Take a look behind City Hall. Encompassing modernism eating away local history and then you see on a small hill this historic mansion defying the new norm. This is Whitehern Mansion
We’ve been asking a question on many Downtown Hamilton Ghost Walks,
“Why did they keep this house for future generations?”
The answer… a very important man once lived here.
The McQuesten Family
Dr Calvin McQuesten brought his family from Boston in 1882. The retired medical doctor wanted to be an industrialist in Canada. His friends thought he was crazy, but they were wrong. Business after business, purchased, sold, built as the family’s fortune grows. He buys Whitehern just 1 year later.
Then 2 years after that… Dr Calvin was dead.
The tragedy of Isaac —
It’s 1885, Dr Calvin McQuesten is dead and his firstborn Isaac takes over the family business. Isaac lacked motivation and never listened to his father. Now too late and the family suffers.
Failing over and over, businesses closing as employees kick out into the streets. They hated the McQuestens and all the stress falling on Isaac. He started to drink, to numb the sadness.
Then 3 years after his father’s death, it’s nighttime in Whitehern Mansion on Wednesday March 7 1888. Isaac walks downstairs into the office and fell into the chair at his father’s desk. Cup after cup of alcohol, then mixing it with a full bottle of sleeping draught (like an overdose of sleeping pills today).
His wife found him passed out on the floor at midnight. The doctor rushed over, staying with Isaac until his death at 9 am. All this happened inside Whitehern Mansion.
The possible reason for his suicide is best explained on the Whitehern Museum Archives website,
edited for space —
“Isaac died on March 7, 1888 at forty years old after consuming sleeping draught and alcohol. His death followed by bankruptcy with (debt) of $900,000 and assets of only $20,000. He had the foresight to place the house in trust for his wife.”
A saviour comes —
Charity kept the McQuesten’s in Whitehern. Citizens who once hated Isaac took pity on his widow and kids. Then a saviour comes in the form of Isaac’s, Thomas Baker McQueston.
The young man had a savvy mind, not for industry, but politics. He became Minister of Highways and created,
- the QEW highway
- the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls
- the Burlington Sky-way Bridge
- the high-level bridge that bears his name
- Influencing the creation of The Royal Botanical Gardens
- Helping bring McMaster University to Hamilton
That’s why Whitehern Mansion was kept.
A Hidden Gem filled with ghosts
Whitehern is haunted but you’d never know. Staff and guides are made to sign contracts with something like the following in bold,
“Telling ghost stories inside the museum is prohibited on threat of being fired”
One line of text causing so many ghost stories to be lost. And sadly we, the believer, miss out on aspects of real history wanting to be noticed. Thankfully some employees have good memories. When they leave employ at Whitehern and come forward with their experiences.
A Ghost Story from Whitehern Mansion – –
Jennifer was tying a rope around an antique couch to protect the antique. Leaning over to check the knot as she felt someone walked up behind her and she saw feet under an outstretched arm.
Thinking it was a visitor to the museum or another employee, she turned and looked up. The feet went to legs, up to the knees… then nothing at all. It was disembodied legs.
She jumped back but didn’t scream. Shock kept her still, staring down but not saying a word. It felt like forever before the legs disappeared. A feeling of calm washed over her body.
And here we have a common experience inside Whitehern Mansion. When staff help fix up the house, protect antiques or garden outside, calm will wash over them.
They believe the McQuestens are watching, happy for their help.
For more ghost stories of this hidden gem…
Join a Ghost Walks of Downtown Hamilton