Westmount places and their stories /2
The history behind the familiar: homes and green spaces that make the city a balanced setting
By Michael Walsh
First published January 27, 2016
Beautiful houses built of brick and stone
Stood on the slope of Westmount Avenue
In Montreal, the place where I was born
Even as a child, unknowingly, I knew
They stood for something with solidity
Something that was self-evidently true.
They spoke the language of civility,
Mellifluously lucid and refined,
Shaped by the concept of nobility.
Those lovely houses, though they still remain
Standing for values that we thought secure,
In truth will never be raised up again.
Beautiful Houses Built of Brick and Stone…
Henry Weinfield, Literary Imagination, 2011
One of the truisms of life, is that one’s quality of life is measured in terms of balance – more specifically a healthy mixture between work, family, friends and leisure activities that bring us pleasure. Westmount is known for its tree-lined streets and numerous neighbourhood parks, which include various playgrounds and green spaces, as well as the naturalized Summit Park.
It’s not much of a stretch to apply this principle to where one lives. Balance, in a city or town, can be measured by the mixture of green spaces available, beautifully designed residential and public buildings as well as places of worship. The city of Westmount, in particular, offers all these features largely in part of their regulated zoning and development by-laws that have been in place for over 100 years.
Balance, in a city or town, can be measured by the mixture of green spaces available, beautifully designed residential and public buildings as well as places of worship.
As such, it is not surprising that in recognition of these qualities, on July 2011, the Federal Government designated Westmount District as a National Historic Site of Canada. Their registry describes the area as “an exemplary model of suburbs dating from the Victorian and post-Victorian era” and applauded the sensitivity the city maintains towards this heritage.
What follows is another sampling of Westmount houses and places, with their stories, that play a part of the city’s balanced setting.
51 Clandeboye Avenue (at Prospect)
This residence is named Clandeboye House – built by “Lord” Clandeboye in 1850 (his name cannot be found in any peerage registry). One story relates how the residence was sold to the president of Canadian Pacific Railway for his mistress!
419 Lansdowne Avenue
Robert Findlay’s former residence – architect (1897).
“Among his public commissions, the most noteworthy include his design for the Westmount Public Library which Findlay designed in 1898. Other public buildings include the Montreal Maternity Hospital, Victoria Hall in Westmount and the Westmount City Hall. Prominent residential projects include the Mortimer B. Davis House (now Purvis Hall of McGill University) and the Hallward House (now McGill’s Martlet House), as well as many houses in Westmount. In 1913 Findlay’s son, Francis Robert (1888-1977) joined his father’s firm as a partner. The two Findlays practised architecture together until the elder Findlay’s retirement in 1941. In 1938 Robert Findlay became the first recipient of the gold medal of merit from the Quebec Association of Architects, for outstanding contribution to architecture.” The Canadian Architecture Collection, McGill University.
Former site of the French Methodist Institute (1886)
From The Westmount News, October 6, 1911: “The Institute began its work in 1880. Its founder was the late Rev. L. N. Beaudry (who had) a desire for the salvation and enlightenment of his fellow-countrymen, the French Canadians in the Province of Quebec.” The Institute prepared students for: “The Conference Preliminary Course for French Probationers of the Methodist Church of Canada; Entrance in the Teachers’ Training Department of the McDonald College at Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue; and, University matriculation.” The original building was designed by John Pierce Hill, who also designed the Colonial House for Henry Morgan & Co. (currently Hudson’s Bay) on Saint Catherine Street.
555 Victoria Avenue
This residence is named The Well House because it was built on the site of a former well.
4450 Sherbrooke Street West (at Metcalfe)
Former Bell Telephone Company Westmount Branch Exchange (1900).
In 1909 the Montreal telephone service was run by four exchanges, Main, East, Uptown and Westmount. A year later a fifth exchange, St. Louis, was added. The first conduit was laid (underground) in 1890. By 1909, there were 360 miles of conduit accessed by 353 manholes. (Source: Map Showing The Bell Telephone Company’s Underground System in the District of Montreal – 1909).
