July 15, 2011

Perfectly Pruned Plot... Part 2, the Gardens of Parkwood Estate

This base to an old garden armillary (the armillary part missing) was dated 10 years before Parkwood gardens. Adorned with Mr. McLaughlin's monogram, one could only assume the family brought this with them from their previous house. I noticed it while strolling the grounds.

In the last post, I showed the interior spaces of Parkwood Estate and now ... Part 2.. the gardens one of the few remaining grand garden designs in tact by Harries & Hall, Dunington-Grubb and John Lyle.

I've seen the gardens of royal palaces, the lovely estates of Winterthur, Vanderbilt (Ashville) and ones at Cheekwood. All have a story, all have a personality. I have never seen a garden like the one at Parkwood... there's an art deco surprise at the end... so look through all the photos.

I'll post these photos with a bit of commentary... but photos speak a thousand words... don't you think?

To the right of the entry of the house was this arbor with a 1930s statue at the end.

Some of the more interesting trees along the walk...

This window led from the dining room out to the gardens. Most rooms on the lower level led to the outdoors.

This ancient plant was pruned to allow visitors up the stairs and onto the terrace.

A spectacular shot of one of the statues in the Venetian Garden, Sam McLaughlin's private garden which could only be accessed or seen from his personal office. Rarely would visitors or even his family be allowed in this sanctuary.

Another view of the Venetian Garden.

Strolling, I shot this view of the back of the house.

One of many rose gardens, this one was near what was the vegetable and herb garden and also the white garden.

Are these not amazing?

At the end of the official tour, I climbed up onto a support and took this photo looking into the Venetian garden through the guarded and enclosed lattice work, sticking the camera precariously almost dropping it. It was worth it.

Like hallways in a house, a garden has to have a vista or a destination. Placing this pavilion at the end of a path makes the pedestrian want to go forward. A painting or sculpture at the end of a long hallway has the same effect.

The Sunken Garden now used for parties and weddings.

This was the children's tea house. The children would go and, with the help of a servant, learn the proper way of drinking tea and outdoor entertaining. Behind and attached is a gardner's storage shed.

A drink and a book (or my iPad) please.

Amazing no matter where you are on the property.

We walked and then came upon a surprise. Designed and built by John Lyle (the same one who added at the same time, the Art Deco bedroom for Sam McLaughlin in the previous post)

A pair of these urns flanked the pool house where we had lunch. What a way to enjoy a nosh looking over the reflecting pond. So relaxing.

Although deco in design, Sam McLauglin wanted to celebrate Canada so art deco inspired Canadian Geese were integrated into the wall fountain at the far side of the reflecting pool where Poseidon himself is making sure the garden is nourished with water.

July 10, 2011

Oshawa Gem: Parkwood Estate, Part 1

Parkwood Estate is located about an hour and a half drive from Toronto in the town of Oshawa. I'm breaking this post into two parts: 1. The House and 2. The Gardens.

R. Samuel McLaughlin was Chairman of the Board of General Motors(GM)-Canada and V.P. of GM worldwide. Parkwood was the family home of the McLaughlins (Sam, Adelaide and their 5 daughters) from 1917 until 1972. The 55-room house is one of the few surviving homes from the early 20th century and contains the majority of it's original interiors less some paintings that were donated to museums and some few minor bedrooms converted over to staff offices and storage.

Designed by the Toronto architectural firm of Darling and Pearson, Parkwood cost over $100,000 and the family employed 40 staff members to maintain the house and property.

I'll take you for a quick tour so please enjoy... I certainly did. Can I please go back now and move in?

The Billiard Room's woodwork is enhanced by the McLaughlin coat of arms.
The room is dominated by a large snooker table.

A sequence of upper-wall murals in the billiard room are based upon the McLaughlin family recreational activities, painted by well known Canadian artist Frederick S. Challener.

A portrait of Admiral Sir George Pocock, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, resides in the library... one of three paintings by Reynolds the family owned. (not shown)

The piano, bought at Eaton's was brought to the house. Thought to not be
'quite right'... it was shipped to Italy for painted ornamentation.

A room addition, the loggia was added onto and this sunny living room was
added for an additional entertaining spaces.

Note the parrots painted in the ornamentation of the ceiling.
Each bird is different... reinforcing attention to detail.

The arched loggia used to be the outdoor area.. the room addition was added only about 10 years after the house was built.
The back of the house shows the addition onto the loggia.

Three panels entitled The Enchanted Wood appears on the wall in the side hall. Painted by Canadian artist,
Frederick S. Challener.

Care for a game of bowling? This entertainment wing included a
family sitting room and greenhouse area (to the right of where this photo was taken).
This bowling alley integrated an early version of an automatic pin-setter for both five and ten pin bowling.

In the distance you can see the office area of Sam McLaughlin.
If you were standing where this photo was taken, behind you would
walk to the indoor pool and locker rooms

The walls of the Dining Room were adorned with portraits of his 5 daughters.
One of his daughters was a painter and was influenced by the Group of Seven,
a group of well-known Canadian painters in the 20th Century.

Below, the painting 'After the Bath', 1889 by Paul Peel acquired eventually by Sam McLaughlin.
This painting catapulted the Canadian artist to fame after winning
a bronze medal for the painting in the Paris Salon of 1890.
The original painting is now in the Art Gallery of Ontario. A copy is here in its original place.

Bedroom designed by John Lyle (note: he also designed the Novia Scotia Bank Building which is now part of the Parliment Library complex.)

In the next posting... I'll share the gardens.. you won't want to miss it. I've never seen anything like it.

July 2, 2011

America (and Canada) the Beautiful

With Independence Day, July 4th, and Canada Day (celebrating not the independence of Canda but the unification of four of the provinces in the 1800s), July 1, I thought I'd celebrate both countries with this post.

Last week while in Canada, I visited Niagra Falls. Nestled between the border of the province of Ontario and the State of New York, Niagra Falls is beyond words. Majestic, powerful, and yet peaceful. The photos are mine in the posting less the vintage photo and the paintings.

What's unusual about this natural outlet from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario? The color. What makes the color so green/vibrant? Erosion. From the Niagra Falls Canadian website: "An estimated 60 tons of dissolved minerals are swept over Niagara Falls every minute. The colour comes from the dissolved salts and "rock flour", very finely ground rock, picked up primarily from the limestone bed but probably also from the shales and sandstones under the limestone cap at the Falls." The color that most closely resembles it to my memory is Jade when I visited the mines in Alaska.

This is the Maiden of the Mist, a boat that one can take for an up-close view.
I was amazed when I saw the boat up close and then noticed
how it dwarfed when near the falls.

The day I visited, the day was slightly overcast with some rain.
The advantage is that on overcast days, colors seem to be true.
The water at the bottom of this photo is exactly
the color green described above.

Overcast, the mist is created by both the rain that day plus the
water leaping over the falls.

Alvan Fisher - A General View of the Falls of Niagara, 1820
The Smithsonian Institution

Thomas Cole - Distant View of Niagara Falls, 1830
Art Institute of Chicago

This photo is from 1911-12, when the falls froze over. Sometimes when
it was solid (which wasn't often) restaurants would serve tea or lunch
and actually have tables out on the ice. The only time the falls shut
completely down due to ice was in 1841.