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Parkwood Estate

Parkwood Estate
Property Name: Parkwood Estate
Street Address: 270 Simcoe St. N.
Municipality: Oshawa
Regional Municipality: Durham
Date of Designation: Feb. 2000
Construction Date: 1915-1917

Reason for Designation

Historical Reasons

The Parkwood Estate was created on the site of a nineteenth century property known as Prospect Park. The property was purchased in 1850 by John B. Warren, a local miller, who built a large house in the northeast corner of the property and began to lay out gardens. Warren went bankrupt in 1865 and the property was purchased by William Henry Gibbs, Member of Parliament, who continued the improvements on the grounds (Fig. 1). An 1877 sketch of Prospect Park shows a house with manicured lawns, paths, fountains, gardens and gazebos to the south of the house (Fig. 2). W. H. Gibbs declared bankruptcy in the early 1880s and the property passed into the ownership of a Col. Mulligan. It was under his ownership that athletic fields and a grandstand were added to the west half of the estate. In 1902, the property was purchased by E. S. Edmondson, later the Mayor of Oshawa, who converted the estate into a public park (Fig. 3). Col. R. Samuel McLaughlin, the noted Canadian industrialist, bought the property in 1915 in order to build Parkwood Estate. Although the earlier house associated with Prospect Park was demolished in 1915, the already established landscape of open spaces and mature trees contributed to the formation of Parkwood’s present landscape.

As one of Oshawa’s most prominent families, McLaughlin and his wife, Adelaide Louise Mowbray, had lived in a spacious and comfortable home after their marriage in 1898. By 1915, with the success of the McLaughlin Motor Car Company assured, and their status as the first family of Oshawa established, it was possible for the McLaughlins to commission the development of a grand estate.

McLaughlin commissioned prominent Toronto architects Frank Darling and John Pearson to co-ordinate the design of Parkwood including the main house and its outbuildings. The main house design is a blend of several classical revival styles often used for residential architecture during the World War I period. It was designed as a self-contained residential complex and reflected both the wealth and social stature of Col. R. S. McLaughlin. Site construction began in March 1916 and was finished in 1917.

Toronto landscape architects William E. Harries and Alfred V. Hall prepared a topographic survey of Prospect Park for E. S. Edmondson around 1915 (Fig. 4). It would appear that they were then hired circa 1916-1917 by Col. McLaughlin to prepare a site layout for Parkwood. William E. Harries had worked with the firm of Dunington-Grubb & Harries in 1912-1913 and in 1914 formed the landscape architecture firm of Harries and Hall. Hall had previously worked for the prestigious American landscape architectural firm of Warren H. Manning.

In the mid 1920s the landscape architecture firm of H. B. and L. A. Dunington-Grubb was hired to conduct other landscape work that included the design and construction of the Italian Garden, the Sunken Garden, Sundial Garden, tennis court and changes to the South Terrace and walkway. The Dunington-Grubbs had a major influence on the development of the Canadian landscape architecture profession in the early twentieth century. They were founding members of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects and Town Planners in 1934 and were founders of Sheridan Nurseries.

Architects Darling and Pearson continued in their working association with the Parkwood Estate into the 1930s. They were responsible for the design of the Summer House, terrace balustrade and planters in 1927 and alterations and additions to the main house in the early 1930s.

Architect John Lyle was hired in 1935 to design and build the New Formal Garden at Parkwood. Lyle was awarded the Special Bronze Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada for this garden design in 1939. He was also responsible for the design of the Art Moderne master bedroom, dressing room and bathroom and Art Gallery renovations in the main house in 1940-1941.

George Tanaka was hired in 1963 to design the Japanese Garden. It was placed in one of the formal display greenhouses and represents the last formal garden design work commissioned by Col. R. S. McLaughlin.

Colonel R. S. (Sam) McLaughlin apprenticed in his father’s carriage works, ultimately becoming its chief designer. He became a partner in the McLaughlin Carriage Company in 1892. In 1907 he helped form the McLaughlin Motor Car Company with his brother George W. McLaughlin and their father Robert, who remained the president of the McLaughlin Carriage Company. The production of the McLaughlin-Buick began in 1908 and Chevrolets (Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Canada) in 1915. In 1915, the Carriage Company was sold. The McLaughlin Motor Car Company and the Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Canada were sold to General Motors in 1918, and General Motors of Canada Limited was formed, listing R. S. McLaughlin as President and George W. McLaughlin as Vice-President. George W. McLaughlin retired from the Company in 1924. Col. R. S. McLaughlin retired as President in 1945, becoming Chairman of the Board, a position he held until his death in 1972.

