Notice of Intention to Designate Gairloch Gardens

Thu, 15 Oct 2020

On May 25, 2020, Oakville Town Council resolved to pass a Notice of Intention to Designate the following property under Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.18, as amended, as a property of cultural heritage value and interest:

Gairloch Gardens

Part of Lots 7 and 8, Concession 4 Trafalgar South of Dundas Street, as in 330179 and 381274, except Part 1 on Plan 20R-5754; Oakville

Description of Property

Gairloch Gardens is known municipally as 1288 – 1306 Lakeshore Road East.  Located on the south side of Lakeshore Road East, east of Morrison Road and west of Maple Grove Drive.  Lower Morrison Creek runs along the west side of the property and Lake Ontario lies to the south.  The 4.5-hectare (11.2 acre) property is a significant cultural heritage landscape and is currently the location of Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens.

Statement of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest:

Gairloch Gardens is a designed cultural heritage landscape.  The property has significance as a rare and representative example of an early 20th century lakefront estate; because it is historically linked to Lt. Col. William Gordon MacKendrick and James Arthur Gairdner; and, as a public park that is physically, functionally, visually, and historically linked to its surroundings.

Design and Physical Value:

Gairloch Gardens has design and physical value as a representative example of a designed cultural heritage landscape.  The property is notable for its elevated man-made embankment, viewscapes, natural heritage attributes, structures, landscaping and hardscaping features.  As the principal structures on the property MacKendrick’s residence and Gairdner’s artist studio were deliberately placed on the elevated man-made embankment overlooking the shore of Lake Ontario, the property’s gardens, and the banks of Lower Morrison Creek.  Just as deliberately, MacKendrick’s early 20th century teahouse and the property’s functional outbuildings were relegated to less visually prominent parts of the property.

The placement and design of the various structures, hardscaping elements, and the mature vegetation result in significant views and vistas to, from, and between the three historic buildings, Lake Ontario, the gardens and Lower Morrison Creek.  The result of this successful integration of architecture and landscape is a cultural heritage landscape that displays a high degree of craftsmanship and artistic merit and represents significant design value.

Architecturally significant structures on the property include MacKendrick’s early 20th century residence “Chestnut Point” and contemporaneous teahouse “The Teahouse”, and Gairdner’s mid-20th century artist studio known as “The Studio”.  Chestnut Point and the teahouse buildings were constructed in the Tudor Revival style of architecture, while The Studio was constructed in the Modern style.  Also of note is a large early 20th century concave stone and concrete wall which forms part of the retaining wall along Lake Ontario at the southern end of the property.  These structures are representative examples of their respective architectural styles and display a high degree of craftsmanship and artistic merit.

Historical and Associative Value:

Gairloch Gardens has historical and associative value because of its direct associations with the theme of early 20th century lakefront estate development activities in Oakville.  It is also associated with the late 19th/early 20th century concept known as the Park Movement, which arose out of concern for the health of residents of over-crowded, densely packed urban areas.  The movement espouses the view that parks provide restorative environments in which the population can enjoy their leisure time engaging in refined activities such as concerts and sporting events, and improving themselves at horticultural displays, museums, art galleries and libraries.

The property has historical and associative value through its direct association with property owners Lt. Col. William Gordon MacKendrick and James Arthur Gairdner, two wealthy Toronto businessmen who physically and fundamentally shaped the subject property into what it is today.  Further, the property has historical and associative value through its direct association with Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens, a not-for-profit contemporary art museum, and Gairloch Gardens, a public park.

The property yields, or has the potential to yield, information that contributes to: an understanding of early 20th century lakefront estate development activities in Oakville; to the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation (MCFN) who, as one of the area’s pre-contact Indigenous inhabitants, have an interest in Lower Morrison Creek; and, to the archaeological record of the area.

The property’s c. 1923 Tudor Revival residence is a copy of MacKendrick’s Toronto home which reflects the work of Ashton Spencer Pentecost, “a talented delineator”.  Further, it demonstrates the work of local architect William Gould Armstrong who designed Gairdner’s c. 1948 Modern Classical artist studio.  Lt. Col. MacKendrick had a passion for gardening, and remnant landscape elements reflect the design and/or work of both MacKendrick and James Gairdner.  MacKendrick was a member of the Toronto Horticultural Society and was President from 1910 until 1913.  In 1917, fellow Toronto Horticultural Society member Howard Burlingham Dunington-Grubb, who is recognized as being the father of landscape architecture in Canada, laid out a practical checklist to be considered in the planning of suburban and country house gardens.  This list is sure to have influenced the design of the subject property.

