Description of Historic Place
Thornwood is located at 329 St. George Street, on the west side of St. George Street, north of Cromwell Street, backing on to Gibbons Park, in the City of London. The two-and-a-half-storey white brick residence was constructed in 1852, and the property includes a coach house and landscaped grounds.
The property was designated, by the City of London, in 1992, for its historic or architectural value or interest, under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law L.S.P. – 3149-194).
The principles of the picturesque and functionalism theories were central to the layout of the Thornwood property. The picturesque approach, employed in the plan for Thornwood, proposed that buildings be deliberately placed in a natural and organic relationship with the untamed terrain. The placement of the residence, looking down towards London, in close proximity to the edge of the bank of what was once the river, and what is now Gibbons Park, was intentional and creates impressive views and vistas to and from the property.
Thornwood is associated with Henry C. R. Beecher, a prominent London citizen, of the political and social past, of the City of London. The property on which Thornwood is situated was purchased in 1845, by Henry Corry Rowley Becher, who then proceeded to build a house on the site. Thornwood, constructed in 1852, replaced the original house, which was destroyed by fire. Becher originally hailed from England and arrived in Canada in 1835. He was a lawyer and a political campaigner and was active in the political and social life of the City of London. Thornwood was often the host venue for some of the most important figures who visited the City of London, including, Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Robert Borden, Prince Edward the VII (the Prince of Wales), Winston Churchill and Sir Casimir Gzowski.
Thornwood is a rare example of a 19th century estate house, designed in the contemporary Gothic Revival style, and executed with a high degree of sophistication and class. The house exhibits an irregular roofline, a fieldstone foundation and five original chimneys. The facade, which faces south, is distinguished by a full-height gabled entrance bay, which includes a second-storey window. This window has an inset wood carving, in the window surround, and is surmounted by a drop pinnacle, bracketed on the eaves. Characteristic of the Gothic Revival style, the house features lancet arched windows and decorative bargeboard trim. Another noteworthy feature is the large veranda which spans the facade and the west elevation. The veranda was constructed in 1856 and is composed of chamfered porch supports connected with Tudor arches.
Two major additions were made to the east and north of the original house in the late 19th century. These additions were complementary in nature, as they repeated details from the original portion, such as the drop pinnacles and decorative bargeboard of the gables.
The coach house that is situated on the Thornwood property is also of architectural merit. It was designed to imitate the original house by using similar details, which creates a picturesque architectural composition. Elements of note include the steeply pitched central gable, fretwork detailing, Tudor arches with brick voussoirs and the lancet arched windows.
Source: City of London, By-law L.S.P. – 3149-194.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of Thornwood include its:
- white brick construction
- fieldstone foundation
- steeply pitched gables on the facade and east and west elevations
- irregular roofline
- veranda on the facade and west elevation made of chamfered post supports connected by Tudor arches with pendant attachments
- full-height gabled entrance bay including a drop pinnacle bracket to the eaves
- wood carving inset into the window surround, above the entrance
- original windows with wide moulded wood labels, segmental arch upper lights and moulded sills
- decorative bargeboard
- five chimneys
- 19th century additions, including drop pinnacles, bargeboard and segmented arched windows with brick voussoirs and wooden sills
- associated coach house with the steeply pitched central gable, fretwork, lancet arched windows with brick voussoirs and wooden sills, Tudor window and arch with brick voussoirs on the facade
- placement of house looking down towards London and in close proximity to the edge of the banks of the former river
- siting of house and coach house to create an organic relationship with the untamed natural terrain
- untamed natural terrain