Elsie was the only child born to Daniel Simmons Perrin (1833-1908) and Alicia Day Perrin of London, Ontario, Canada. Elsie's father was the proprietor of D.S. Perrin And Company.
Perrin's Company started about 1861 with a bakery and soda water factory located on Hamilton Road.
In 1863, the company had moved to Horton Street where gingersnaps, soda crackers, and old fashioned stick candy was made by hand.
By 1881, Perrin had a factory located at the north side of Dundas Street between Ridout and Talbot streets and had been in operation since 1870. In the years following, the D.S. Perrin Company thrived and expanded to be both a national and international manufacture of biscuits and candy.
The Company was a major employer in the City Of London with approximately 500 workers in 1900, and had branch warehouses and offices in: Toronto, Montreal, Quebec (City), Ottawa, Kingston, Hamilton, Fort William (Thunder Bay), Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Sydney, (Nova Scotia), Halifax, and St. John.
Perrin's registered product included: Sterling Cream Sodas (biscuits/crackers), Sterling Chocolates, Black Prince Chocolates, White Rose Bon Bons, assorted Fancy Biscuits, and Excelsior Cough Drops.
Fire destroyed the Perrin factory in 1911, and a new factory was built on the same site. The giant D.S. Perrin Company factory and the executive offices were located at 82-92 Dundas Street (factory) and 71-91 and 82-88 Carling Street (offices). The factory stood six-stories high, and was a city landmark for years. The Perrin business was sold to competitor McCormicks in 1926. The Perrin factory and offices were closed in 1960s, the factory later demolished, and the area redeveloped into a provincial courthouse and a Bell Canada building.
Daniel Perrin purchased a farm in the outskirts of the City, at what is today 101 Windermere Road, in 1883 called "Windermere" from the sons of William and Phoebe Glass. William was an entrepreneur who achieved success in expanding his father's grain and flour business, served in the Canadian militia with the rank of Colonel, and was appointed Middlesex County Sherif which he retained until his death. Since 1871, the Glass family had used Windermere as their summer retreat until William's death in 1883.
"Windermere" was neatly engraved into the two stone gate pillars on either side of the entrance to the farm, but it was not known by either family when, by whom, or why. To this day, the motivation for the name "Windermere", that can still clearly be seen on both pillars today, for the property remains a mystery. The Glass and Perrin family continued on with the name, and the Perrins also used the large property as a summer retreat.
A working farm in 1871, the Glass and the Perrin families transformed the farm into a park like property over the next 50 years. Many trees were planted, the grounds landscaped, and the property transformed into the interests of the owners. Windermere over time included, boating, hiking, lawn tennis, horseback riding, and a nine-hole golf course.
As a young woman, Elsie showed a talent for architecture. At 15 years old, it is believed Elsie presented her father with the design for the Gatehouse of Windermere. Daniel Perrin is said to have been delighted with Elsie's design. The still standing gatehouse resembles a life size dollhouse in some respects with imagination and creativity in its design. Elsie would also express her artistic talent through painting.
Dr. Hadley Williams was a University Of Western Ontario professor of surgery and anatomy. Described as a brilliant teacher, Williams would become Victoria Hospital's head surgeon. The University of Western Ontario gave Dr. Williams an honorary doctorate in 1928 for Hadley's role in construction of the medical school. Hadley and Elsie were married in 1903, and as a wedding gift, the couple was given the deed to Windermere from Elsie's father. Windermere would become the year round-home of Elsie and Hadley.
Although somewhat opposite in personalities, Hadley being socially outgoing and enthusiastic and Elsie having a demeanour that was self-effacing, the two were inseparable, and Hadley was the love of Elsie's life. During the First World War (1914-1918), Elsie accompanied Hadley overseas to England. During their time away from Windermere, the Victorian style house that had been constructed by William Glass in the 1870s was demolished on the instruction of Elsie, and a new home built in its place.
The new Spanish Colonial home included Elsie's designs, such as: interior trim of gum wood, the roof of red tile, the stucco walls, the beamed ceilings, and a round-arched arcade the the porch recessed behind. These designs were influenced by Elsie and Hadley's visits to Florida and California. It is surmised plans for the new house were drawn by the architectural firm of John M. Moore that based its plans on the ideas Elsie had created. In 1929, a member of the firm, O. Roy Moore, designed the drawing room addition to the rear of the home.
