The Roselawn House was built in 1841 by David John Smith who resided at the property until his death in 1848. The house bought at auction by Henry Smith Jr and sold in 1888 remained in private hands until the late 1940’s. From 1948 to 1969, it was the official residence of the Commandant of the National Defense College until it was acquired by Queen’s University. After extensive renovations, the building reopened in 1974 as the University’s Centre for Continuing Education. The facility now operates as the Donald Gordon Conference Centre.
Below is an excerpt from The Old Stones of Kingston, Its Buildings Before 1867 by Margaret Angus
“In 1841 David John Smith, a lawyer and son of a pioneer merchant, bought three lots from Queen’s College and built an elegant country home. It was a fashionable area, north of the Governor General’s residence and near where the College had a site. A few years later, falling land values, foreclosures and builders’ demands for payment caught rich and poor alike, and Smith had to mortgage Roselawn to meet his debts.
When he died in 1848, Smiths’ executors put the big house up for auction, but the sale was not closed until 1851, when it was bought by Henry Smith Jr, a lawyer who later became Solicitor General and Speaker of the House, and was knighted in 1860. In 1888, the Smith heirs sold Roselawn and it remained in private hands for many years.
From 1948 to 1969, it was the official residence of the Commandant of the National Defense College, and senior officers from the services of Canada and her allies were entertained in its gracious rooms. Big trees and a ‘wide expanse of green lawn’ still surround Roselawn. A long high stone wall extends from the west side of the house to an archway that gives access to the yard where stone outbuildings once stood.
A wide veranda which ran across the front of the house until about 1960 has been replaced with a smaller portico and a screened area to the east side. The classical doorway opens into a wide hall, and fine stairs are lit by a large Venetian window. Roselawn has retained its elegance both inside and out.”
In 1970, Roselawn was acquired by Queen’s University, which had originally sold the land to Smith in 1841.
After extensive renovations and additions, the building was officially opened in November 1974 as the University’s Centre for Continuing Education.
Roselawn House is now the iconic central building of the Donald Gordon Conference Centre.
Born in Scotland in 1901, Gordon emigrated to Canada in 1914 and settled in Toronto. After leaving school at the age of 14, he held various jobs until he accepted work at the bank of Nova Scotia.
Over the next several years, Gordon attended night school and worked his way up the ranks in the Bank of Nova Scotia. He was appointed the secretary of the Back of Canada in 1935, and during the 1950’s and 1960’s, became Chairman, President and Director of the CN Railways and the Director of Air Canada.
Gordon’s association with Queen’s extended over four decades. In 1947 the University conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws on him, and in 1951, the Board of Trustees elected him to the Board. He was appointed to the Executive Committee in 1964 and was a member of the Finance Committee from May 1965 until his death in 1969.
The University honoured Mr. Gordon by naming “Donald Gordon Hall” residence after him, along with the “Donald Gordon Conference Centre”.
Donald Gordon was born on December 11th, 1901, in Old Meldrum, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, the son of John Gordon and Margaret L. (Watt) Gordon.
In 1914 the Gordon family emigrated to Canada and settled in Toronto where Donald got a job in a box factory for a short time before being sent to Manning Avenue School. When he reached the legal school-leaving age of fourteen, he began work as a blacksmith’s helper. During the next two years, he worked as an electrician’s helper and a magazine delivery boy. In 1916 Gordon accepted a job at the bank of Nova Scotia in Toronto.
During the next seven years, Gordon went to night school for five years, took commercial correspondence courses, as well as extramural courses at Queen’s University equivalent to a degree in Economics as a Fellow of the Canadian Bankers’ Association.
His work at the Bank of Nova Scotia included work in Head Office and Inspection Staff, Assistant Chief Accountant, and Assistant Manager, Toronto Branch.
In February 1935 Gordon was appointed Secretary of the Bank of Canada on its establishment. In 1938 he became Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada. From November 1941 to April 1947 Gordon was Chairman of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board. He was appointed Director of the Industrial Development Bank on its creation in 1944.
After his resignation from the Wartime Prices and Trade Board he returned to the Bank of Canada and the Foreign Exchange Control Board. In 1948 he was appointed Executive Director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
On January 1, 1950 Gordon became Chairman, President and Director of the Canadian National Railways, a position he held until 1966. He was also Director of Air Canada from 1950 until 1966. In 1967 he became President of British Newfoundland Corporation Limited (Brinco) and Chairman of Churchill Falls (Labrador) Limited, A Brinco subsidiary.
Donald Gordon’s association with Queen’s University extended over four decades. It began with his enrolment in the courses in Banking. In 1947 the University conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws on him. In 1951, the Board of Trustees elected him to this Board. He was appointed to the Executive Committee in 1964 and was a member of the Finance Committee from May 1965 until his death. He was highly effective in helping to raise funds for Skelton-Clark Foundation and was indefatigable in his work of soliciting “special names” in the Capital Appeal of 1964. The University has honoured Mr. Gordon by naming a residence “Donald Gordon Hall” and also the “Donald Gordon Conference Centre”.