Print this Post

Canada’s own Taj Mahal – The Thomas Foster Memorial

July 2022

When it comes to a final resting place, some people with means will opt for very opulent mosuleums for their family and themselves. Very few are as opulent as the Thomas Foster Memorial in Uxbridge Township, Ontario, designed as the final resting place of Thomas Foster, his wife and daughter.

Inspired by India’s Taj Mahal, the Memorial was built in the Byzantine architectural-style, with solid bronze doors and stain glass windows that are hand painted and fired. The memorial is capped with three solid copper dome roofs, with 12 stained glass leaded windows. The floor are rich coloured terrazzo and marble mosaics wrought in symbolic designs, complimented by 22k gold mosaics that shine all he way to the top dome.

So just who was Thomas Foster?

Foster was born in 1852 in Leaksdale, Ontario, not far from when the Memorial was eventually built, the son of immigrants from Yorkshire, England. As an adult, Foster moved to Toronto and trained as a butcher, eventually opening his own butcher shop in the Queen Street/Berkeley Street area.

Selling his butcher shop in 1892, the now wealthy Foster began a political career that would span over 25 years, primarily with the City of Toronto, where he spent most of his political career as the city’s Controller. Foster would also serve as Mayor of Toronto from 1925-1927 and as the Member of Parliament for the federal riding of York East from 1917-1921.

In 1893, Forster married Elizabeth MacCauley, who bore him a daughter, Ruby, their only child. Sadly, Ruby died in 1903, just short of her 10th birthday. Seventeen years later, Elizabeth also died, while Foster was serving as a Member of Parliament.

After being defeated in the municipal election in 1928, Foster retired from politics, after which he embarked on a world tour, including a stop in India to visit the Taj Mahal in Agra. It was on his return to Canada that he set forth to build a similar structure as a final resting place for Elizabeth, Ruby, and himself. For his own Taj Mahal, Foster chose on a plot of land he owned next to the small Zion (now Foster) Cemetery, south of Leaksdale, in what was then Scott Township, where his parents were buried. The building was originally costed at $100, 000, but it ultimately cost around $250, 000. a cost Foster willingly paid. While he had been notoriously frugal and prudent during his lifetime, no expense was spared on the memorial.

Once completed in 1936, Elizabeth and Ruby were exhumed and re-interred in two of the three crypts along the south wall of the Memorial. When Foster died in 1945, he was interred in the third crypt.

In addition to serving as a mausoleum, it also functioned as a small chapel for funeral services. As a part of the design, a removable slab was added in the centre of the floor that allowed coffins to be lowered into a basement crypt area, where coffins could be stored during the winter months, when it was impossible to dig graves in the cemetery next door.

Out of an estate of $1.4 million, Foster left a fund of $80,000 for the maintenance of the Memorial. However, despite his instructions that the principal never be touched, the trustees overseeing the fund had spent all the money by the time the Town of Uxbridge took over the Memorial in 1993, which had fallen into disrepair. The municipality was shocked to learn that an estimated $1 million in desperately needed repairs was required, an amount the municipality was reluctantly forced to spend.

Now fully restored to its original splendour, the Memorial is open for regularly scheduled tours in July and August, and tours by appointment in May, June and September. A regular Friday night concert series is held June to September and the Memorial also hosts various special events.

An unusual Will

Thomas Foster’s will also included provisions for funding various things that were important to him, in addition to the maintenance of the Memorial:

To feed Toronto birds in winter.

For needy newsboys in Toronto.

To plant trees on roads leading into Toronto.

To apprehend poachers around Toronto .

For an annual inter-city school picnic.

For Cancer Research.

For the Leaksdale Sunday School.

Sources: Thomas Foster Memorial in Uxbridge Township, Ontario Canada, Thomas Foster Memorial – Attractions Ontario, Thomas Foster Memorial, Uxbridge struggles to repair former Toronto mayor’s grandiose mausoleum | The Star.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/canadas-own-taj-mahal-the-thomas-foster-memorial/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>