Samuel E. Weir

Sam Weir was born in London, Ontario in 1898. He attended Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1920. Over the years his law practice handled a variety of legal matters, including mortgages, life insurance and property development. He was made a King’s Counsel in 1936, elected a bencher of the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1950, and became a Life Bencher in 1965. Weir retired from active law practice in 1970.

Weir’s interest in fine art began with the purchase of a watercolour by English artist Dame Laura Knight in the early 1920s. Not long afterward, he encountered a painting by Homer Watson and purchased The Lothian Hills (1892) directly from the artist in installments, a practice he would follow in many transactions. Despite numerous subsequent acquisitions, the oil painting by Watson remained a life-long favorite. Sam Weir died in 1981, leaving his collection and estate to the Weir Foundation, incorporated in 1962.

 The Building

 “I have built a foolish house on the Niagara River with the idea of leaving it for a museum, art gallery, library, etc., mainly Canadiana.  I expect there will be no inheritance taxes. This is my idea of doing good in my life or at the end of my life …” (Sam Weir, letter to Sammy Lee, St. Catharines, 1970).

RiverBrink was originally the country home of London lawyer Samuel E. Weir Q.C. (1898-1981). Weir purchased the property overlooking the Niagara River in 1943 with the idea of starting a small dairy farm. The project evolved into a country residence, the buildings designed by English-born architect Arthur E. Nutter (1874-1967), a family friend and the first architect to practice in London, Ontario. Weir contributed significantly to the design, requesting details such as a fall-out shelter in the basement and a self-contained apartment over the coach house. For the main building, Nutter adapted a Georgian style complete with mansard roof and gabled windows. The interior rooms retain their original wood paneling, installed by finish-carpenter Alexander Kiss who used a variety of different woods, including maple, mahogany, oak, knotty pine and walnut, with clear pine and birch ceilings. The home was completed in 1970 and converted into an art museum following Weir’s death. In 1996, a large porch on the east side of the building was converted into additional exhibition space.