The City of Mississauga has designated the Bell Gairdner Estate, also known as
Fusion, 2700 Lakeshore Road West, under the Ontario Heritage Act. This
fascinating 44-acre property is buried in the extreme southwest corner of Mississauga, just
east of Winston Churchill Boulevard. Though set back from Lakeshore Road, the mansion faces
this street and backs onto Lake Ontario.
Charles Powell Bell (1908-1938) commissioned Bank of Canada architect Marani Lawson and
Morris to design the Modern Classical house and garage, which were constructed from 1937 to
1938. Unfortunately Bell died of rheumatic fever shortly after taking up residency therein. His
widow (Ethel) Kathleen Harding (1908-1991), daughter of Harding Carpets President, C. Victor
Harding, remarried at the house on September 27, 1941. She wed millionaire financier James
Arthur Gairdner (1893-1971). With her daughter Daphne (b. 1937), Kathleen and James Gairdner
began full-time residency at the estate after World War II. Gairdner dubbed it
Gairloch, a Gaelic word meaning short lake.
Gairdner added a studio to the property, west of the house, after taking up painting in the
late 1940s. He enrolled in classes at the Art Gallery of Toronto, where he befriended artists
York Wilson, Jack Bush and Cleeve Horne. Horne laid the cornerstone of the studio, which
included a well-stocked bar, kitchen and bedroom. According to York Wilsons
wife Lela, the facility was perfect, the envy of every artist. Mount Allison University exhibited
Gairdners work in 1952.
Gairloch also served the local community, hosting the St. Johns Womens Auxiliary
Bazaar and fundraising garden tours for Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. In addition to
this charity work, Kathleen served on the board of Womens College Hospital and the
Oakville Welfare Bureau; she was also President of the Wimodausis Club.
Gairdners grandson William D. Gairdner has fond memories of the lovely
mansion. He writes that: Audacious flowered hats on smiling women and portly men in
blue suits or white ducks, puffing post-World War II cigars give the flavour of it. To us
children it was a grand place, so manicured and well-kept, with sweet-smelling lawns that
rolled down to the lake.
He goes on to reminisce about eating lunch in the immaculate leather-furnished library
to talk as he [James Arthur Gairdner] and Kay [Kathleen] enjoyed an aperitif. This ceremony was
often preceded by the impressive sounds of his lovely step-daughter Daphne, practicing on the
grand piano in their austerely formal drawing room with its floor-to-ceiling French windows
overlooking the bay. It was like a scene from a Jane Austin novel. He, with his always watery
eyes, would wait like an old bear for something to laugh at as he sipped his Scotch; Aunt Kay,
perched daintily on the edge of a leather chair, her cigarette in a long black holder would
steer the conversation away from shoals. They were a portrait of good life in the
This romanticism concluded in 1960 when James divorced Kathleen and moved to another
waterfront property in Oakville proper. Upon his death, Gairdner bequeathed this estate, which
he also named Gairloch, to the Town for a public garden and contemporary art
gallery. This is now Oakville Galleries and Gairloch Gardens. The Gallery Shop occupies
Gairdners old studio, which he wheeled from the subject Mississauga property. Kathleen
sold the Mississauga estate to Ontario Hydro in 1961 and returned to Toronto.
Gairloch Gardens is just one of many examples of James Arthur Gairdners philanthropy.
His other major gift is the Gairdner Foundation, which he founded in 1957. The prestigious
organization recognizes and rewards early the work of the worlds leading
scientists, primarily those in medical research. About a quarter of the winners have
later won Nobel prizes. In 2009
the awards were renamed the Canada Gairdner International Awards, due to a $20 million federal
Ontario Hydro employed the Mississauga Gairloch estate for its Canadian Fusion
Fuels Technology Centre beginning in 1961. The City of Mississauga purchased the property in
1999. The buildings are now being stabilized. Eventually this hidden gem will be a public park
for all to enjoy.
 Lela Wilson, 1951-1952:
Steady Progress, York Wilson: His Life and Work (Ottawa: Carleton
University Press), 1997: 2.
 William D. Gairdner, A
Grandsons Memories of Big Jim, 2000: 3.