Description of Historic Place
243 Highway 54, is known as Ruthven, and is a 1,600 acre property situated in the Village of Cayuga, in Haldimand County. The property includes a two-and-a-half storey limestone residence, designed in the Greek Revival style, by architect John Lapshaw and constructed in 1845. In addition, the site contains, the Thompson cemetery, stables, a coach house, a drill hall and a gatehouse.
The exterior, selected elements of the interior and the scenic character of the property are protected by an Ontario Heritage Trust conservation easement (1996). Designated a National Historic Site, in 1995, by the Government of Canada, the property is also designated by the former County of Haldimand-Norfolk (now Haldimand County) under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 1483-98).
Ruthven house sits amongst a mixture of agricultural land, forest, river and wetland, that make up the property. The house is located in a clearing on a natural promontory north of the 1840, Thompson family, cemetery. Simple 19th century picturesque landscaping is evident in the curving tree-lined driveways, garden plantings and mature trees of Spruce, Walnut and Black Locust which frame the house, the surrounding farmland, forest and the view of the river.
Ruthven was associated with politician and businessman David Thompson I (1793-1851), the Grand River Navigation Company and five generations of the Thompson family. David Thompson I was born in the Niagara region and served as an officer in the War of 1812. In 1832, while working as a contractor for the Welland Canal, he bought 1,200 acres of land on the Grand River and established the village of Indiana. The village prospered due to the successful Grand River Navigation Company (GRNC), of which, he was a business associate. He represented Haldimand in the Legislature of the United Canada's from 1841-1851. His son David Thompson II (1836-1886) was an MPP from 1863-1886, and his grandson David Thompson III (1859-1905) was a doctor and member of Hamilton City Council. In the late 19th century Ruthven became a seasonal residence. The house contains a large collection of historically significant 19th century documents left by the Thompson family. In 1992, the Lower Grand River Land Trust acquired the estate, along with 1,600 acres.
Ruthven house is an example of the Greek Revival style. Designed by architect John Lapshaw, (1801-1883) Ruthven is built of ashlar sandstone, and sits on a high basement. It has a five-bay symmetrical main façade. The almost square plan is fronted by a 30 foot high wood Greek portico, with two-storey Doric columns, a frieze and a pediment. The shallow hip roof is ornamented with Greek Revival details, and sits above a frieze designed with grates, which disguise the attic windows. The roof is capped with an open belvedere and two pairs of chimneys. The front door has sidelights and a rectangular transom. The small porch, off the east wing, has four Doric columns, an entablature and a wooden balustrade. The rear kitchen wing (extended in 1865) is built of quarry-faced ashlar limestone.
The design incorporates a centre-hall plan and the interior features Greek columns, marble fireplaces, 15 foot ceilings, ogee-arched doors and a spiral staircase of with oak balusters, a seahorse newel of veneered mahogany and black cherry handrails. The staircase climbs three storeys and is lit by an oval skylight. Moulded baseboards, ceiling rosettes, and egg-and-dart runs of the double moulded plaster cornice echo the curving lines of the staircase.
The outbuildings on the property include a gatehouse, a stable, a drill hall, and coach house. The drill hall with its gable roof that extends off the kitchen wing and the coach house with its louvered cupola were both constructed of random rubble. The gatehouse has a small portico and double-flue chimney and is built of red brick. The red brick stable has a carriageway below an elliptical arch and is ornamented with three louvered cupolas.
Ruthven is a provincially significant natural heritage site and is part of an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) and the North Cayuga Slough Forest. It has been identified as provincially significant Class III wetland in Young's Tract Area #2. There are 13 nationally identified rare species of plants located on the property.
Ruthven has had over 26 archaeological sites registered ,with separate Borden numbers, since the 1960s, and almost 2,000 objects have been recovered, including chert tools, smoking pipes, gun flint, glass and china fragments, nails, hinges, ceramics, stone and earthenware. There is a high archaeological potential for further discovery dating from various occupations.
Source: OHT Easement Files.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Ruthven property include its:
- two-and a-half storey residence of Greek Revival
- ashlar sandstone
- five-bay symmetrical façade
- raised basement
- 30 foot high wood Greek portico
- Doric frieze and pediment
- shallow hip roof
- open belvedere
- chimneys with Greek Revival details
- Greek Revival grates disguising attic windows
- front door sidelights and flat arched transom
- small south porch off the east wing with four Doric columns, entablature and wooden balustrade similar to the temple front
- centre hall plan
- Greek columns
- 15 foot ceilings
- marble fireplaces
- ogee arched doors
- three-storey spiral staircase
- turned oak balusters
- seahorse newel of veneered mahogany
- black cherry handrails and scroll ornaments
- moulded ceiling cornice
- moulded baseboards
- ceiling rosettes
- egg-and-dart runs of the double plaster cornice
- gatehouse, stables, coach house and drill hall
- random rubble walls of the coach house and drill hall
- red brick walls of the stables and gatehouse
- portico of the three-bay gatehouse
- double-flue chimney of the gatehouse
- louvered cupolas of the coach house and stable
- stable carriageway below elliptical arch
- provincially significant North Cayuga Slough Forest
- provincially significant Class III wetland, Young's Tract Area #2
-13 nationally rare plants located on property
- marked and recorded areas revealing evidence of 13,000 years of human occupation of the property
- identified and recorded archaeological sites revealing almost 2,000 objects including: chert tools, smoking pipes, gun flint, glass and china fragments, nails, hinges, ceramics, stone and earthenware
- areas identified and recorded as having a high potential for further archaeological evidence from various occupations
- location on a promontory of land next to the Grand River
- siting in a clearing of land surrounded by forests and fields
- carefully planned 19th century Picturesque landscaping evident in the curving driveways, gatehouse, garden plantings and mature trees including Spruce, Walnut and Black Locust framing the house and surrounding land
- proximity to the Thompson family cemetery, established in 1840