I have had the pleasure of visiting the Taj Mahal in India and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, totally unaware that we have a replica within our vicinity. I'm referring to the Foster Memorial, located just north of Uxbridge.
I ventured out to take a look at this unique building and although it doesn't look a lot like the Taj Mahal, there is some resemblance. The question that first came to mind was who was Thomas Foster, the person who built the monument and why did he build it? It turns out he was born in 1852 and when he was very young moved to Leaskdale, just North of Uxbridge. He worked as a butcher's boy in Toronto until he saved $50, which was enough to buy his own butcher shop. He went into politics, served as a Member of Parliament and in 1925, was elected Mayor of Toronto.
He was a smart real estate investor and had earned enough money to live extremely comfortable. He was an avid traveler and was so inspired by a trip to the Taj Mahal, in India, that he decided to build a replica North of Uxbridge, as a mausoleum for his family. The project took two years to build, at a cost of $200,000, needless to say, a sizable sum in 1935 and approximately $ 4 million in today’s economy. Foster died in 1945, at the age of 93 and left $80,000 for maintenance of the Memorial, where his remains are housed along with those of his wife and daughter (that is about 1.2 million in today’s dollars). The bulk of his estate, valued over half a million dollars went to cancer research.
So why am I writing about this? Mainly, because the monument is in dire need of repair, a cost which is estimated to run just over $1 million. This of course, is a substantial sum, as the entire budget for Uxbridge is $16 million. The town of Uxbridge has been responsible for the monument for the past 20 years when they took over from a bank. There seems to be a split on whether to repair the monument or not.
Some members of Council agree there are more important priorities, and I honestly do not envy the people who have to make the decision. The money Foster left behind has long run out along with the interest, so it has become quite a dilemma. Unfortunately, the Foster is at a stage where the roof could collapse within a couple of years.
Foster had no heirs so there's no one to look after the estate and the future of the monument has to be left up to others. Those who are in favour of preserving the building have started a fund-raising campaign and are looking for grant money and donations.
As I mentioned, the Memorial was inspired by the Taj Mahal and comes complete with solid bronze doors, hand-painted stained-glass windows and a floor which is a rich coloured terrazzo and marble. Symbolic designs made from mosaics are found throughout and have been created by some of the finest artisans of the time.
I think we need to do something to keep this monument alive, as surely its destruction, or collapse would be devastating. Fortunately, it does not take much as the Memorial is host to concerts, entertainers and tours and it is one of those situations where every penny helps. If you've never seen it, take a drive up Durham Road 1 to the seventh concession. If you have been there, think about going again and leaving a few dollars behind, because once it’s gone, it's gone forever.