Maplehurst is a landmark in the City of Thorold and a source of pride to its citizens. Built by Hugh Keefer and located on a high elevation overlooking the second canal, the first stone for Maplehurst was laid May 20, 1885 and a year later the building was near completion. It is one of the most important residences connected to the development of the Welland Canal and is, therefore, important to the development of Canada and to our Canadian history.
It is the home of Thorold’s founding family who were leading citizens in the community and entrepreneurs. George served in the Lincoln Militia during the War of 1812; the Keefer house was commandeered as a hospital by the American occupation forces in 1813; George’s first wife, Catherine (Lampman) died of typhoid fever after nursing American soldiers wounded in the Battle of Beaverdams. A surveyor, a cabinet-maker, and local magistrate, George operated a general store, built and operated a grist mill and two saw mills, thus creating the nucleus of the new settlement. He was an original stockholder and first president of William Hamilton Merritt’s Welland Canal Company when the first sod was turned November 30, 1824.
Samuel, one of George’s sons, superintended the building of the stone locks on the 2nd Canal, planned the Parliament Buildings, built the first suspension bridge in Canada at Ottawa and the longest suspension bridge in the world at that time at Niagara Falls (1868). Another son, Thomas C. Keefer was an author and eminent canal and railway engineer for the Canadian government. He was President of both the Canadian and American Societies of Civil Engineers.
Jacob Keefer founded the Welland Mills (the largest in Canada) in 1845; this mill later became the Maple Leaf Flour Mills. Hugh, the builder of Maplehurst, built Vancouver’s first sewer system. He also owned granite and sandstone quarries as well as a brickyard in Vancouver.
Maplehurst is located in a dramatic setting; the significance of the landscape is its high elevation with commanding views. The principle public viewscapes from the south and southeast enhance the City’s urban heritage. The exterior facades of the south, east and west, including the verandah are important areas of the exterior, as is the stone wall along the south boundary of the property.