The Thomas Foster Memorial Temple
The dedication ceremony of the Memorial was held Sunday, October 25, 1936 at 3 p.m.
There were a number of speakers who contributed to the service. Thomas Foster gave the keynote address. He spoke of his daughter Ruby and his wife Elizabeth. He also spoke of his life experience, his transitory journey on this planet and his success.
He told the gathering present that
"success is determined, not by financial worth, but rather if the world became a better place because that person passed through it."
The ceremony closed with all present singing the Hymn "Abide With Me."
Situated on a hill in rolling countryside, five to six kilometers north of Uxbridge, the Thomas Foster Memorial is easily visible from the west, south and east. Both its position and unique design command one's attention. It's structure was inspired by the Taj Mahal which is just outside of Agra, India. The Emperor Shah Jehen built the latter temple in 1650 as a burial place for his favorite wife. It is the greatest masterpiece of Indian architecture.
Thomas Foster went to the Toronto architectural firm of Craig and Madill with the proposal to build a similar structure for the resting place of his wife, his daughter Ruby, and himself. At the same time, it was to be used by the community for burials. A removable slab in the floor would allow for coffins to be lowered to crypts below for storage. This structure was to cost $100,000, and was to be placed next to the small cemetery where his ancestors were buried. By the time the building was completed, it had cost Foster twice as much as the original estimate of the architects.
The Eastern architecture, -and the worship of pagan gods, did not lend itself to this area, so the early Christian Church of the Byzantine influence was chosen instead. The dome, resting on four pendentives or supports bet&hy;ween arches, and this period displayed more embellishments. Thus, the Foster Memorial is a totally unique and original structure.
The broad, octagonal, terraced base on which the building rests, is 87 feet in width and 92 feet in length. (The structure itself is 55 feet in width and 60 feet in length.) It builds up by stages of vertical wall, semi-dome drum, and a great central dome to the gilded finial. The perfect form of architecture, that of the pyramid, was the fundamental motif for the design. From the ground below the terrace to top of the finial on the cen&hy;tral dome is a height of sixty feet, and the inside diameter of the dome is twenty-three feet.
The masonry of variegated Indiana limestone is enriched with carving at the windows and cornice lines. The design builds up with just enough emphasis from wall to roof to mark the change in materials. The thrust of the four great internal arches below the central dome is carried on piers at the four corners. These piers are weighted by carved stone finials sur&hy;mounted with brass caps. The transepts and apse are three-sided without and semi-circular within.
Facing the west, and providing the entrance motif, the portico, resting upon three arches, supported by monolithic columns, is enriched with in&hy;cised carving.
Weighted buttresses capped with bronze reinforce the flanks of the portico. The roof surfaces are of copper tile, chemically treated to produce a permanent green surface. The entrance doors, window tracery, and all metal parts are of bronze
The windows, the work of Yvonne Williams, are of hand-painted, fired and leaded glass, the colours and designs are harmonious, and are distributed so as to flood the interior with soft, col&hy;ourful light.
The floors are of rich-coloured terrazzo and marble mosaics, wrought in symbolic designs. On entering, one crosses the River of Death, on which floats water lilies and lily pads. The motion that underlies the work of the Creator is suggested in the general design of the floor beneath the great dome. This motion, typifying life, radiates from the Greek letters, "Alpha and Omega", which in turn flank the "Chi Rho" monogram in its early Byzantine form. The laurel wreath of victory over death encircles the central motif.
Under each of the four great arches, a marble screen with balustrades separates the crossing from transepts, apse and nave. Sixteen marble col&hy;umns, four to each screen supporting three arches with pierced marble tympanum above, are features of the interior. The columns are in vari&hy;coloured Italian marbles with carved Devon stone capitals and desserts. Each capital differs from its neighbours and is carved with the heraldic symbol of one of the saints or apostles. The marble altar in the east is ap&hy;proached from the raised apse by three travertine steps. The high marble reredos emblazoned with gold cross and I.H.S. monograms, is a departure from the canopied altar of the early church, but more in keeping with the scale of this structure and the present day form of Christian service. The pulpit is of Rocherons marble with an incised carved frieze and inlay of gold mosaic.
The southern transept contains three family sarcophagi. Above each sarcophagus is a memorial window bearing a modest memorial shield. The crypt contains six compartments for winter burials.
A dado of Bois-Jourdain gray marble shot with red, and inlaid with gold mosaic surrounds the interior. The same marble is used in window reveals and surrounds. The pedantries under the dome, the soffits and returns of the great arches, are in glass mosaics, in conventional floral and geometric designs in harmonious and brilliant colours. The acoustical ceiling is of azure blue.
Above, the drum of the dome is pierced with twelve stained glass, leaded windows, that in the east being in the form of a gold cross on a rich blue ground. Circling the lower part of the dome, above the great ar&hy;ches in gold lettering on a field of graded blue mosaic, is the inscription: "Take this my body for it is done and I have gained a new life, glorious and eternal".
