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Taking a trip to Christmas past at Whitehern House

On Nov. 28, Whitehern Historic House & Garden opened its “A Christmas for the Ages” exhibition for the holiday season.

Whitehern is a three-story house that was originally owned and lived in by the McQueston family, whose patriarch, Dr. Calvin McQueston, played a major role in establishing Hamilton’s reputation as a “steel town”, opening an early foundry in the city.

During this exhibition, the house is decorated with Christmas trees and adorned with ornaments, books, toys and memorabilia from the era, some of which are original artifacts from the McQueston family or replicas of items seen in family photos.

Guided tours are on offer throughout the day and guests can buy tickets online or at the house.

Kathy King, a visitor on one of the house’s guided tours, explained how the house compared to other similar historic landmarks in Hamilton.

“When you go to Dundurn Castle, it’s more cold and not as intimate and not as comfortable,” King said.

King’s husband, Bruce King, agreed and elaborated on what makes Whitehern unique.

“It brings the history closer to something [that] relates to our lives. And similar stories, rags and riches, where stuff goes well and doesn’t go well,” Bruce said.

The interior of one of the many rooms in Whitehern featuring a large, decorated Christmas tree.
Inside some of the many rooms at Whitehern, Christmas decorations are set up for the holiday season, with faithfulness to the original period being a key priority for the design and items displayed.

The family’s interesting history includes a period where they went bankrupt, but thanks to daughter-in-law Mary Baker McQueston, they were able to keep the house and everything in it.

Since none of her children got married or had any children, they could not rely on future generations to take care of the house once they died.

So, in 1959, three of Mary’s children reached an agreement with the city to turn the house and its belongings over to the city once they died, with the intent of turning it into a museum. By doing this they avoided paying taxes on the house and were able to keep it until they passed away.

Today the museum is considered a historical landmark and has been preserved to the best of the government’s abilities, with most of the house remaining as it was in the 1930s.

The Whitehern’s “A Christmas for the Ages” runs until Jan. 7, 2024.

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