Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Saving Glass Gardens: the Parkwood NHS Greenhouses


Saving Glass Gardens

The greenhouses of Parkwood National Historic Site
Pre Conservation work


Glass Garden was a common terms for early 20th century greenhouse. For Canadian auto-baron Sam McLaughlin and his wife Adelaide, their glass gardens were enormously practical and highly decorative, providing plants for year round display as well as for the elaborate gardens. 

The Parkwood greenhouses also supported the
family's social pursuits, providing horticultural novelty & entertainment for guests, and the ability to compete and flower shows against others of green thumb and deep pockets.

Garden clubs and societies, from across Ontario and beyond, were frequently
entertained at Parkwood. Invitations to the McLaughlin’s annual Chrysanthemum Tea were coveted for over five decades, when guests came to wander the greenhouses and marvel at the 250 unusual varieties displayed, especially the large single- stemmed plants trained to have just one spectacular bloom.

Today, an engraved invitation is no longer required. Parkwood’s greenhouses are open to the public all year, for education& enjoyment. Now approaching 100 years of age, they still perform many of their historic functions for display and plant production for the gardens.

In  2012 Parkwood began a partnership with Durham College  in  a  Horticulture Technician Program that uses the historic gardens and greenhouses for teaching and lab purposes – extending their education value even further.

Why Save?
Parkwood's glass gardens speak to the vanished lifestyle of the early 20th century. They illustrate construction techniques and greenhouse operations of the era, and help visitors imagine the lavish lifestyle of the McLaughlins, and the roles played by their large garden staff (24+) in keeping up appearances. 
Why Now?
The greenhouse complex is at serious risk of loss to
the historic building fabric, and of public access and student use due to deteriorated unsafe conditions.
Who will benefit?

The greenhouses or glass gardens provide opportunities for education and enjoyment to area residents and visitors from across Canada and around the world, and even more specialised opportunities for horticultural enthusiasts and students.Many volunteers take part in both plant production  and  display  activities  including seniors and apartment dwellers without gardens of  their  own.   
Parkwood’s greenhouses offer  a chance to socialize and keep limbs and green thumbs active.

What’s Involved?
Each greenhouse or glass garden has different
requirements, due to its evolution and current condition.
Parkwood has engaged top heritage specialists in historic assessment and future planning.

Together we have determined a course of repair which respects historic values and ensures that each greenhouse can be sustained for 100 years more.

Work in progress
Conservation Completed
A pilot project was begun in late 2013, to test the “prescription” and launch a repair sequence for the remaining 5 greenhouses.   The pilot project involved  a  restoration  of  the  c.  1917  Vinery, which still houses one historic grapevine.   The project is complete and the results are stunning, encouraging the public to picture the other glass gardens fully conserved/restored. Community partners rallied to raise $ 200,000 to do this pilot work, but more dollars are urgently required.
One highly visual element of the complete project will be replacement of the decades-old plastic panels now yellowed and opaque, and a return to clear glass .
The next glass garden to undertake is the large and wonderful Palm House, home to many tropical plants including a large rubber tree planted by McLaughlin and his Head Gardener, and where Flora a marble sculpture of a woman takes centre stage.
The Palm House connects directly with the recreation  wing  of  the  mansion for seamless public access year-round. Its restoration program is pegged at just over $ 400,000.

Join the Palm House Rescue Party

Be a pane!  
Help fill in wall and roof sections with new glass, with a $ 75 gift.
724 panes required

Be  a  crank!     
Turn the handle on restoring the original ventilation system, with a $ 4,000 gift.

Give  a  shot  to  the  ribs!    
Help repair or replace original yellow cedar glazing ribs with $ 150 gift.
1410 ribs required

Did you know?

A gift of any amount is appreciated, and its impact immediately increases by 50% with the fund-matching challenge!
In  2013,   The    City    of    Oshawa  pledged fund-matching support to assist in a full conservation/restoration program for the greenhouse complex, and will provide $ .50 for every $ 1 raised.



















