Early 20th century home at 7 Ravenscliffe Ave. granted Hamilton heritage designation
Published November 14, 2023 at 5:20 pm
A 113-year-old home in Hamilton has been granted heritage designation and protections.
The city voted to protect 7 Ravenscliffe Ave., a home built in 1910, on Nov. 14. The city describes the building as a “stucco-clad brick building and is a representative example of residential Italian Renaissance Revival style of architecture,” noting it has a “high degree of craftsmanship.”
The mansion was first owned by Harry Blois Witton, president of the Tuckett Tobacco Company Ltd. This company was founded by George Elias Tuckett, who had immigrated from Exeter, England in 1842 to Hamilton, then part of Upper Canada.
In the 1850s and 60s, Tuckett integrated himself with several local tobacconists and started a few stores selling cigars and later plug (or chewing) tobacco, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. However, the American Civil War erupted in 1961, severing tobacco imports from the newly declared Confederate States.
Tuckett and a business partner reportedly went behind Confederate lines to purchase Virginia tobacco for export to Canada as Canadian property. However, the operation took a heavy toll on Tuckett’s health and the operation was soon dissolved.
After the Civil War, Tuckett returned to tobacco manufacturing and built up a highly successful factory in the city. His business became well-known for (at the time) progressive labour policy with a self-instituted nine-hour workday, worker bonuses and profit-sharing.
His business success led to a successful run for mayor in 1896. However, he lasted only one term, after alienating both the Conservative and Liberal parties, weathering attacks from the growing moral reform movement and getting caught in a financial scandal.
Shortly after Tuckett’s death in 1900, his company was under the direction of President Witton. In 1910, Witton hired his brother, architect William Palmer Witton, to design a home. By this time, William Witton had already been hired to “dramatically transform the old Royal Hotel into an opulent Beaux-Arts landmark,” and ran a firm specializing in designing school buildings, according to the Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada.
Of note, William Witton was a prolific collector of books. After his death, his collection was split into two donations the City of Montreal and McMaster University.
When William Witton designed his brother’s home he was operating his own practice with Walter Stewart, who also worked on the design. Stewart later enlisted to serve in the First World War in 1915 and was killed in France two years later. The Stewart & Witton firm was dissolved after Stewart’s death.
In the century since the pair worked on 7 Ravenscliffe Ave. the home came to “define the historic character of Ravenscliffe Avenue and the Durand neighbourhood and is visually and historically linked to its surroundings,” according to the city.
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