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Visiting the Thomas Foster Memorial, Uxbridge, Ontario: the complexity of fame

Updated on February 20, 2012
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Thomas Foster Memorial Temple
Thomas Foster Memorial Temple | Source
Map location of Uxbridge, Durham region, Ontario
Map location of Uxbridge, Durham region, Ontario | Source

A building to be remembered by

To be honest, I must confess first of all that I had not heard of Thomas Foster (1852-1945) before I got to know about the Thomas Foster Memorial, near Uxbridge, Ontario. The building is hard to miss, anyway, when travelling past by road.

Executed in Indiana limestone, the domed structure was the responsibility of Craig and Madill architects. The building's dimensions are a width of 16.8 metres and a length of 18.3 metres. Noted features include mosaic flooring, windows painted by artist Yvonne Williams, and, very prominently, a portico with three arches.

So this was a monument paid for by public subscription in gratitude for what he did in public life? Well, not exactly. It's rather a tribute to the fact that Canada is a free country and that Thomas Foster could spend his money as he liked.

Anyway, Thomas Foster was Mayor of Toronto from 1925 to 1927. This relatively short term was distinguished mainly by his unwillingness to spend money unnecessarily.

Thomas Foster spent $200,000 on the construction of his Memorial Temple, built for himself and his family in 1935 and 1936 (1). The structure is modelled on the Taj Mahal, which had been visited by Foster, but Byzantine influence is also seen stylistically.

But before anyone thinks he was being extravagant, it is good to remember that Thomas Foster left $500,000 for cancer research and endowed an annual picnic for Torontonian children. This generosity, and a reputation for honesty, may in fact be his most memorable and constructive legacy.

He also served in the Canadian Parliament for a few years as a member elected from the East York, Ontario, constituency.

Foster was also involved in a scheme to encourage the birth of more Ontarians. At a time when the irascible Ontario Premier George Drew was complaining (more or less) that mothers in Quebec were giving birth more frequently than mothers in Ontario, Thomas Foster devised a scheme whereby Ontario mothers could see how many babies they could bring into the world and thereby be rewarded them for their efforts, from his funds. This aspect of Thomas Foster's fame might be described as more unusual.


(1) Ancestors of Thomas Foster are also buried in the surrounding cemetery, where the building is located.

Also worth seeing

Uxbridge itself is designated the Trail Capital of Canada, because of the existence of over 220 kilometres of trails in protected countryside in the area surrounding the town. The Uxbridge-Scott museum specializes in genealogy and agricultural heritage.

Leaskdale (distance: 11.5 kilometres) has the former manse residence of Lucy May Montgomery and her clergyman husband, now a museum.


How to get there: The Thomas Foster Memorial Temple is located at Durham RR#1, approximately 5 kilometres north of Uxbridge. Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. (Distance from Toronto Pearson Airport to Uxbridge : approx. 78.4 kilometres). Uxbridge is also served by a GO Bus route. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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