Charles Smith Hyman, Idlewyld’s builder, was born in London in 1854, son of Ellis Walton Hyman and Annie Maria Niles. Educated at Hellmuth College, Charles worked for John Birrell and Co. until 1874 when he became a junior partner in his father’s tanning business. In 1876, he married Elizabeth Birrell and built the original Idlewyld, a large brick home, in 1879 on land purchased for $4,000 from Elizabeth’s sister. Two years later, Hyman commissioned the architectural firm of Tracy and Durand to design an addition and alterations that would cost more than the original house and outbuildings. The architects integrated the picturesque roof line and heavily ornamented gables of the 1879 Queen Anne design with a simpler addition featuring parapet gables at each end. Inside, identical Eastlake molding unified the two early parts of the house.24 In 1912, a ballroom was added to the eastern wing.

After his father’s death in 1878, Charles took over the tannery, entered municipal politics, and became mayor in 1884. Elected M.P. for London in 1900, Hyman became Minister of Public Works in 1905. He had close ties with Sir Wilfrid Laurier who stayed at Idlewyld when he visited London. Charles was also a noted sportsman. Seven times in a row he was the Canadian Men’s Singles tennis champion. He was also captain of the Canadian champion cricket team and a member of the London Tecumsehs baseball team. Hyman was exceedingly generous and loyal to his friends. He was known to have given away $1,000,000, including $100,000 to sporting and social clubs. After the death of Elizabeth in 1917 he married Alexandra Rechnitzer, becoming stepfather to her four sons, who took over Hyman Tannery when Charles died in 1926. In the last years of his life, Charles took an extensive world tour including several months in China.

Today, Hyman is remembered by the street named after him and this house which later became a luxurious inn.


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36 Grand Avenue
London, ON
42° 58' 17.7204" N, 81° 14' 45.8628" W