McCrae House Memorial

Artist:
A.C. Burnett Nicol
Category:
Memorial, Monument, Outdoor Art, Permanent, Sculpture
Materials:
Bronze, limestonel
Year:
1946

 

In memory of Lt. Col. John McCrae, author of the famous, “In Flanders Fields” poem, this limestone memorial is located in the heritage gardens next to McCrae House, his childhood home and a National Historic Site of Canada. The monument is elevated and bordered by several steps. A cast bronze book lays open, on which “In Flanders Fields” is inscribed in full. The book sits between two flower beds atop a section of limestone engraved with the phrase, “Lest we forget.”  A curved wall of limestone surrounds the book and a bronze torch sits in an alcove in the centre of the wall.

This memorial was erected in 1946 by the Colonel John McCrae Memorial Branch (Branch 257) of the Canadian Legion of Guelph. Two lots of land beside the McCrae homestead were donated to the branch in 1945 and planning began. The property, once known as Peterson’s Grove, borders Water Street and McCrae Boulevard.

The architect for the memorial was A.C. Burnett Nicol of Toronto; the contractors for the stone work were from Sharp Brothers Cut Stone Co. of Hamilton; and the contractor for the building work was William Parker of Guelph.

Postcard of memorial dating back to 1970

Cover of printed program for Dedication Service of Col. John McCrae Memorial Garden, Monday, August 5, 1946
Interior of printed program for Dedication Service of Col. John McCrae Memorial Garden, Monday, August 5, 1946

About McCrae House

The limestone cottage located at 108 Water Street in Guelph, Ontario was the birthplace of John McCrae, author of “In Flanders Fields,” the famous poem written in May of 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres. Built in 1858, the house is a typical mid-nineteenth-century Ontario cottage with its trellised verandah and cedar shingle roof. The exterior has been carefully restored to its appearance in the 1870s, when it was the McCrae family home. The House overlooks a park bordering the Speed River and was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1966 for its significance to the history of architecture, and through its association with Lt. Col. John McCrae.

In 1968 McCrae House was officially opened to the public. The house was run entirely by volunteers and a part time coordinator until 1983 when the house was given to the City of Guelph to be run by Guelph Museums. The house was renovated in 2015 for the centenary anniversary of the writing of “In Flanders Fields.”

About John McCrae

Canadian poet and physician, Col. John McCrae was born in McCrae House on November 20, 1872. McCrae himself was designated a figure of national historic significance in 1946 for the creation of the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” written in 1915 on the battlefields of Ypres, Belgium. This poem, published anonymously in the British magazine Punch, became one of the most celebrated poems of the First World War, and has made the poppy a lasting symbol of the soldiers who died during that war – a toll that included McCrae himself.

McCrae’s family left this house a year after his birth, although he continued to live in Guelph before qualifying as a physician in Toronto, then serving in the Canadian Army Medical Corps in Europe.

Visit the 100 Years of In Flanders Fields Map Journal, developed by the City of Guelph’s Information Technology  staff  in partnership with Guelph Museums for more information about the history of McCrae’s life as well as the events that inspired the poem. The story map is a spatial and multimedia journey commemorating the life of the poet, the writing of the poem and its legacy.

Restoration

2015: Restoration of the cast bronze book, torch and bronze plaques onsite took place in 2015. The work was carried out by Craig Johnson Restorations out of Ottawa.

2013: Restoration to the stonework steps, landing and walls of the memorial was required due to deterioration of numerous stones and mortar. The work was carried out by Burpee Stone Masonry of Guelph.

McCrae House Memorial, Bronze Book: before

McCrae House Memorial, Bronze Book: after

McCrae House Plaque: before

McCrae House Plaque: after

Craig Johnson carries out conservation work on the bronze book, the centerpiece of the memorial, 2015

Masonry work at McCrae House, 2013

Location

108 Water Street, Guelph, Ontario N1G 2C3