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A Real Companion and Friend:
The diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Behind the Diary

Mackenzie King Slept Here: The Residences of Mackenzie King


Woodside was the home of the King family in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario, from 1886 to 1893. Built in 1853, Woodside was about a mile away from the centre of town, in a wooded property of nearly 15 acres. The Kings rented the home from James Colquhoun, a Berlin lawyer. They became very fond of the house and grounds.

In 1891, after finishing high school, Mackenzie King left to pursue his education at the University of Toronto. The rest of the family left Woodside and moved to Toronto in 1893 when King's father, John King, accepted a part-time lectureship at Osgoode Hall.

Although the Kings had lived at Woodside only seven years, they always remembered it with affection. When Mackenzie King was travelling by train from Toronto to Chicago in 1898, he wrote: "When we passed thro' Berlin I looked out of the window at "Woodside," our old home, it was beautiful in the distance, the trees, the gate, the hills were all the same." (Diary, April 18, 1898)

Over the years, unfortunately, Woodside fell into disrepair. In 1942 it was slated for demolition, but the North Waterloo Liberal Association, knowing how much it meant to Prime Minister King, took on the responsibility of preserving it. The association raised the necessary money and purchased the house and surrounding property in 1943. The following year the Woodside Trust was established to manage the estate and its renovations. King and his sister Jennie Lay gave advice and also donated a number of items, including furniture, china, and books, which had been used by the family at Woodside.

Mackenzie King visited the old homestead in 1947; it was a very nostalgic visit. "I recalled many of the incidents related to old Bill, our horse; thought of the days we played cricket on the lawn; of sliding down a hill in the winter and of my brother Max sliding down on one or two occasions in a barrel," he wrote. (Diary, September 9, 1947) He walked all around the house and grounds, and many memories came back to him. Of the garden and woods, he wrote, "What pleased me most was the real delight I felt at seeing the place restored as much as it was and its possibilities as a park."

King wanted to have the house restored, but because of its severe deterioration, it had to be torn down and rebuilt. Brick and other items from the old house were saved so that they could be used in the reconstruction. Demolition began late in 1949 and was completed in 1950, after King's death. Of the family members who had lived there, Jennie was the only one still alive when the restoration was completed in 1952.

This much-loved home of Mackenzie King and his family is now a National Historical Site, managed by Parks Canada.