Whitehern was once the stately home of Dr. Calvin McQuesten, one of the city’s first foundry-men. The business he began in 1835 with two other partners would become Sawyer-Massey, manufacturers of agricultural implements and, later on, road-making machinery.
McQuesten established himself as a physician and apothecary in the Erie Canal community of Brockport, New York, in the early 1830s. A few years later, he sent his cousin John Fisher to investigate new business opportunities in Upper Canada, at the northern end of the recently completed American Erie Canal system. In 1835, McQuesten, Fisher and one other partner bought into a small Hamilton foundry set up earlier that year by skilled machinist and moulder Joseph P. Janes.
Fisher moved to Hamilton to help Janes, while McQuesten remained in Brockport attending to his medical practice but also securing raw material, castings and equipment for the foundry. McQuesten moved to Hamilton in 1839, and into Whitehern in 1852.
The firm became McQuesten, Fisher and Company after Janes withdrew from the business in 1836. Fisher is best remembered as the producer of one of Ontario’s first threshing machines. This firm also produced a number of stoves and other agricultural implements. In 1857, McQuesten’s nephews Luther, Samuel and Payson Sawyer took over the company after McQuesten and Fisher retired.
Whitehern was occupied by McQuesten’s descendants until 1968, when it was bequeathed to the City of Hamilton. It is now a City of Hamilton Museum and a National Historic Site.
A historical plaque at the southwest corner of MacNab and Jackson Streets provides further information about the house.