Friday, 3 October 2014

Parkwood & Philanthropy, Then and Now

When reviewing the giving legacy of the McLaughlin Family and their impact on philanthropy in Canadian history one is always in awe of their achievement, a generous achievement, which to date, has not been matched by any other Canadian in terms of donorship. 
One of the areas that the family was keen to support was that of child welfare and health issues. In fact many of the programs which have long been equated with the McLaughlin Family are programs that support or endorse the key elements of the well being of children: including the scouting and guiding movements; the Home & School Movement; the Boys and Girls Clubs; and the Intensive Care Unit of Sick Children's Hospital.
When one reflects on the causes supported, we can see both the influences of former school teacher, Adelaide McLaughlin, in terms of her support and interests, but also many of the foundations of small "l" liberalism in terms of community support and philanthropy which would have been part of their social circles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The idea of  Parkwood and philanthropy continues to this day, but in most cases it is the Estate that is benefitting the philanthropic donations as opposed to dispersing them, as it once did pre-1972.  What many people forget in this post- Sam McLaughlin world is that Parkwood is a charity, yes, a charity. With a property as big & beautiful and historically important as Parkwood it should be no surprise that help is always needed—volunteers, sponsors, partners, heritage enthusiasts and, of course, donors. 
As a charity, we are always looking for opportunities to generate the dollars needed to preserve and present the Estate, best reflecting the stories and stewardship of the family.Canada offers perhaps the best website support to Canadian charities and is the most prominent, frequently- used portal for making secure donations on-line. Canada Helps handles any type of gift and tax receipting too, making it invaluable to small & medium organizations. The website was recently redesigned, and it now allows Parkwood to be presented more succinctly, even more visually. We have been able to add photographs, and links to historic McLaughlin home movies, to help showcase our special place in history and the comparative rarity of our historic resources—and ultimately present a compelling case for donor support.

Joint Fundraising Poster
Other opportunities present themselves for raising dollars, also. Modern philanthropic types have hosted events of their own donating their proceeds to a Parkwood project or joint fundraising opportunities emerge, like the one with Their Opportunity, whose mandate parallels much of the philanthropic spirit of Sam and Adelaide McLaughlin.

Their Opportunity makes it possible for children to participate in sports by removing financial barriers. In return, children are asked to pay the opportunity forward through volunteer service. We think this work resonates handsomely with Parkwood’s heritage preservation mission, which ensures public access to historic resources, education and enjoyment opportunities.

The wine & scotch tasting event marks the first collaborative fundraiser for both organizations. It will raise funds to support both charitable organizations and their public-benefit missions in our community, with some sampling of the fine Parkwood heritage resources, and the amazing stories these resources tell.



Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Mural Image and the Introduction of Mr. George W Beardmore

Recognise this image from Parkwood?  It's from the F. Challener mural on the north east side of the Billiard Room and captures HRH Edward, the Prince of Wales (in green frock coat), on a visit to Canada in 1924. The rest has always been a bit of a mystery, with minimal information available about the "hunt" and where in fact this image is suppose to be, described for many years as the Orillia Hunt Club. 
I like sleuthing, when I can, and decided I wanted to learn more about the Orillia Hunt Club and the "hunt" history in Canada. Guess what? I cannot locate any information on the Orillia Hunt Club, and am starting to think that no entity ever existed. This interpretive material, information we have inherited over the years, is proof of how here-say becomes fact, even with historians. On my own twitter account, I frequently read Tudor historians bemoaning how myth/legend become historic fact that is often repeated by generations of academics who never bother or have the time to research what they have come to know as a truth.