Mrs. McLaughlin (Adelaide) was a leader in her community. It was entirely through the efforts of a committee of women headed by Mrs. McLaughlin that the Oshawa General Hospital, now Lakeridge Health Oshawa, was established in 1910. When the Oshawa Central Council of Home and School Associations began in 1921, Mrs. McLaughlin was its first president. Not only was she responsible for the day-to-day running of the house, she was also involved in decorating decisions and purchases. At the time the sunroom was added in the 1930s, she worked with the architect and an interior decorator brought over from England, to redecorate the rooms and transform them from dark, formal areas into light and lavish spaces.

Colonel McLaughlin was one of Canada’s leading industrialists and philanthropists throughout much of the twentieth century. Parkwood was the McLaughlin’s principal home, a “grand estate”. It was from the Parkwood Estate that the McLaughlins played a major role in Canadian economic and social life for fifty-five years.

Architectural Reasons

Exterior: Main House

The architectural style of the main house was influenced by a blending of several classical revival styles prevalent during the World War I period. It is built of exterior hollow tile walls and covered with a roughcast coating. The principal L-shape plan has a two storey front wing running north-south and a two and a half storey side wing running east-west. The house faces onto Simcoe Street. A one storey wing with a bowling alley is found at the north end of the front wing. It leads to a recreation area containing an indoor swimming pool and squash court. Another wing, containing the Palm House, Orchid House, Japanese Garden, potting shed and greenhouses, runs from the recreation area parallel to the side wing (Fig. 5).

Roof Features

The main roof is a combination of a central flat roof, a hip roof with a bellcast and a gable roof. The west end of the side wing has a full gable roof. Three semi-elliptical roof dormers sit on the south side of the side wing (Fig. 6). A dome skylight is located at the juncture of the front and side wings over the main interior staircase. Green clay roofing tiles of varying hues are visible from street level (Fig 7). They provide an important colour and textural element to the house’s overall character. Decorative clay tile pieces are located on the roof peaks and ridges (Fig. 8). Five large chimneys with roughcast coating, topped with decorative red brick, are prominent roof features (Fig. 9).

The sunroom on the south elevation, the one storey north wing and recreation area all have flat roofs. A small second storey in the northwest corner of the recreation area also has a flat roof. Two glass skylight units are located over the squash court and the indoor swimming pool area.

Window and Door Features

The house has a variety of window and door openings including rectangular, semi-circular and semi-elliptical. The principal types of window sash are double hung and casement units. The double hung sashes have a variety of pane arrangements ranging from 9/9 lights on the front wing to 1/1 lights in the attic on the side wing (Figs. 10, 11). The predominant window pane arrangement is 6/6 lights (Fig. 12). Wooden storm sash and green wooden shutters are generally associated with the double hung windows (Fig. 13). Casement windows include: large, full height, double sash windows with semi-circular transoms and rectangular transoms on the sunroom; large double sash with mullion and semi-circular transoms on the dining room and breakfast room and west elevation of the front wing; and single sash (Figs. 14, 15, 16). The multi-paned casement windows are of metal and wood construction. The recreation area and bowling alley wing have multi-pane rectangular windows recessed in semi-circular and round wall arches (Fig. 17). French doors with rectangular transoms and semi-circular transoms are characteristic features throughout the house (Fig. 18).

Front Wing

The principal elevation of the house exhibits both NeoClassical and Georgian Revival detailing. A central entranceway is the focal point of an eight bay façade (Fig. 19). It has a monumental, full height portico with a pediment and Corinthian columns and a semi-elliptical fanlight in the front pediment. The central two bays are faced with a smooth rendering that is scribed to give the appearance of cut stone (Fig. 20). The central two bays are framed by a stone Corinthian pilaster. The main entrance door is set in an elliptical arch recess that is faced with cut stone. A decorative lamp illuminates the main entrance. Two, one storey bay windows are located on the east elevation, each with a wood cornice and decorative dentils (Fig. 21). The east, north and south elevations have decorative eave brackets (Fig. 22). The north elevation has a shaped gable end.  Both the north and south elevations have French doors to the outside. The west elevation has five, second floor bays and large decorative eave brackets (Fig. 23). A first floor, one storey bay window faces into the Italian Garden.

Side Wing

The south elevation of the side wing has French Revival openings (Fig. 24). The curvilinear one storey sunroom is clad in roughcast and decorative concrete cresting with a seashell motif around the roof edge (Fig. 25). A small section on the east side is missing.  Plain, circular and rectangular panels and frieze decorate the exterior walls. An oriel window with glass block located on the west elevation of the side wing was added in 1941 during renovations to Col. McLaughlin’s bedroom (Fig. 26). Double hung sashes with 2/2 horizontal panes were added to the west end of the south side at the same time.

