Links and documents
1835/01/01 to 1840/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
Matheson House, a Georgian dwelling surrounded by a stone garden wall, was built in 1840 of local sandstone and stands on the main thoroughfare of Perth. An imposing building, it was constructed for the prominent Matheson family and today forms an integral part of historic downtown Perth, complementing other early stone buildings along both sides of Gore Street.
It is designated municipally under By-law #2439 and is also a National Historic Site
The building’s historical value lies in its association with the Mathesons, one of Perth’s most prominent families. Roderick Matheson was a successful military man and politician, being brigade paymaster for the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles during the War of 1812, a member of the Legislative Council of Upper Canada in 1847, and a senator in John A. McDonald’s post-confederation Tory government of 1867.
In 1873, his son Arthur James Matheson inherited the house. Arthur Matheson pursued a career in commerce and law and engaged in the militia and politics. He fought against the Fenians in the Fenian Raids, became the Mayor of Perth, was elected to the Ontario legislature in 1884 and appointed Treasurer of Ontario in 1905. In 1930 the house was sold out of the family and, after numerous owners, in 1966 the Town of Perth acquired it for use as the Perth Museum.
Constructed of local sandstone; it is an excellent example of the Georgian style with a central hall and five bays. The Palladian main entrance has the traditional rectangular door bordered by sidelights and topped with an arched fanlight. The windows on the front elevation are 6-over-6 double-hung sash with stone lintels, sills and quoins. The frontispiece is capped by a large pediment containing a roundel. The front garden wall is integrated into the design of the facade to visually resemble a plinth for the house. Unique to the typical gable roof and chimneys at either end of the structure, is the existence of a chimney in the centre of the building.
The original stone garden wall with its iron rail is still in place and encloses the front and sides of the property, separating the private from the public areas of the site. A small formal garden, re-created from the Matheson era, is in the east yard, while a small courtyard with a replica bake oven is found in the westerly yard. In the rear, the picket fence is located on the original site of a similar fence.
This large two storey house is prominently located on Perth's main street. It is an integral part of a group of once family-owned buildings, including a store, two warehouses and a coach house. This grouping constitutes a remarkable collection of mid-19th century residential/commercial buildings.
This grouping is part of a larger collection of stone buildings gracing Gore and Foster streets. This streetscape has long been recognized for its contextual value and the Town’s purchase in 1995 of the vacant land between the house and the store is indicative of the community’s commitment to preserve its setting as well as being a testament to the building’s importance.
The Matheson House continues to play a vital role in the community’s social life. Upon assuming its new role as a community museum, the house was partially restored and adapted for museum purposes under the direction of prominent heritage architect Peter John Stokes. The front of the second storey, which was converted into an open space by the Perth branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, is used to display the collection of the Perth Museum. The remainder of the house has been restored to the 1840’s and 1870’s time period in order to illustrate domestic life during the occupancy of the Matheson family.
In 1966, the Government of Canada designated Matheson House as a National Historic Site showcasing its importance to all Canadians.
Source: Commemorative Integrity Statement, Parks Canada, 2004
Key character defining elements which depict its historical value include:
- surviving elements of the original window fabric
- the original stone cistern in the basement
- the interior mouldings
- the staircase
- fireplace woodwork
- doors and hardware
- original garden wall and entrance (resembling a plinth) from the street depicting the manner in which the Mathesons decorated the house
- the high degree of integrity of the building’s exterior
- the physical connection of the wall to the front steps
- the function of the stone garden wall, which both separated the house from and yet connected it to the street
Key character defining elements of Matheson House that embody its architectural value include:
- five bay, two-storey symmetrical facade with a gabled roof
- Palladian main entryway with arched fanlight and sidelights
- projecting three-bay frontispiece with a gable and quoins at the edges of the facade
- the frontispiece and window openings
- centre-hall plan on the first floor with most of the original fittings
- outstanding stonework in the arch over the entrance including the quoins, the voussoirs, and the surround of the roundel
- integration of the front wall into the design of the facade to visually resemble a plinth for the house
Key character defining elements that illustrate the building's contextual value include:
- location adjacent to other Matheson-built buildings
- proximity to other heritage buildings on Gore Street
- integral part of a unified streetscape of similar design, height, style and construction material
Local Governments (ON)
Ontario Heritage Act
Municipal Heritage Designation (Part IV)
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
- Architecture and Design
Function - Category and Type
- Single Dwelling
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Town Hall, Perth ON, Community Services Department
Cross-Reference to Collection
Collection and archival material in the Perth Museum