In 1932, Hadley died, and Elsie died in 1934. Elsie left her Last Will And Testament with instructions for what she wanted to be done with her Estate after her death. All of her assets, not including the Windermere property, the house, and her personal effects contained within the house, were converted into cash. After the cost of her funeral, testamentary by her Will bequeathed, and all debt paid, the remaining money was to be held in a "residuary trust fund" overseen by her two appointed Trustees, Talbot MacBeth and Thomas Graves Meredith. This fund was approximately $1,000,000 in total (about $18,000,000 in 2017 money).
…I give, devise, limit and appoint to the said Talbot Macbeth and the said Thomas Graves Meredith, my Trustees, … upon trust to sell, call in and convert into money the same, or as such part thereof as shall not consist of money, (save and except the property owned by me in the said Township of London and known as "Windermere" (hereinafter called "Windermere") and being all real property owned by me in the said Township of London, and save and except all the furniture, books, pictures, plates, glass and china which, at the time of my death shall be in, about or belonging to the dwelling-house at "Windermere" (hereinafter called "my household furniture and effects") and with end out of the moneys produced by such sale, calling in and conversion, and with and out of my ready money, to pay my funeral and testamentary expenses and debts, and the legacies bequeathed by this Will...
The "the residuary trust fund" money was to be invested by the Trustees, and the annual money generated from these investments was to be used to properly care for Elsie's dogs and horses for as long each lived, and the animals not be be worked or ill treated. The London Humane Society was to receive an annual payment of $200 (approximately $4000 in 2017 money) for a period of 20 years from her death. Elsie's longtime housekeeper, Harriet Kestle (Corbett), was to be allowed to live in the house, and to have free use of the land at Windermere without charge for as long as she wished to live there. The Trustees were to pay Harriet an income of $55 (about $1000 in 2017 money) per month from the Trust Fund annual investments revenue, her living and medical needs, to pay taxes, insurance premiums, and the maintenance and upkeep of the house and property for as long as she lived at Windermere.
…and to invest the residue of the said moneys in any investments authorized by law for trust funds, with power for the Trustees of this my Will, from time to time, to vary such investments, and to stand possessed of the said residuary trust funds and the investments for the time being representing the same (hereinafter called "the residuary trust fund") upon trust to pay out of the annual income of the "residuary trust fund" for the proper care and maintenance of all the horses and dogs which I shall own at the time of my decease so long as they, or any of them, live, and to keep the said animals at "Windermere" and to see that they are not worked or ill-treated; to put out of the said income to the Humane Society of the said City of London to sum of two hundred dollars per annum for twenty years from the time of my decease; to permit the said Harriet Kestle to reside in my dwelling-house at "Windermere" and to have use of the same and the land upon which the said dwelling-house is erected, known as "Windermere" and "my household furniture and effects", free of charge, so long during the term of her natural life as the said Harriot Kestle wishes to reside therein; to pay to the said Harriet Kestle, for her support and maintenance in the said dwelling-house, so much of the annual income of "the residuary trust fund" as the Trustees of this my Will may from time to time deem necessary or expedient so long as the said Harriet Kestle resides in the said dwelling-house and the Trustees of this my Will shall, so long as the said Harriet Kestle resides in the said dwelling-house, pay out of the income of "the residuary trust fund" the taxes upon Windermere, the insurance premiums, and such amounts as may be necessary and expedient to keep the said dwelling-house and Windermere in a good and sufficient state of repair…
I direct the Trustees of this my Will to pay to my housekeeper, Harriet Kestle, (now known as Harriet Corbett), fifty-five dollars per month, as wages, so long during the term of her natural life as she wishes to reside, and does reside in the dwelling-house erected upon my property, known as "Windermere", mentioned in in my said Will, and keeps and maintains my dog, Shaker, and I declare that this amount is intended to be and shall be in addition to the provisions made for the said Harriet Kestle (or Corbett) by my said Will, and I give same to Harriet Kestle (or Corbett) accordingly.
Other persons in Elsie's employ were also granted provisions in the Will.
