Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sir Joseph Wesley Flavelle
February 15th, 1858 ~ March 7th, 1939

the exterior of Flavelle House

the Rowell Room

the beautiful interiors of old Flavelle House

ceiling detail, Flavelle House

looking north from one of the open windows of Flavelle House

the Bora Laskin Law Library


Sir Joseph Wesley Flavelle was born in Peterborough on February 15th, 1858. As a youth and young man, he was inspired by the Methodism and it's call for personal virtue, self righteousness and a certain stoicism. He overcame his humble origins to become on of our nation's most competent businessmen. He served as president of the largest pork packer in the British Empire, the William Davies Company of Toronto. He was also chairman of the National Trust Company, the Bank of Commerce and Simpsons Department Stores.

At the dawn of the 1900s, he began to devote a lot of his life and fortune to charitable causes. He was greatly involved in matters concerning the University of Toronto, the Toronto Gneeral Hospital, the Canadian National Railway, and of course, the Methodist Church. During the First World War, he was chairman of the Imperial Munitions Board, and dramatically altered the organization into one of well run efficiency. In 1917, he received a baronetcy and was the last resident Canadian citizen to receive a hereditary title. Unfortunately, his reputation was tainted somewhat near the end of his career, when the William Davies Company was accused of war profiteering. An inquiry did exhonerate Flavelle.

Sir Joseph Flavelle's Toronto mansion still stands on the grounds of the University of Toronto, just south of the Royal Ontario Museum. The house is used by the university's Faculty of Law. Much of the original house has remained (and better yet, is visible to the public), while some modern additions have been put on to the house.

As you enter what is currently the main entrance of Flavelle House, the Rowell Room is on the left. This room served as the original solarium for the house, and was recently refurbished through the generosity of a donation made by the Honourable H.R. Jackman, former lieutenant-governor of Ontario and Chancellor of the University of Toronto. It is now a bright, upbeat lounge space for students and faculty.
Other parts of the main floor that were part of the original structure include another beautiful (if more traditional) sitting space, which gives a sense of the decor of the original house. A stone fireplace is surrounded by elaborate wood carvings, and the ceiling is richly painted with the repeated images of angelic figures. Continuing through this lounge, one comes up to a staircase, with a window at the landing which provides a unique view of the Royal Ontario Museum, McLaughlin Planetarium building and surrounding neighbourhood.

New additions to the building include the Bora Laskin Law Library, named after (of course) Bora Laskin, who was the first Jewish Canadian to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada. The library offers hundreds of thousands of printed volumes to help support the study of the law.
Architectural and History Tours of the
Royal Ontario Museum and the University of Toronto campus
(including, of course, Flavelle House)
are available through Muddy York Walking Tours.
Contact me to find out how.
Richard Fiennes-Clinton
Muddy York Walking Tours
telephone (416) 487-9017


Post a Comment

<< Home