The Foster Memorial Mausoleum is open to the public on the first and third Sunday from June to September, in the afternoon
Thomas Foster (Honest Tom)
July 24, 1852 – December 10, 1945)
was the Mayor of Toronto, Ontario, Canada from 1925 to 1927.
Thomas Foster is reported to have been born in Vaughan road in the Dufferin Area of Toronto in 1852, the son of John Towst and Frances Foster, and grandson of Robert Foster and Mary Hodgson of Patrington Parish in the Hull area of Yorkshire England.
His sister, Eliza was born in England. John’s brothers Edward and Robert, and sister, Harriet, and the mother of came to Canada and settled in the Leaskdale area of Scott Township Ontario County. Edward was a shoemaker, John T. and Robert were proprietors of the hotel at Leaskdale, and were farmers at different times. Harriet, a widow and the mother, lived with Robert and wife and family.
At fifteen years of age and in very modest circumstances, Tom went to Toronto to apprentice as a butcher in the Queen Street and Berkeley area. He worked as a drover, errand boy and butcher for three years, emerging as a well qualified butcher. A field near Berkeley Street served as a holding area for the stock which they killed and butchered themselves. He started his own business between Berkeley and Ontario Streets on Queen which became quite successful through hard work and honest dealings.
He bought his own shop and began investing his savings in real estate. After eighteen years in the business, he retired and went into municipal politics. He served first as a member for St. David’s riding in 1891, then as controller, later as a member to the Federal Government in Ottawa, and finally as Mayor of Toronto, 1925, 1926 and 1927. After his defeat in 1928, he quit politics to travel, and it was at this time that the idea of the Memorial was born.
After considerable travel, he returned to his home at 20 Victor Avenue aided by his Chinese servant.
His young daughter, Ruby died in 1904 at the age of 10, and his wife, Elizabeth McCauley, whom he married in 1893, died in 1920.
In the 1930’s Tom approached the Toronto architect firm of Craig and Madill with is plans for the Memorial. The plans were very ambitious for the sum of money proposed, $100,000. The structure ended up costing twice that amount. The fact that it was finished so reasonable and so elegantly was due to the ingenuity of the building contractor, Messrs. Witchall and Son, and the general foreman, Ted Griffith, with Dave Billson. Many of the special jobs were done by craftsmen brought in for the occasion.
Italian workers for the mosaics and terrazzo imported from Italy. Sometimes for a weekend, jobs, such as the gold lettering were done because other jobs were being held down. This was depression time,and jobs and commissions were scarce. It was the originality of the project which attracted contractors. Local people benefited by jobs, billeting workers at $1.00 per day – three meals and lodging as well as supplying services.
The project took three seasons to complete. The corner stone was laid in the fall of 1935 with ceremony, and the dedication took place in October, 1936.
Thomas Foster died a millionaire in 1945 at the age of 93. Many stories are told of his frugality – often repairs to his real estate buildings were done by himSELF.
In his will, as well as bequests to relatives, he provided for a large number of philanthropic gifts, which included:
-$3,500 restoration of the Mohawk Chapel near Brantford, built in the reign of George III;
-$12.000 for reconditioning of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Niagara on the Lake
-$3000 gifts to the charwomen in the buildings in downtown Toronto:
-$1000 in 10 equal amounts to each newsboys in business in Toronto.
-$500 to the LOL True Blue and Orange Home
-$500 to Catholic Children’s Aid Society of St. Vincent De Paul. Teron.
-annual picnics for underprivileged children:
-$3,500.00 a 45 foot flag pole, on a marble base, for Central Technical School.
During his lifetime he donated the flag pole that stands outside City Hall
-$500.00 for the Salvation Army to maintain & repair their instruments;
-$600,000 for Cancer Research at the University of Toronto;
-$100,000 to plant trees to beautify the approaches to the City of Toronto;
-Prize money for students at Leaskdale Sunday School,
-$5000, to feed wild birds around the city during the winter months.
-$15,000 will go toward the conservation of wild animals and game fish.
-$80,000 for the maintenance of the Thomas Foster Memorial
-$25,000 to fund the maintenance of Thomas Foster wards in Toronto Hospital for consumptives.
-$5000, for Northern Ontario mission station of the United Church
-$5000 for an Anglican Mission for Eskimos.
-$1000 to provide the Royal Canadian Humane Assoc with medals for recognition for saving human life.
-$10,000 for a fund to provide motor drives, motion picture machines, radios and other entertainment for patients at the Toronto Hospital for Incurables.
-$5000 to be divided among 10 patients of the Toronto Hospital for Incurables who have no other sources of income, to be spent as they say, in their own absolute discretion.
-$15,000 for a trust to establish Thomas Foster Scholarships for public school children and prizes t be presented by the Mayor and Chief inspector of the Public Schools
-$1000 for a fund to provide prizes for attendance and memorizing of Scriptures in the Bible Classes of Knox Presbyterian Church, Spadina Ave. Toronto
-$2000 to the Jack Miner Migratory Bird fund
-$500 to the Toronto Humane Society
-$5000 to provide the Elizabeth McCauley Foster and Ruby Foster Scholarships, in memory of his wife and daughter in domestic science or household economics in the vocational or technical schools in Toronto.
