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William Lyon Mackenzie King's status as grandson to reformist rebel William Lyon Mackenzie is often cited; historian Robert Bothwell's contention that 'he resembled his grandfather in almost no respect' (1) is, in turn, widely overlooked. However, at Woodside, in Ontario's Kitchener, the formative background of a late-19th century community is impossible to ignore. When Mr King lived here at Woodside as a boy, the city was not called Kitchener, but Berlin, by way of tribute to the heritage of the many German-Canadians who lived in the area. The house was built in 1853 by Barrister James Colquhoun. This resident remained there until his death in 1877. Many years later, the Mackenzie King Woodside Trust worked to preserve and restore the house. Woodside is now administered by Parks Canada. The gardens at Woodside extend to 4.65 hectares; these include woodland and extensive lawns; a lily pond and a Tulip tree well over a hundred years old, planted by John King, the Prime Minister's father.
Woodside thus recalls the life of the King family in late-Victorian Ontario, when historical memories and sensibilities retained especially strong connections with Great Britain. The basement area of the house contains museum displays and a seating area for the showing of commemorative films about the life and times of William Lyon Mackenzie King. One is struck by a sense of Mr King's strongly British identity, but also of his and Canada's increasing links with the United States in the early decades of the 20th century. His friendship with and work for John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and his expertise in labour relations, contributed to bringing Mr King deep and lasting connections with professional and economic leaders in the United States. Robert Bothwell, A Short History of Ontario , Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, Ltd., 1986, p. Interestingly, in Upstate New York's Bergholz, not far from the Canadian border, the large German-American community kept its German name through two World Wars and many of its inhabitants with German-origin surnames served with distinction in the US armed forces.
The elemental xenophobia in existence in English Canada during World War One, culminating in hostility to German Canadians and in the deep strife of the Conscription Crisis in Quebec, was of a peculiarly virulent ethno-linguistic strain. Ulrich Frisse has even argued that the relationship between Mr King and Berlin's German-speaking community was an essential element of his political outlook. See: Ulrich Frisse, 'The Missing Link: Mackenzie King and Canada's "German Capital" ', in: John English, Kenneth McLaughlin and P. Whitney Lackenbauer ed., Mackenzie King: Citizenship and Community , Toronto: Robin Brass Studio, 2002, p. Reg Whitaker, quoted in John English, Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau 1968-2000 , Alfred A. Knopf Canada, p. Elora (distance: 30.4 kilometres); its picturesque Mill on the Grand River is a visitor attraction. St Jacobs (distance: 12.5 kilometres) is a photogenic village with Mennonite heritage. How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Toronto Pearson Airport, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. Distance from Toronto Pearson to Kitchener: approx. WestJet and Bearskin Airlines fly to Region of Waterloo International Airport, from where car rental is available, from Calgary and Ottawa respectively. Distance from Reg. of Waterloo Int. Airport to Kitchener: approx. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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