The north elevation of the side wing features Italianate details (Fig. 27). The east end is two and a half storeys with third storey attic windows. Two projecting bays have returned eaves with decorative dentil detailing (Fig. 28). The west end of the north elevation has two storeys. The second floor windows were blocked up in 1941 for the Art Gallery. A one storey verandah is located at the kitchen entrance. It is characterized by decorative woodwork such as railing, columns and brackets (Fig. 29). The ground at the rear of the side wing is sloped to reveal a partial basement on the west elevation. The first floor of the west elevation is divided into three bays while the second floor has glass doors and a metal balcony dating from the 1941 renovations for the Art Gallery (Fig. 30).

Recreation Wing

The bowling alley wing has a wood frame pergola on the east elevation (Fig 31.). The pergola is supported by three masonry columns with stone bases and caps. The circa 1922 Frances Loring sculpture, Girl with Squirrel, is set in a wall niche located at the end of the pergola. The north elevation of the recreation area is divided into five bays by pilasters while the east wall has six bays (Fig. 32). The south elevation has four shallow arched recesses containing windows (Fig. 33). A heavy wooden cornice with dentils extends around the north, east and south elevations (Fig. 34). The northwest corner has been raised to two storeys and is topped with a simple wood cornice detail. A one storey wooden verandah sits in the service courtyard. Both the bowling alley wing and the recreation area are clad in roughcast.

Greenhouse Wing

The greenhouse wing contains the Palm House, Orchid House, Japanese Garden, potting shed and greenhouses. The one and a half storey Palm House structure is oriented north-south (Fig. 35). It has a concrete foundation with a metal and frame superstructure. Originally clad in glass, it is now clad primarily in plexi-glass. The roof has a rolled edge with a gable peak. The Orchid House and Japanese Garden are located in two east-west greenhouses next to the Palm House (Figs. 36, 37). They are primarily of frame construction with a gable roof and the original glass has been replaced by plexi-glass cladding. The brick potting shed is oriented north-south (Fig. 38). The south elevation which faces the main house is divided into three bays by pilasters, has large round arched windows, heavy cornice detail and a roughcast cladding (Fig. 39). A boiler room is located in the basement and potting shed on the first floor. Two, one storey, greenhouses are attached to the west end of the potting shed. Plexi-glass cladding has replaced the original glass. A single greenhouse stands to the north of the greenhouse wing of the main house (Fig. 40). It is joined to the greenhouse wing by a false brick wall on the west side of the service courtyard. It has a rolled roof edge and is the only remaining greenhouse with glass cladding. Three other greenhouses were removed from the area in the 1980s.

Interior: Main House

The main house comprises 55 rooms. The ground floor and first floors were built with reinforced concrete, while the roof and attic floor are of wood joist and stud construction. The principal rooms are located on the first two floors (Figs. 41, 42). The ground floor includes the billiard room, drawing room, sunroom, formal dining room, breakfast room and library. The kitchen and pantry are located in the back of the side wing. Typical of wealthy, early twentieth century homes, the kitchen features built-in cupboards, drawers, counters and conveniences such as a refrigerator. The principal rooms on the second floor are the master suite, Col. McLaughlin’s bedroom suite, other bedrooms and the Art Gallery. Every major bedroom has a private ensuite bath. With the exception of the dining room and loggia, most principal rooms are typically accessible from the hallway for privacy. A third floor over the side wing contains servants’ quarters (Fig. 43). The basement contained a laundry, mechanical services and a built-in vault (Fig. 44). Parts of the interior of the house were redecorated in the early 1930s, including the drawing room and master suite.

The bowling alley wing widens at the north end into a room with a large plate glass window overlooking the Palm House. This room provides access to the Palm House, the recreation area with its swimming pool, squash court, the barbershop as well as the service courtyard and the stairway to second floor staff quarters.

The main staircase is located in the front entrance hall (Fig. 45). A decorative glass dome with a colonnade of small Doric columns is located above the stairwell (Fig. 46). The circular stone staircase has an open decorative metal railing from the late 1920s or early 1930s (Fig. 47). The decorative urn motif on the metal railing was the inspiration for the logo adopted by Heritage Oshawa (the Local Architectural Conservation Advisory Committee, LACAC) as its identification symbol. The entrance hall floor is covered with marble and the walls of the staircase have silk panels. A second staircase is hidden off the hall leading to the bowling alley. A third staircase at the west end of the side wing leads to both the second and third floors. An elevator provided access to all floors.

