In hot weather, J.S. McLean liked to sleep in a breezy shack on the roof of his house. Late one night an intruder broke in, intent on kidnapping and ransoming the owner.
After searching high and low, he was foiled when Ruth, the McLean family cook, literally pulled the rug out from under his feet. Ruth’s employer slept on under the stars while the intruder fled.
James Stanley McLean (1876–1954) started in the meat-packing business taking telephone orders on the noisy killing floor of the Harris Abattoir Company. Rising through the firm, he eventually merged several companies to found Canada Packers in 1927.
McLean's Georgian-style house, with its split-faced fieldstone cladding, Ontario Regency-style inspired solarium, and superb interior layout and detailing, was built for his family in 1929. It was designed by architect and University of Toronto professor Eric Arthur. An early advocate of both modernism and architectural heritage (he co-founded the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario), Arthur was also commissioned by McLean to design plants for Canada Packers. They were in the vanguard of modern architecture in the 1930s, but have all since been demolished.
A keen supporter of the arts in Canada, McLean collected works by David Milne, Paraskeva Clark, Carl Schaefer, Wyndham Lewis, Emily Carr and the Group of Seven. Most of his collection now belongs to the Art Gallery of Ontario.
By Andrew M. Stewart