Contextual Value:

Gairloch Gardens has contextual value as a publically accessible park which defines, maintains, and supports the character of the area.  The area composes large, and remnants of large, late 19th and early 20th century estates, as well as more modest mid to late 20th and early 21st century residential buildings.  Between 1900 and 1930, so many wealthy Toronto families purchased property along the lakefront and built large homes, stables and beautifully landscape grounds that the area came to be known as “Millionaire’s row”.  The property is physically, visually, and historically linked to its surroundings, including a number of remnant historic lakefront estates, Lake Ontario, and Lower Morrison Creek.  The property is a landmark within the Town of Oakville.

Description of Heritage Attributes:

Key attributes of the designed cultural heritage landscape include its:

  • defined geographical area, which has been modified by human activity, being an elevated, man-made embankment overlooking Lake Ontario, the property’s gardens, and Lower Morrison Creek;
  • unique spatial organization that articulates the interrelationships between the property’s varied topography, natural elements, hardscaping features, and its historic structures;
  • physical and functional layout and circulation route patterns, including its placement and variety of mature trees, shrubs, and gardens;
  • physical, functional, visual, and historical links to the surrounding neighbourhood, as a residential and open space setting;
  • three historic buildings, specifically MacKendrick’s c.1923 residence (Chestnut Point) and teahouse (The Teahouse), and Gairdner’s c.1948 artist studio (The Studio);
  • views and vistas to, from, and between Chestnut Point; The Teahouse; The Studio; Lake Ontario; the gardens; and, Lower Morrison Creek;
  • waterfront access;
  • park grounds, with its blend of formal and informal gardens, including any remnants of MacKendrick’s early 20th century designed garden; and, the formal rose and perennial garden;
  • Lt. Col. MacKendrick’s two man-made ponds;

various hardscaping features, including the:

  • pathways;
  • stone wall and stone archway running along the edge of the driveway leading to MacKendrick’s former residence;
  • stone stairs and walls;
  • concave stone and concrete retaining wall at the lake;
  • presence of a dam within Lower Morrison Creek which supports the man-made ponds;
  • stone pillars along Lakeshore Road East, at the north end of the property; and,
  • stone pillars on the driveway between 1310 Lakeshore Road East and 1306 Lakeshore Road East, north of the studio.

Key exterior attributes of Chestnut Point include its:

  • early 20th century shape and form constructed in the Tudor-Revival style;
  • 2-½ storey massing;
  • lake stone foundation;
  • stone, stucco, and wood cladding materials, including the first storey’s lake stone structure, and the second storey’s plaster stucco exterior cladding;
  • open, cross-gable roof configuration with overhanging eaves and exposed, wooden rafters;
  • Arts and Crafts inspired, steeply sloped roof section, ending in a subtle upward curve;
  • eyebrow and shed dormers;
  • Porch and Porte Cochère’s exposed wooden rafters and stone piers;
  • Sunroom and Living room porches’ post and beam construction, exposed wooden rafters, and stone piers;
  • historic wood doors and windows including associated trim, sills and headers; and,
  • historic stone chimneys.

Key interior attributes of Chestnut Point include its:

layout, materials and finishes including:

  • exposed stone walls;
  • historic wood panelling and mouldings, wood paneled columns and pilasters ornamented with curving wooden brackets, and wood picture rail and carved grapes and leaves frieze;
  • historic wood doors and windows including all associated trim;
  • coved ceilings and coved window openings;
  • wood ceiling beams;
  • historic fireplaces, including their marble and stone surrounds, and carved wooden/decorative mantles;
  • historic wood and tile floors; and,
  • the Hall’s historic wood staircase, curved wood handrail, moulding, and trim.

Key attributes of the Teahouse include its:

  • low stone walls, including the curved south wall;
  • timber-frame wood roof supported by stone piers, which match those on Chestnut Point; and,
  • stone stairs.

Key exterior attributes of The Studio include its:

  • shape and form, constructed in the Modern style;
  • 1-storey massing;
  • horizontal wood cladding;
  • open gable roof configuration with return eaves;
  • historic four-pane skylight;
  • historic wood doors and windows and all associated trim;
  • historic wood louvered shutters;
  • 12-pane projecting bay window including its two operable, three-pane casement windows/doors; and,
  • stone chimney.

Key interior attributes of The Studio include its:

layout, materials and finishes including:

  • historic wood floors;
  • exposed, timber-frame ceiling structure;
  • historic wood panelling; and,
  • historic stone fireplace, hearth and simple wood mantel.

Any objection to this designation must be filed no later than November 23, 2020.  Objections should be directed to the Town Clerk, 1225 Trafalgar Road, Oakville, Ontario L6H 0H3.

Further information respecting this proposed designation is available from the Town of Oakville. Any inquiries may be directed to Susan Schappert, heritage planner at 905-845-6601, ext. 3870 (TTY 905-338-4200), or by email at

The last date to file a notice of objection is November 23, 2020.