Homer Watson History & Archives

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Watson House Plaques and Historical Designations

In September 1955, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada unveiled a plaque at the Watson House commemorating the life and career of Canadian landscape painter Homer Watson. Homer was recognized as a person of national historic significance earlier in 1939, and the plaque was put up in relation to the honour.

newspaper clipping about the new Homer Watson Historical Plaque
Kitchener Waterloo Record, September 12th, 1955.

The unveiling ceremony was attended by director of the Doon School of Fine Arts, Bess Hamilton, and Clare Bice, an artist, curator, and illustrator who was an instructor at the School. Also in attendance was Dr. Fred Landon of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board, Frank Page, the vice-president of the Waterloo County Historical Society and author of biography Homer Watson, Artist and Man, as well as M.P.P. of Waterloo South Raymond Myers.

The plaque remained a fixture of the historic house for many years until 1980, when it was replaced with the bilingual version that’s currently affixed to the Gallery. It was also during this time that the then owner of the home, Ruthe Cayley, was in the process of selling the property to the City of Kitchener. Ruthe felt strongly about the preservation of the Watson House, and wanted to ensure that whoever she sold it to would feel the same. There were many letter campaigns reaching out to various levels of government requesting support for the cause.

newspaper clipping image of Ruthe Cayley in front of Homer Watson House
The Hamilton Spectator, no date.

Within Homer Watson House & Gallery’s archives is a letter written in response to director of the National Gallery of Canada, who wrote to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada requesting assistance for the preservation of the Watson House. It notes that while the 1955 plaque commemorated Homer Watson as a person, not the property, the Board would be pleased to bring up the idea of designating the building at its next meeting. In June 1980, they confirmed their recommendation that “the Homer Watson House is of national historic significance in view of its association with the artist, already declared of national historic significance.”

picture of Homer Watson House
Besides its association with Homer Watson, the unique architectural features of the house, including the interior studio frieze, are considered to have heritage value.

This plaque is only one of two others which you might notice outside the Gallery. This is because the property was also designated as historically significant on the provincial and municipal levels as well! The City of Kitchener also had the Watson House designated in 1980, and the provincial designation from the Ontario Heritage Trust happened later in 1991.

These designations aren’t just decorative but offer protections that prevent demolition or unauthorized alterations.  Next time you visit us, have a look at some of the different plaques and what they say about the Watson House’s connection to Canadian heritage.

Federal Historical plaque for Homer Watson House
The federal (left) and municipal (right) plaques.
Provincial Historical Plaque for Homer Watson House
The provincial plaque.
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