As I approve of large families as such and desire to extend some benefit to the mothers of such families, I direct my trustees to set aside a fund which, with interest, will provide the sum of $2,500 at the end of each of 4 – 10 year periods, the first commencing at my death, the second three years after my death, the third six years after my death and the fourth nine years after my death, the will reads:
The money is to be distributed among mothers living in Toronto for at least one year prior to the start of each period, who have given birth “in lawful wedlock to the children during the 10-year period in question.” The mother giving birth to the largest number of children is t receive $1,250. Second prize is $800 and third prize is $450 in each of the four periods.
The architectural firm of Craig and Madill was founded by two classmates of the School of Architecture, University of Toronto. Both received Science degrees in 1912.
Mr. James Craig was born in Owen Sound, and attended school at Parkdale Collegiate. He was a veteran of World Wars I and II, ser&hy;ving overseas as Captain and Major. Among other positions, he was president of the Ontario Association of Architects in 1931 and 1932.
Mr. Henry Harrison Madill, a grandson of one of Scott Township's pioneer families, was born in Beaverton, and later moved to Toronto with his family. He was a member of the Queen's Own Rifles, and so was drafted in World Wars I and II to instruct officers. He became head of the Architecture Department of the University of Toronto, following its first head, Professor Wright. He taught there for 23 years, retiring in 1957 at 68 years.
Together, they designed the Palace Pier, the Band Stand at the Toronto Exhibition Grounds (with its special attention to acoustics), Beaverton Public School and Post Office, Hastings County Home for the Aged in Belleville, Windsor Court Apartments, Pembroke Col&hy;legiate, and Earl Haig Collegiate in Toronto, as well as many in&hy;dustrial and federal buildings.
Mr. Craig died at the age of 65 of a heart attack. Mr. Madill lives in Toronto in quite good health to the age of 97 years,
Yvonne Williams RCA (1901–1997) was a stained glass artist, known for her design and creation of stained glass windows, including the windows in Chalmers United Church in Guelph, Ontario and St. Michael & All Angels Church in Toronto and The Thomas Foster memorial in Uxbridge On..
Yvonne Williams was born in 1901 to Canadian parents in Port of Spain, Trinidad. In 1918 The family returned to Canada.
Williams enrolled in the Ontario School of Art in 1922. There she studied sculpture then painting, studying under Arthur Lismer, Frederick Varley, and J. E. H. MacDonald. She changed her focus to glass and fine art metal, staying an additional year at university to study under Edith Grace Coombs. In 1928 she began an apprenticeship at Charles Jay Connick's studio in Boston, Massachusetts.
Returning to Toronto, Williams opened a studio in 1930. It was located on Cariboo Avenue in North Toronto in a house she rented from Arthur Lismer. The studio was in operation for almost 30 years. The studio received over four hundred commissions across Canada for both public and private spaces. Images by Williams were selected for the 1976 Canadian Yuletide 20 cent stamp and the 1997 Canadian Yuletide 52 cent stamp. Her career spanned almost fifty years, and at the time, it was unique for a woman to enter the field of stained glass. An interview with Yvonne Williams about her career is available in Library and Archives Canada under Joan Murray fonds, R4917.
Williams was a member of Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC), and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
She died in 1997 in Parry Sound, Ontario. She had previously donated lakefront land for a public park on Mill Lake, now known as Yvonne Williams Park.
Thomas Foster and His Memorial
by Douglas Blanchard:
The children’s picnic that Thomas Foster left provisions for in his will is called
“Thomas Foster Day in Toronto”
“Five thousand children enjoyed a super picnic in the Exhibition Grounds. But what has spread his fame all around the world it the Thomas Foster Memorial Temple north of Uxbridge.
Believe it or not, there’s nothing like it anywhere, with the exception of the Taj Mahal in India”.
“Last time I paid the Temple a visit was when it was dedicated, about seven years ago. The local bigwigs here hadn’t quite caught on to the significance of the occasion. There were plenty of sly jokes about spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on your own tomb and dedicating it before you died”.
“Yesterday I drove up to have another look, and now I know that wise old Tom has the last laugh. He knew what he was doing. The beautiful shrine that dominates the landscape for miles has drawn visitors from every part of the world. The registration book gets filled up so fast it has to be changed several times a year. If this building were on a main highway it would be one of the biggest tourist drawing cards in Canada”.
“Honest Tom – Mayor Thomas Foster”
The Canadian Portrait Academy is pleased to announce that Christian Cardell Corbet’s bronze medallion titled: “Honest Tom – Mayor Thomas Foster” has been acquired by the City of Toronto
Historical Collection.The medallion, as seen here, depicts one of Toronto, Ontario’s most famous Mayors of the last century.
Please help us congratulate Mr. Corbet on this his 58 important collection to be added to his already most impressive CV.