Description of Historic Place
The Thomas Mercer Jones House, located at 168 West Street, is situated on the north side of West Street between Wellington Street and Cobourg Street in the Town of Goderich. The property consists of a three storey residence that was constructed in 1839.
The property was designated by the Town of Goderich in 1987 for its historical value under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act (By-law 62 of 1982).
The Thomas Mercer Jones house is associated with the settlement of Goderich and the Huron Tract and the operations of the Canada Company. The Canada Company was a large land development company who owned a portion of land in Upper Canada some of which was known as the Huron Tract, now Huron County. The Canada Company was created in 1826 and was intended to help with the colonization of Upper Canada through the provision of inexpensive land, low fares and affordable tools and goods.
The Thomas Mercer Jones House, thought to be the oldest surviving residence in the town, was constructed in 1839 by Canada Company engineer John Longworth for the Commissioner of the Canada Company and the house's namesake Thomas Mercer Jones.
Born in England, Thomas Mercer Jones rose to a position with the mercantile firm Ellice, Kinnear and Company. Edward Ellice, deputy governor of the Canada Company, recommended Jones as the co-commissioners. Jones arrived in Upper Canada in 1826, settling in Toronto where he administered the settlement of the Huron Tract, while William Allen, the company's other commissioner, managed the scattered crown reserves. In the 1830s Jones moved from Toronto to Goderich as he believed that the Canada Company's future depended upon the settlement of the Huron Tract.
While residing in Goderich, his 168 West Street mansion was the centre of social life as he often entertained guests and held events. Despite Jones' prominence in the town, his actions and political view attracted damaging criticism from groups which resented the power the Canada Company exercised in the Huron Tract. In particular, Jones' conservative social and economic views attracted the attention of William Lyon Mackenzie, leader of the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837, who added Jones to his notorious list of Family Compact Members. Condemnation also came from the “Colborne Clique”, a group of wealthy and educated land owners who had bought up a significant portion of land in Colborne Township from the Canada Company. The “Colborne Clique” disapproved of the Canada Company power over local affairs and Jones' reluctance to make expenditures in areas the Canada Company had sold off. By the 1850s Jones' work in the Canada Company was focussed solely on Goderich. Aligning with the “Colborne Clique” Jones attempted to bring the construction of a Buffalo, Brantford, Goderich Railway line to the town. Despite clear disapproval of this rail line, Jones announced the Company's support of this route. This statement led to the dismissal of Jones as Co-Commissioner of the Canada Company in 1852.
Jones left Goderich to return to Toronto following his wife's death in 1857 after which his home was briefly used as the Bank of Upper Canada. Since 1875, the house has been used for hospitality, functioning as a hotel until the 1970s. Today, the Thomas Mercer Jones house stands as a testament to the settlement of Canada and as a reminder of the Canada Company's early influence in Goderich.
The Thomas Mercer Jones House has undergone many alterations since its construction. The most significant being the addition of a third storey and flat roof following a 1945 fire. Despite changes, the frame house still retains its Georgian proportions, symmetrical placement of windows and recessed central front entranceway.
During the settlement of Goderich, West Street was an important residential and social area in the town and now serves as an excellent display of Goderich's early architecture. The Thomas Mercer Jones House occupies a prominent lot, contributing to the heritage value of West Street, which is comprised largely of buildings from the mid 1800s. Situated atop Harbour Hill, the house offers beautiful views of Lake Huron, the Goderich Harbour, the Maitland River and Menesetung Park.
Source: Town of Goderich By-law, 62 of 1982.
Character defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Thomas Mercer Jones House include its:
- prominent location of the house on the lot
- Georgian proportions
- symmetrical arrangement of windows
- recessed central entranceway
- location on historic West Street, in proximity to other historic structures, including Hands Bakery
- prominent situation atop Harbour Hill, with views to Lake Huron, the Goderich Harbour, the Maitland River and Menesetung Park