Notable interior elements of the house include such structural components as the roof framing, walls, partitions and staircases, and the interior plan; including the scale, form, floor plan, ceiling heights and staircases. The interior is decorated on a room-by-room basis with a range of classical revival styles (Figs. 48, 49, 50, 51). These styles are expressed in such decorative detail as: mill work including the baseboards, doors, fireplace surrounds and mantels and wood paneling; surface treatments including original plaster and lath, decorative plasterwork and mouldings, dados, wallpaper and wall fabrics, paint finishes, wall and ceiling murals, flooring, mosaic tiles, etc.; decorative features including the decorative coloured glass dome over the main staircase with its stylized floral motif; stair railings, original light fixtures, decorative covers for heating registers, fireplaces and plumbing fixtures. Period mechanical systems, which include an electric elevator, a built-in vacuum cleaner system, a partial air-conditioning system, an inter-room telephone system and sophisticated water and heating systems, illustrate the living standards of the residents.

Other notable interior elements include: the pipe organ in the front hall and its pipework behind the silk panels on the main staircase; the walk-in basement vault; a mechanism for synchronizing clocks throughout the house; and the bowling alley which has an early version of an automatic pin-setter for five and ten pin bowling (Figs. 52, 53).

Three, decorative metal, French doors with leaf and grape motifs open off the former loggia to the side hall, drawing room and dining room. A decorative metal light fixture over the billiard table has the same motif as the doors. The doors and light fixture were in place before the interior renovations were carried out in the 1930s. In its new form, the loggia was often used as a movie screening room; the original screen and projector are still in place. 

Significant wall murals in the house include three huge panels of The Enchanted Wood on the wall in the side hall, and a sequence of upper wall murals in the billiard room based upon the McLaughlin family recreational activities, painted by well known Canadian artist Frederick S. Challener; and murals in the domed main entrance hall painted by Canadian artist Frederick Haines in the late 1930s, depicting a composite of several Parkwood garden areas. The Challener murals incorporate the figures of the five McLaughlin daughters and other family members and acquaintances, as aspects of the classical subject in The Enchanted Wood, and as sporting subjects in the billiard room murals. The sunroom has ceiling murals of painted garden motifs designed by Darling and Pearson and four wall paintings, two on each end wall. The breakfast room also has decorative painting on the wall and ceiling. The former loggia space has a latticework dado and painted foliage wall treatment that extends across a vaulted ceiling.

Col. McLaughlin’s bedroom suite was designed in the Art Moderne style by architect John Lyle (Fig. 54). It is dominated by a relief panel by Donald Stuart that is integrated into the fireplace. The stylized lines of a standing buck and kneeling doe are in contrast to strongly patterned landscape motifs. The panel curves concavely from a rounded moulding at the wall surface to hold the mantelpiece that is mounted against it. An opposite and matching niche holds the master bed. Ceiling mouldings tie the elements together. Valences around the openings have a convex curve. The furniture and fixtures of the room were designed by Lyle for the room. The adjoining dressing room and bathroom both exhibit a streamlined Moderne quality and motif. The Art Gallery, once a child’s playroom, was also redesigned by Lyle in the same stylistic conventions as the master bedroom. The east end of the Gallery has a fireplace. The west end has a large plate glass door with a small balcony overlooking the garden.

Other Estate Buildings and Structures

Gate House or Gardener’s House

Designed and built by architects Darling and Pearson circa 1916-1917, the gate or gardener’s house is located at the north entrance from Simcoe Street. A cedar hedge alongside the driveway separates the house and yard from the main house and service area. The house is one and a half storeys with roughcast cladding and has a cross gable roof covered with green slate tile (Figs. 55, 56). Decorative details include eave brackets, a tall chimney finished in roughcast with a contrasting red brick cap and 6/6 pane double hung window sash with green shutters (Figs. 57, 58). The south and west porches at the front and side entrances are integral to the character of the house (Figs. 59, 60). The exterior materials, colour and architectural elements are consistent with the overall character of the main house. This building is considered to be an integral part of the overall estate complex and character. The interior of the house has been altered.

Garage/Stable Building

Part of the complex designed by Darling and Pearson, the brick garage and former stable building, is divided into two sections. The west section housing the former stables is one and a half storeys. It has a hip roof with green slate tiles, a louvered ventilator and shaped parapet end walls (Figs. 61, 62). A small one storey addition is found on the west end. A horse stall is still found inside. The east section comprises a one storey garage with a flat roof (Fig. 63). The easternmost section has a hip roof and the exterior is clad with roughcast (Fig. 64). The chauffeur’s quarters were located in this area. A tall chimney stack is located on the east end of the building. The basement contains the estate boiler room and pump house and is connected to the main house basement by an underground passage. This building forms an integral part of the overall estate complex and character. The interior of the garage and former stable building has been altered.