I direct the Trustees of my said Will to retain at Windermere aforesaid the services of William Kenny, Mary Gowdy, Winniam Gay, and Frederick Russell for at least ten years after my decease, and to pay to them respectively the wages which he or she was receiving from me immediately before my decease.
I direct the said Trustees to permit the said Mary Gowdy to live with the said Harriett Kestle (or Corbett) in the said dwelling-house, free of charge, so long as the said Harriott Kestle (or Corbett) resides there, and I direct my said Trustees to pay to the said Harriet Kestle (or Corbett) for the support and maintenance of the said Mary Gowdy in the said dwelling-house, so much of the annual income of the residuary trust fund as my said Trustees may, from time to time, deem necessary or expedient.
At the end of Harriet's life, the City Of London was to be permitted to use Windermere under certain conditions that the land be used as a public park and the house be used as a museum only.
…and upon the decease of the said Harriet Kestle, or when she ceases to reside in the said dwelling-house, whichever event first happens, to permit the Corporation of the City of London, and its successors to use and occupy "Windermere" and "my household furniture and effects" for all time to come as a Public Park and Museum only, and upon the express condition that they shall be used only as a Public Park and Museum...
In the event of the Corporation of the City of London, or its successors, ceasing at any time to use and occupy "Windermere" and "my household furniture and effects" solely as a Public Park and Museum, I give, devise, and bequeath "Windermere" and "my household furniture and effects" unto Ursuline Religious of Diocese of London Ontario, for Brescia Hall for it's own use absolutely, and in the event aforesaid I direct the Trustees of my Will to deliver or pay "the residuary trust fund" and so much of the income thereof, if any, as then remains, to the said Ursuline Religious of Diocese of London Ontario for its own use absolutely forever.
All annual income of "the residuary trust fund", and "the residuary trust fund" itself, was to be under the exclusive control of the Trustees for the purpose of the maintenance, upkeep, and improvement of Windermere, the buying of items suitable for the Museum, and the construction of structures that were compatible with Elsie's vision.
…and to pay the balance of the net annual income of "the residuary trust fund", or so much thereof as the Trustees of this my Will may, from time to time, deem necessary or expedient to the Corporation of the City of London for the maintenance and upkeep and improvement of "Windermere" so long as "Windermere" and "my household furniture and effects" are used by the Corporation of the City of London solely as a Public Park and Museum for the City of London… and if the Trustees of this my Will shall deem it necessary or desirable, and if there shall be a sufficient amount of income, not required for the purposes aforesaid, to enable the Trustees of this my Will to do so, to erect, from time to time, additional buildings and/or make additional improvements to "Windermere" for the purpose of a Public Park and Museum for the City of London but not to exceed at any time the amount of the remainder of the net annual income of "the residuary trust fund".
The Canada Trust Company (now TD Canada Trust) would have eventually become the Trustee of Elsie's Will.
In the event of either of the Trustees of these my Will dying, or remaining out of the Province of Ontario for more than twelve months, or conferred on him, or refusing, or is unfit to act therein, or is incapable of acting therein, I authorize the surviving or continuing Trustee for the time being of the Will, by writing, to appoint The Canada Trust Company to be Trustee in the place of the Trustee so dying, remaining out of Ontario, desiring to be discharged, refusing, or being unfit or incapable of acting therein, and after the said The Canada Trust Company has been appointed a Trustee of this my Will, it shall perform all the duties and have all the powers hereinafter vested in the Trustee of this my Will.
After Elsie died the City of London challenged her Will in Court, and was successful in nullifying Elsie's Will. As a result the City of London gained possession and control of the $1,000,000 dollar Trust Fund Elsie had left. The City spent the entire amount on city projects. With the last portion of the money remaining the City constructed, "The Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial London Public Library, Museum, And Art Gallery" building in 1939 at 305 Queens Avenue; far away from Windermere.
Harriet was allowed to live at Windermere for 45 years until her death in 1979. Windermere was left disused until the newly formed Heritage London Foundation took possession of Windermere from the City of London to do as it liked with Windermere without regard to what Elsie wanted. Elsie's Will appears to have tried to prevent The City Of London from gaining ownership of her Estate should her Will be deternimed not valid or legal; however, Elsie could not have foreseen the City of London nullifying her Will in Court.
