Since construction completed in 2006, one of the largest and most awe-inspiring homes in Canada has been sitting for years behind its beautiful gates on Oakville’s stunning waterfront, just out of view of passersby. People have been left to wonder about the mysterious estate. On a warm summer day, as I pull my car up to the gates of one of Canada’s most distinguished private estates, my curiosity is about to be satisfied. I’m about to enter the legendary grounds of Hugo Powell’s magnificent, Chelster Hall.
On this rare occasion the grounds and gardens of Chelster Hall are open to over 200 honoured guests. Guests have gathered on a Saturday afternoon for a sold out concert performance by the Oakville Chamber Orchestra, proudly presented by The Invidiata Team RE/MAX Aboutowne.
Hugo Powell has opened the doors of his home for the event. Mr. Powell is the former chief executive officer of Interbrew SA of Belgium, as well as the former president of John Labatt Limited companies. As we stand on the well-manicured lawn of Chelster Hall, between greeting his guests – business leaders, government figures and other Oakville Chamber Orchestra supporters, Mr. Powell has a chance to let me in on what makes his home significant, and the huge effort it took to build the massive property.
It all started when Mr. and Mrs. Powell wanted to find a good home for their family and their young daughter Britany. They wanted to build a house in Canada and when Mr. Powell’s sister, who is an educator recommended enrolling Britany in all-girls school, St. Mildred’s-Lightbourn in Oakville, the decision was set.
Mr. Powell sought to build a grand waterfront home inspired by Blickling Hall in Norfolk, England, which is the area where he grew up. Blickling Hall is where Anne Boleyn, mother to Queen Elizabeth I lived. Not only was this detail a significant undertaking but Mr. Powell wanted the house to measure 54,000 square feet.
Mr. Powell entrusted Canada’s leading residential RE/MAX realtor, Christopher Invidiata, with finding the ideal Oakville waterfront land on which to build Mr. Powell’s legacy. Mr. Invidiata was made known in the real estate industry by selling some of Canada’s most expensive luxury properties. To present day Mr. Invidiata has led his team to be the #1 RE/MAX Team in Canada for a decade and in 2007 led his team to receive the honour of being the #1 RE/MAX Team Worldwide. Last year Mr. Invidiata’s team was the #2 RE/MAX Team Worldwide.
Mr. Invidiata explains to me that assembling four hectares of land for a residential property was something rare and the news went around the globe.
The ambitious plan proved to have its challenges. Mr. Powell had to seek planning permission from the town. Mr. Powell first consulted with neighbours and agreed to decrease the size of the planned property from 54,000 to 47,000 square feet.
After a series of meetings, Mr. Powell’s neighbours decided it was better to have the large home on the property than a subdivision, and so, the undertaking to build Chelster Hall commenced.
The chapel on the property is dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Animals. It provides the opportunity for reflection and prayer. Today it is filled with the sunshine reflecting off of Lake Ontario.
With the outside of the home being so grand, I am curious as to the home’s interior. Mr. Powell says, “It is not the size of the home that matters, but the height of the ceilings and the volume of the rooms.”
The home also contains an indoor pool with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. In addition to the pool there is a two-story library that houses about 3000 of Mr. Powell’s treasured books.
What is perhaps the most aw-inspiring aspect of Chelster Hall is the home’s spherical ceiling. The spherical ceiling was difficult to complete. Three different craftsmen laboured and it took several tries to get it right and complete.
With all this in mind I think back to who first helped Mr. Powell purchase the four lots which would make his dream home a reality – Christopher Invidiata. The Invidiata Team RE/MAX is sponsoring the event today in order to help raise funds for the Oakville Chamber Orchestra’s Youth Program.
While the Oakville Chamber Orchestra plays Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, Mr. Invidiata explains to me that his team is always looking for opportunities to support the community, and so they were pleased to sponsor this event. Mr. Invidiata values the arts and recognizes that the youth of Halton need strong programs, such as the Oakville Chamber Orchestra Youth Program, to reach their goals and to continue to make the community of Oakville a vibrant place to live.
How successful is the fundraiser at this notable property? Charles Demuynck who is the artistic director for the Oakville Chamber Orchestra says, “The event has had a big impact on our financial situation. It will mean stability and added excellence to the music audiences hear at Oakville Chamber Orchestra concerts.”
As the event draws to a close, it is certain that Chelster Hall is not just one of Canada’s largest properties, but that it is one man’s dream home. Chelster Hall is a dream home that has astonished many, achieved worldwide status in Canada, and raised funds to give back to the surrounding community. Chelster Hall leaves me wondering – what is my dream home?
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