Whitehern Mansion

Hamilton, Ontario | 41 Jackson St – MAP

Take a look behind City Hall. Encompassing modernism eating away local history. Then you see, on a small hill, the historic mansion defying a new norm. This is Whitehern.

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 there.

The McQuesten Family

Dr Calvin McQuesten brought his family from Boston in 1882. The retired medical doctor had a dream to become the greatest industrialist in Canada.

His friends thought him crazy. They were wrong. Business after business, purchased, sold, built. The family’s fortune explodes and he buys Whitehern just 1 year later.

Then just 2 years after that… Dr Calvin was dead.

The tragedy of Isaac —
It’s 1885. Dr Calvin is dead and his firstborn, Isaac, is man of the house.

Isaac lacked motivation. His mind void of business savvy from never listening to his father’s teachings. It was too late, causing his family to suffer.

He failed over and over, the businesses closing as employees are kick out into the streets. They hated the McQuestens, stress falling on Isaac and pushing him to drink. It numbed dread.

Just 3 years after his father’s death. It’s nighttime in Whitehern, Wednesday March 7th in 1888, when Isaac walked downstairs. Into the office, he’d fall into the chair at his father’s desk. Booze flowed into a cup over and over, the world becoming a blur.

His next action would create a mystery.

We don’t know if Isaac knew what he was holding, a full bottle of sleeping draught, as he drank it all down. A recipe similar to today’s sleeping pills combined with alcohol to make a deadly mix.

His wife came down at midnight, her husband passed out on the floor. She called the doctor who rushed over and stayed with him until 9 am.

The doctor watched Isaac die. All this happened inside Whitehern.

The argument for suicide is best explained on the Whitehern Museum Archives website{http://www.whitehern.ca}…

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.”

The good decision outweighing his tragic life.

A saviour comes —
Charity kept the McQuesten’s in Whitehern. Citizens who once hated Isaac took pity on his widow and kids. Hamilton’s people got together for a cause that wouldn’t last forever.

Years later a saviour arrived when Isaac’s son grew up.

Thomas Baker McQueston showed his savvy mind, not through industry, but politics. He became Minister of Highways, reaching many accomplishes.

Most known for creating…

  • the QEW
  • the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls
  • the Burlington Bay Skyway Bridge
  • the high-level bridge connecting Hamilton and Burlington 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 as history fell all around it.

A Hidden Gem filled with ghosts

Whitehern is haunted but you’d never know.

The staff and guides sign contracts. Stated in bold… they will never tell ghost stories inside the house.

It’s one line causing a void where many ghost stories exist, the case in most historical houses. We, the visitor, miss out on aspects of real history reaching out to be noticed.

Thankfully, some employees have good memories. They leave the museum and come forward with ghostly experiences.

The piano —
An employee is alone and locking up for the night.

About to leave, she stood at the door taking in the silence when a noise is heard. Coming down the grand staircase to her left, soothing, calming sounds overcoming her fear.

A piano is playing on the second floor.

She knew it was impossible, alone in the house with no radio to be mistakenly left on. Walking up the stairs, she thought of ghosts, stories told in confidence among employees.

Lost in her thoughts as she reached the top, she stopped and listened. The music had stopped.

The McQuesten family loves their home —

Jennifer was tying a rope around an antique couch.

For protection, it would block visitors from sitting down. The McQuesten heirlooms must be preserved.

She took a knee and checked the knot as someone walked up behind her. Peeking under her outstretched arm, Jennifer saw feet.

Thinking a visitor needing help, she turned, looked up from the feet to the legs, to nothing at all.

She jumped back but didn’t scream. Disembodied legs stood still on the old carpet. Shock kept her still, staring down forever but not saying a word.

The legs disappeared and a feeling of calm washed over her body.

We’ve been told about this constant occurrence at Whitehern. When staff complete a task fixing up the house, protecting antiques, or gardening outside, this wave of calm washes over them.

They all believe it’s the McQuestens, thanking them.

For more ghosts of this hidden gem
The Ghost Walks of Downtown Hamilton

And read about more haunted houses in Hamilton : Auchmar Mansion | Battlefield House (Stoney Creek) | Bellevue Mansion | Dundurn Castle | Whitehern Mansion