Tuesday, September 1, 2009

An Artistic Flare

I have previously shared the political involvement of the Breithaupt family in the province of Ontario (see "A Ghost of a Chance", August 23rd and "Deep Political Roots", August 28th). Well, it turns out the Breithaupt family also offered a significant contribution to Canada's artistic community.

In 1917, Rosa Melvina Breithaupt, the sister of future Ontario Lieutenant Governor Louis Orville Breithaupt, married Alfred Russell Hewetson. Alfred's listed occupation on their marriage registration of "manufacturer" didn't tell the full story of his success for Alfred managed the Hewetson Shoe Company in Brampton, Ontario, one of the leading shoe manufacturing companies in Canada. Sadly, Alfred died of pneumonia in 1928 leaving Rosa a widow with four children and heiress to company wealth. But she also had to manage a company that her heart wasn't into for Rosa was an accomplished and award winning pianist with a passion for the arts.

In 1932, Rosa purchased a mansion in Scarborough, Ontario, located on the Bluffs overlooking Lake Ontario. The estate home, referred to originally as 'Ranelagh Park', had been built in 1914 for retired Brigadier General Harold Bickford. Shortly after purchasing the estate, Rosa remarried, this time to Herbert Spencer Clark, an engineer who had taken over as President of the Hewetson Shoe Company. Fortunately, Herbert, or Spencer as he preferred to be called, shared Rosa's passion for art, particularly enjoying fine architectural structures.

It was, of course, the height of the Great Depression and Rosa and Spencer decided to allow artists to stay on their estate where they could pursue their various arts, sell their work and teach art classes. Rosa and Spencer (pictured above) called their home the "Guild of all Arts," later to become more broadly and famously known as the Guild Inn. Eventually, the Clarks would sell their estate to the City of Metropolitan Toronto but not before Rosa convinced another cousin, Alexander Young Jackson to vacation with them at the Breithaupt family vacation retreat on Georgian Bay. Alexander, who had been born and raised in Montreal, had never been to Georgian Bay but soon fell in love with it and began painting scenes of the area. We know Alexander better as A. Y. Jackson of Canadian 'Group of Seven' fame.

Rosa passed away in 1981 and Spencer joined her five years later. Their impact on the Canadian arts and culture community is still felt today.

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