Oshawa’s Parkwood celebrates its 100th birthday with new tours

Historic home of Sam and Adelaide McLaughlin opens up new rooms for the Servant’s Experience

COMMUNITY Jun 15, 2017 by Barbara Howe  Oshawa This Week

OSHAWA — Parkwood Estate is the grey mansion on Simcoe Street, which hides behind high railings and mature trees, just south of Lakeridge Hospital. This year the National Historic Site celebrates its 100th anniversary; a perfect opportunity for anyone who has not visited Col. Sam McLaughlin’s country home to take a tour back in time.

Oshawa would be a much poorer city without Parkwood Estate. What’s more, it is only by good luck that the luxurious family home of Sam and Adelaide McLaughlin was not demolished for the expansion of Oshawa General Hospital. It is thanks to the citizens of Oshawa, who stifled the hospital’s plans; the house was saved and later opened up to the public. The estate appears regularly as the backdrop to countless movies and photo shoots.

The house is preserved as if the owners had just stepped outside. Every piece of furniture is original. Every artifact, from the hand-painted Steinway piano in the drawing room to the crockery in the servery, is as it was on the day McLaughlin died.

“That’s the fun thing about Parkwood as a museum,” said Samantha George, Parkwood’s curator. “We still have it all here, but we’re still finding the secrets every day.”

Col. Sam was the son of carriage maker Robert McLaughlin. He and his brother George were groomed in the family business. After seeing the potential of the automobile during his travels as a journeyman in the U.S., Sam convinced his father to put a Buick engine in the McLaughlin carriage and the McLaughlin Buick motor car was born. Ten years later the company was sold to General Motors and became GM of Canada with ‘Col. Sam’ remaining at the steering wheel until 1945, then as chairman of the board until his death in 1972.

In 1917, Sam and his wife Adelaide were Oshawa’s first family and expected to entertain leading dignitaries who came through town. They needed a bigger, more auspicious home to entertain guests such as the Governor General and the prime minister.

Prospect Park, located next to the hospital, was the chosen location. Close to his brother George’s home and Oshawa high school (now known as O’Neill) where their five daughters later attended.

It was here Sam McLaughlin would broker business deals and entertain dignitaries. The couple hosted Edward VIII before his abdication and became close friends with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during their Royal Train Tour in the summer of 1939 when the royal couple collected North American support for the impending war in Europe.

“The abdication was huge in this household,” said George as she related how oral histories from former servants and the household secretary’s journals illustrate a time and a place.

“When he abdicates in December 1936, the family is in the library and the servants are all in their dining room listening to the radio. And in the secretary’s journal it says, ‘Edward has abdicated today for that woman.’ So, it gives you an indication about how the secretary felt about Wallace Simpson.”

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