Description of Historic Place
Overlooking the banks of the Grand River, Ruthven Park, located at 243 Highway 54 Cayuga, was modeled upon a nineteenth century English country estate. The Mansion, situated at the heart of the 1500-acre estate, is a fine example of Classic Greek Revival architecture. The estate also retains early farm buildings and the family cemetery.
It is designated for its historical and architectural value under the Haldimand County By-law 1483/98.
Ruthven Estate, including the main house and its wing was designed by master builder and architect John Latshaw in circa 1845. It is considered his masterpiece of residential design and one of Ontario's finest Greek Revival style homes. It is unique in Haldimand County and, quite possibly in Canada, in terms of the completeness of the estate and the size of the main house, which contains 36 rooms in 10,200 square feet of space.
Historically, the property is important for its connection with five generations of the Thompson family. They were entrepreneurs responsible for milling and related enterprises on this section of the Lower Grand River, as well as being involved in early improvements to the waterway. Earlier generations were involved in political, military, and community affairs. Granted some 1200 acres of land by the Crown in the early 1840s, the estate still has contiguous lands with important natural habitats of woodlands and wetlands, as well as an agricultural area.
The buildings, particularly the main house and its rear wing, contain many possessions such as decorative fittings, furniture and art, that are part of the Thompson family collection, as well as documents pertaining to the estate, local history and military and parliamentary affairs. Today, Ruthven Park consists of approximately 1500 acres, with 600 acres cultivated by local farmers. The remaining 900 acres are scientifically significant as they are located within a Carolinian forest, which forms part of the North Cayuga Slough Forest, containing wetlands that are home to many rare and endangered features of the Carolinian forest zone.
In the centre of the property stands the imposing three-storey, 36 room Classical Greek Revival mansion. American architect John Latshaw designed a typical symmetrical plan of ashlar stone. Rubble and cut stone were used for later building additions. A wide stone staircase with a closed railing leads to a large open porch, while columns and moulded piers support a simply decorated pediment. The frieze of alternating triglyphs and metopes is repeated in the pediment's moulding and on the fascia. Columns and piers are paired on either side of the main entrance and the fenestration on the main and second floors are of six over six sash windows. Three over three sash windows provide much needed light to the lower or basement level. Other buildings on the estate include the barracks or drill hall, built in 1867, the brick carriage way, a gatehouse, a coach house, the Hill House and an old piggery.
The interior is just as impressive as the exterior, with a double drawing room, two identical Italian black marble fireplaces and an elegant dining room which adjoins a parlour through etched glass doors. The most famous feature is the oval staircase that winds its way up to the skylight on the roof.
Source: Haldimand County By-law 1483/98.
Character defining elements that reflect the heritage value of Ruthven Park include its:
- lands currently used for agricultural and preservation purposes
- unique architectural stone building comprising the main house with additions, including the front entrance, stone steps, pediment, porch and fenestration
- interior layout of 36 rooms with elegant features such as the double drawing room, black marble fireplaces, dining room and oval staircase
- Thompson Family collections retained within the main house
- various outbuildings, including the gatehouse, coach house, brick carriageway, drill hall, Hill House and piggery
- the family cemetery
- 1500 acres along the Grand River
- location within a Carolinian forest