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Making the grand entrances

by Alan Noon

During the first three decades following the establishment of the new campus in 1924 the Board of Governors paid special attention to the preservation of the natural beauty of the property by careful selection of building sites complemented by landscaping and the establishment of an arboretum.

Situated just north of the city limits much of this campus beauty and indeed the university itself became somewhat isolated from the multitudes of pedestrians and vehicular traffic passing by on Richmond Street. What Western lacked was “curb appeal.”

In 1952, a bequest of $38,000 was received from Mrs. Edna Jeffery, widow of Dr A.O. Jeffery, (Honorary Degree, 1898), former chairman of London Life and a benefactor of the university, to construct a suitable entrance to reflect the growing stature of Western and as a memorial to her late husband. Designed by O. Roy Moore the memorial consists of two outer pylons rising 8 feet and two inner pylons rising 20 feet clad in Credit Valley limestone. They are complemented by a low wall of sandstone blocks on either side of the entrance.

Immediately to the south was a small confectionary store with an attached hot dog stand operated by Marjorie and Albert Neno known as “Happy Ours.” By the early 1950s the business had expanded to include a small restaurant. An anonymous “friend of the university” purchased the business in 1956 along with the adjoining house. Both structures were demolished and the area landscaped to complement the Jeffery Memorial Entrance. The addition of a walkway and flower garden adjacent to the entrance became a popular spot for wedding photographers applying their trade. London artist Mrs. Dougi Betts was so impressed by the simplistic beauty that she included a painting of the Jeffery Memorial Entrance as part of her 1954 show in the Blue Room at the Waverly Mansion.

The entrance has not always been in harmony with those passing through. Careless drivers have damaged the small connecting wall and in 1956 the pylons were smeared with gold paint before a football game against Queens Golden Gaels. On one occasion a temporary brick wall blocking the entrance was constructed by those masters of campus pranks, the engineering undergrads.

Rapid expansion during the late 1950s forced the London Hunt Club to abandon its campus golf course and the Board of Governors shifted attention to Western Road. Many predicted this former pioneer gravel road, originally built to allow horse and wagon passage to bypass the steep hills of the campus, would eventually become a major access to the university.

In 1958, London businessman and Board of Governors member, Lt. Col. J.E. Smallman gave a bequest of $35,000 to construct an entrance that would complement the new Spencer Engineering Building. Board of Governors Chairman D.B. Weldon remarked, “Thanks to him the university now has a western entrance in harmony with the dignity and charm of the campus itself.” The dedication ceremony also marked one of the last public functions attended by former President W. Sherwood Fox, who from 1927-47 had so steadfastly preserved the beauty of the original campus landscape.

This article appeared in the Spring 2013 edition of Alumni Gazette
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