HISTORY OF GLENWOOD
The large mansion at 37 Ridout Street, immediately south of the Thames River known as Glenwood, was constructed on a property that had formerly been part of a grant by the Crown in 1838 to a Mahlon Burwell. It was part of a 15 acre estate called “Ingleplace” and over the years was subdivided and conveyed to a noted London barrister, E.Jones Parke, who was Police Magistrate on his death in 1899. Prior to his death he gave the land on which Glenwood is situated to his daughter, Mary H. Parke, as a wedding present. She married a local contractor and insurance adjuster Andrew Durand, who may have been related to a Durand of the architectural firm of Robinson, Tracy, Durand & Co., who were involved in drafting plans of London houses, such as the one at 46 Ridout Street, and who may have designed Glenwood.
When the house was built in 1900, the Durands were on their honeymoon in Europe. As the sign on the front gate indicates, the Durands called the estate “Glenwood”, although it is not known where that was derived from. It is also speculated that Mr. Durand was connected to a lumber company called Diamond Baker, where he obtained much of the lumber used in the construction of the house, especially the interior such as the front hall staircase.
With respect to other building materials, the massive two and a half storey late Victorian house is unique in that it is one of only a handful of London buildings constructed of rubble stone work, obtained from the area of Kilworth. The overall impression of solidity is accentuated by the complexity of the roof design with its immense gables and several large dormers of various shapes, including the two projecting front pieces on the second floor, each of which has unique decorative details. The house was fronted with a wrought iron fence and rubble stone wall. This wall was built without the use of mortar and is held together because of its unique construction and with the aid of pegs and rods.
Mr. Durand had his insurance office in the house, in what is now known as the Green Room. What is known as the staff room was the master bedroom. The house was divided into two parts, with the storey and half back part having been added later and built from cheaper materials. This section was for the servants and was totally separated from the Durand’s living quarters by locked doors. Some of these servants never saw the living quarters, which was verified by a subsequent owner who was told by a cook of long service, that she had never seen the main part of the house. Evidence of the separation can still be seen in the hall of the second floor.
Mr. Durand died in 1912. He and his wife had three sons and one daughter, Mrs. Dorothy Graham, who, it is believed, still lives in London.
Mrs. Durand sold the house in 1931 to Frank C. Smith, a grocer whose business faced the Market Square. Mr. Smith bought it with the idea that it could be used for investment purposes, however, his wife and daughter persuaded him to retain it as their own residence.
The Smith family made a number of renovations before moving into the house in 1932. The third floor was turned into a playroom and entertainment centre, although it must be remembered that the cedar room was there from the beginning and used mainly for clothing storage. The back part of the house was opened to have unlimited access to the main section. Some of the fireplaces (which were all open) were converted to either electric or gas. The gas lighting system was converted to electricity. A coal furnace was later converted to gas. We were told that the original colours of the house were maroon and grey, which must have blended in very nicely with the exterior construction. The kitchen has been renovated a few times but one of the interesting parts was a hot water system which was constructed of horizontal grille work and which also served as a warmer for dinner plates.
In later years the P.U.C. constructed the green fence on the front, believing it was on their property. The confusion of the property lines was also evidenced when some years ago the P.U.C. removed several Dutch elms, stricken with disease. They were later informed by Mr. Smith that they were on his property and he thanked them by asking the P.U.C. to place the logs behind the house for firewood use.
The Smith’s were very active in the Salvation Army, and as such, did a lot of entertaining and holding church gatherings at the house, for which the third floor was used. Neither smoking nor drinking were allowed in the house, and this latter restriction was been adhered to by WOTCH during their time at Glenwood.
As mentioned, Mr. Smith owned and operated a cash and carry fruit and grocery business on Market Square for 53 years. He used to decorate the house and grounds at Christmas with outdoor lights, and in the 1930’s won first prize for his decorations.
Mr. Smith’s daughter Gladys, was married to Smith Spence in the back garden of the property, which was profusely decorated with gladioli (tied to trees etc.) for the occasion. Mrs. Spence mentioned that her nickname “Glad” was probably the original impetus for this lovely decorating scheme. The Spence’s live in London and had close contact with WOTCH, and were instrumental and very helpful in obtaining the information for this historical perspective.
Frank Smith died in 1969. He had lived in the house alone for many years. Although he had most of his meals in the dining room he always kept three place settings in the kitchen so the house appeared lived in. The house remained empty until May 1970. Gladys spent the intervening months cleaning out the accumulation of thirty seven years of living at 37 Ridout. Many of the house’s furniture and accessories have been kept by the Spences, such as the dining room suite, a glass and lead dining room light, and front hall lights and statues. The wrought iron back-gate is also displayed at their current residence.