Imagine my delight when I began looking into hunt club histories in Ontario and I find this photo (r), with persons identified, the year and location in a book written for the sesquicentennial for the Toronto Hunt Club.
According to William M Gray, author, A History of the Toronto Hunt Club written in 1993, we have George W Beardmore (MFH), in scarlet, escorting HRH Prince of Wales at a meet in Aurora, October 1924. (MFH- Master of Foxhounds). At last we may have some information to go on about the occasion and who is in the mural image. I did double check and Edward did visit the Toronto area in 1924 and if you are knowledgeable on hunt seasons, the northern hemisphere hunt season begins in October and runs through March/April, dependent on weather (especially in Canada) and Beardmore held property, Beverly Farm, in Aurora.

Brief History of the Toronto Hunt Club
The Toronto Hunt Club has an extensive and interesting history. In 1895 land was purchased in Scarborough Heights (current Kingston road location) and architectural firm Darling and Pearson (architects of Parkwood) were commissioned to design and build the "new" club.Under the name of “The Toronto Hunt and Country Club”. The Club was first incorporated under the Provincial Letters Patent in May 1894. In 1905, it was re-incorporated under Dominion Charter as “The Toronto Hunt Limited” and finally in October 1930, it was again incorporated under Provincial Letters Patent as “The Toronto Hunt” and still operates under this Charter. In 1893, George Beardmore was elected president and held that position, as well as Master of the Fox Hounds until 1930. Polo, skeet shooting and eventually tennis were added to the pursuits of the club, but hunting with the hounds was the most popular at the club. There seems to have been a peak in terms of the hunt at the turn of the century, with a decline occurring with the introduction of the automobile and then WWI, but the hunt popularity was revived in the 1920s among society elite.

C. Churchill Mann & Billie Mann
While all this is occurring at the Scarborough "campus" of the Toronto Hunt, Beardmore is investing his own finances in a northern campus, at the then rural, Eglinton and Avenue Road location, of what becomes the Toronto and North Hunt in 1919. Beardmore instructs architects to design and create an elaborate horse facility, and houses a second pack of hounds, creating this clubhouse that many will recognise as one of the gems of Heritage Toronto today (above photo). In 1929 the Toronto and North Club is renamed the Eglinton Hunt, and is administered by Beardmore from 1929 - 1934.
The Eglinton Hunt becomes home to the first Canadian branch of the Pony Club.
As Toronto expanded, Beardmore was forced to move the hounds to his property in Aurora, Beverly Farm, and as the depression worsened, Lady Eaton provided many of the financial and property resources, neighbour to Beverly Farm, Eaton Hall, to support the hunt, through the end of the 1930s.

From 1949 to 1952, Eleanor (Billie) Mann ( nee McLaughlin) is Master of the Hunt of the Eglinton Hunt.

Introducing George W Beardmore 
Who is this George W Beardmore gent that was very influential in the club and is portrayed in the mural at Parkwood, and I know nothing of?
Beardmore came from a leather and shoe (tannery) empire, Beardmore & Co. Ltd., and is described by Gray as an "out-going, successful businessman, sportsman, and accomplished horseman".

His Toronto estate, Chudleigh, is now the Italian consulate, but stands in much of its grandeur, with the changes George W Beardmore saw it undergo through the nineteen teens and twenties.

The relationship between Beardmore and McLaughlin is unknown and may be strictly through sport. Sam and Adelaide McLaughlin were members of the Toronto Hunt, as were their daughters.  We know the successes of the McLaughlin family in terms of horses; jumpers, hunters and thoroughbreds and the legacy of Parkwood Stables.
Both the McLaughlin's and Beardmore's were in business with architects Darling and Pearson, but so were many of the "society set".
In terms of business accounts, Oshawa had its own renowned tannery, Robson Leather, and the McLaughlin Carriage Works, McLaughlin MotorCar Company and eventually General Motors seem to have done most of their tannery business dealings via this enterprise. 
The exact relationship between McLaughlin and Beardmore may be forever elusive, however, we now know what & whom the "hunt" image in the mural depicts, and an image, I believe, would have had a great importance to the McLaughlin family as it was painted onto their wall.