwood National Historic Site of Canada, the estate of Colonel Sam McLaughlin, lies in the house, with its collection of period furnishings and decorative art, and in the grounds, with the formal gardens. Further significance lies in the succession of prominent designers associated with the estate.
The Parkwood estate is among the finest and most intact surviving examples of Canadian architectural and landscape design, period furnishings and decorative art during the interwar period. The main residence, designed by Canadian architects Frank Darling and John Pearson, shows the influence of the American Beaux-Arts style. Its gardens deftly blend English and North American traditions through the use of spaces, plantings, vegetations, garden furnishings and visual relationships.
Parkwood Estate exemplifies R. S. (Samuel) McLaughlin’s leadership position within Canada's business and social elites in the first half of the 20th century. The changes directed by Colonel McLaughlin and his wife, Adelaide Louise Mowbray McLaughlin, during 55 years of residence at the estate contribute greatly to its richness and to its capacity to express the life of a privileged and affluent Canadian family.
Parkwood’s planning, design and construction represent the work of some of the country’s leading architects, landscape architects, artists and artisans during the period 1915 to 1940. Darling and Pearson, Canada's most prominent architectural firm of the period, designed the 55-room main residence and coordinated the design of the entire estate with its numerous outbuildings. Landscape architects William E. Harries and Alfred V. Hall directed the first changes to the grounds following its purchase by McLaughlin. The gardens were expanded in the 1920s by Canada's leading horticulturalist and landscape architects Howard Burlingham Dunnington-Grubb and Lorrie Alfreda Dunnington-Grubb and include statuary by Toronto sculptors Frances Loring and Florence Wyle. The superb Art Deco water garden, built in 1935-6, was designed by John Lyle. The Japanese garden located in one of the estate's greenhouses was designed by George Tanaka in 1963.
Numerous works of art, art objects and furnishings accumulated by the McLaughlins remain in the main residence and in the gardens, adding to the sumptuousness and completeness of the estate's design and decoration. They include a bedroom suite and furnishings designed in the Art Deco style by John Lyle.
Sources: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, February 1989; Commemorative Integrity Statement, September 1998.
Key elements associated with the heritage value of Parkwood include: its association with Col. R. S. McLaughlin as reflected in its scale and appointment, its American Beaux-Arts styling, elements associated with the automobile including the entry drive, garage, and parking areas, surviving elements of the original state-of-the-art mechanical systems, portraits and personal items associated with McLaughlin, including murals by Fred S. Challener and Frederick Haines depicting the McLaughlin family, and plantings surviving from the McLaughlin period in the greenhouses. the comprehensiveness and aesthetic coherence of its cultural landscape with its buildings and landscape elements, organization into distinct entry, core, recreational and support areas, the organization of the grounds into a series of outdoor rooms, its gardens as designed by prominent Canadian designers, its service areas including support buildings, vegetable gardens, orchard, and grape arbour, the setting of the house on the highest point of land within the property, and viewscapes to and from the house that connect outdoor and indoor spaces. its main residence, notably its American Beaux-Arts architecture, including its large scale, bold detailing, symmetry, formality, and rich Classical Revival exterior treatment, the variety of exterior finishes, its integrated recreational facilities, its fine interior detailing, including decorative painting of walls and ceilings, and interior murals created by Fred S. Challener and Frederick Haines, the master bedroom suite, notably its furnishings and its bathroom designed in the Art Deco style by John Lyle, and paintings by highly regarded European and Canadian artists, including the Group of Seven. the landscaping including the use of trees and perimeter fencing to screen the estate, hedges to establish boundaries of outdoor areas, the curved entry drive, with its plantings, flagpole and gates, unifying elements including the repeated wood or wrought-iron fencing, structures that link indoor and outdoor spaces, including the pergola along the east façade of the house, the south terrace and terrace garden, the walk to the summer house, and the summer house; discrete landscape elements, including garden statuary, the gated entrance and semi-circular drive, the terrace garden, the sundial garden, the tennis court, the cutting garden, the white garden, the rose garden, the naturalist setting of the lawn areas, the pond and rockery, and the intimate spaces created by level changes, gazebos and hidden paths, lawns with their picturesque compositions, the sunken garden and its approaches, garden sculptures created by Florence Wyle and by Frances Loring; surviving elements of the original design by William E. Harries and Alfred V. Hall; surviving landscape elements designed by the Dunnington-Grubbs, including path surfaces, flower beds, the Italian garden, latticework fencing, the terrace garden, the summer house, the tennis court, the rose garden, the cutting garden, the sunken garden, the rock garden and pond, and the shady walk through fruit trees; surviving landscape elements designed by John Lyle, including the Art Deco water garden, with its reflecting pool, clipped cedars, parterre gardens, fountains, pathways, mechanical systems, ornamentation, boxed plantings, and tea house; the Japanese garden designed by George Tanaka.