In the event of the provisions hereinbefore made in this my Will for the Corporation of the City of London with regard to the use and/or occupation of "Windermere" and/or "my household furniture and effects" and the provisions hereinbefore contained for the payment by the Trustees of these my Will to or this benefit of the Corporation of the City of London for the maintenance, upkeep and improvement of "Windermere" and/or "my household furniture and effects" and the provisions hereinbefore contained for the payment by the Trustees of this my Will or for this benefit of the Corporation of the City of London for the maintenance, upkeep, and improvement of "Windermere" being illegal or invalid in any respect, and in the event of the Corporation of the City of London failing within two years after my decease to have the said provisions validated by the Legislature of the Province of Ontario, I give, devise, and bequeath "Windermere" and "my household furniture and effects" unto the said Ursuline Religious of Diocese of London in Ontario for Brescia Hall for its own use absolutely forever, and I direct the Trustees of this my Will, in the events aforesaid, to transfer and/or pay "the residuary trust fund" and the accumulations of income, if any, to the said Ursuline Religious of Diocese of London in Ontario for its own use absolutely.
The Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial London Public Library, Museum, And Art Gallery building was sold to Farhi Holdings Corporation in 2005 for $1,000,000 dollars after the London Public Library moved to much larger premises at 251 Dundas St. The Heritage London Foundation wanted the $1,000,000 dollars, but the City of London controllers denied this, and the money went to paying down the London Public Library's debt. The former library remains vacant in 2018.
Elsie is buried at Windermere next to her beloved husband, Hadley, in a large marked gravesite. The graves of her dogs are near them. The sundial Elsie mentions in her Will is now gone except for the remaing stone stand.
I desire that I shall be buried in the garden, south of the sundial, in "Windermere", next to my late husband.
The grave markers for her pet dogs are becoming worn and overgrown with lawn grass.
Despite a copy of Elsie Perrin Williams Last Will and Testament being in the public archives of the London Room at the London Public Library the falsehood that Elsie bequeathed her Estate and Trust Fund to the City remains still in the public mind. This inaccurate information is perpetuated by the City of London, the London Heritage Foundation, the London Public Library, and by The Canadian Register of Historic Places.
1934 Elsie Perrin Williams, the only child of Daniel S. Perrin of the Perrin Biscuit Company, dies, leaving a large bequest to the city, a portion of which was used to build the new Central Library. [Inaccurate]
Source: London Public Library History
Her will gave Harriet Corbett, their housekeeper, a life tenancy at Windermere, after which the estate would pass to the City of London on the condition it be maintained as a park and a museum. By the time of Harriet's death in 1979, much of Harriet's residual legacy had been disbursed. The newly formed Heritage London Foundation stepped in to support and preserve the property. [Inaccurate]
Source: Sign at Windermere.
On her death, in 1934, Elsie Perrin William, willed the estate to the City of London, to be preserved as a public park. [Inaccurate]
Source: The Canadian Register of Historic Places
It was built [Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Library] between 1939 and 1940 using funds left by Elsie Perrin Williams, a prominent Londoner, who also willed the Elsie Perrin Williams Estate to the city. [Inaccurate]
Source: The Canadian Register of Historic Places
Today, Windermere is owned by the City of London, and is used for events such as:
Weddings (indoor, outdoor, all season, themed weddings)
Wine and Cheese Events
Showers (Bridal / Baby)
Celebration of Life Services
Meditation / Yoga
Some funding comes from revenue generating events, but most funding comes from City of London tax money.
Except for the public park, nothing that Windermere is today is what Elsie Perrin Williams had wanted it to be after her death, as written in her Will. The City of London tore up Elsie's Will, robbed the Trust Fund, stole her property, and spent every last cent of Elsie's money on what the City wanted, and not how Elsie had wanted. Elsie Perrin Williams is clear in her Last Will And Testament that she did not want the City of London to ever own her estate.
Daniel and Alica Perrin are buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetary in London, Ontario. The Perrin monument is located in Section C of the cemetery.
© Trevor Dailey
This article is revised from time to time.
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