332 Metcalfe Avenue
Stylized letter “P” in wrought iron on the Louis-Leonce Leopold house.
129 Irvine Avenue
G. Mann’s residence (1897) – Manager of the Salada Tea Company (founded in 1892 by Montreal businessman Peter C. Larkin).
64 Bruce Avenue
Frank Lotty, superintendent of the Peck, Benny & Company (1897).
Advertisement from The Railways of Canada (1870-1): “Established 1838, Canal, Montreal, Iron Nail and Spike Works, Peck, Benny & Co., Manufactures of Railroad Spikes, Ship Spikes, and all descriptions of cut nails, pressed clinch and slate nails. Office 391 St. Paul Street. Works 61 Mill Street.”
89 Hallowell Avenue
Charles A. Cooley residence (1899) – Assistant Superintendent of the Royal Electric Company.
“Founded by Montreal entrepreneurs in 1884, the company concentrated primarily, until the end of the century, on producing and selling arc and incandescent lamps, globes, streetlights, and generators, based on models developed by Edison, Thompson and Houston. In 1886, it also took on lighting the streets of Montreal, first using arc lamps and then, in 1888, incandescent lamps.” Canada Science and Technology Museum.
319 Redfern Avenue
Stone date marker on the side of 319 Redfern Ave. The home was a former residence of Anselme Letang, founder of the Letang Hardware Company Limited (1900-1987).
321 Kensington Avenue
R. C. Holden’s residence (1897) – The Ames Holden Co. Limited.
“In 1895, James McCready & Company was considered one of Montreal’s major factories, producing 12 000 to 15 000 pairs of boots and shoes for men, women and children per week, which was considerable at the time. In 1906 Arthur Congdon, a wholesale boot and shoe merchant from Winnipeg amalgamated with the James McCready Company. He became Vice-President and General Manager of Ames, Holden, McCready Limited in 1911, and organized Congdon, Marsh Limited (wholesale boots and shoes) in 1914.
In 1915, Ames, Holden, McCready Ltd., then being Canada’s largest shoe manufacturers, received an order from the Government for footwear for officers and soldiers here in Canada and in England. Within thirty-three days they supplied 32,217 pairs of leather ankle boots and 30,000 pairs of canvas shoes, the largest quantity of footwear supplied by any manufacturer.” The Montreal Times
An article in the Montreal Gazette, Saturday, May 15, 1915 stated: “These boots were worn by our soldiers on active service, and that they were subjected to the most severe usage. They travelled over rough roads, they waded through mud and slush, they were soaked by the never-ceasing rains of an abnormally wet English winter and, yet, THEY STOOD THE TEST.”
115 Lewis Avenue
H. W. Aird’s residence (1897) – Treasurer of the Canada Paint Company.
“Dry colors and coach painting materials of every description are manufactured in Montreal by this company. The waters of the Lachine Canal are harnessed to powerful turbines; steam and electricity also being employed. The most extensive oxide and graphite mines for the production of paints in the Dominion of Canada are owned by the Canada Paint Company. One branch of the company is entirely devoted to grinding and maturing White lead, and amongst their brands may be mentioned the “Painters’ Perfect” white lead, which is beautifully soft and fine in the grain. It mixes well with linseed oil, forming a creamy, smooth paint of great covering power and undoubted durability.” Monetary Times, April 24, 1903.
The magnificent entrance to the Charles Allan Smart house.
Charles A. Smart (1898-1937) was a Westmount politician as well as a member of the Legislative Council of Quebec.
Stairway on Lansdowne Ridge
Other than the local residents (and Westmount Public Security) – most people living in Westmount are unaware of Landsdowne Ridge’s location. One interesting feature is the ancient stream running from the mountain through this area, that is currently enclosed in a conduit, beneath these stairs. One can hear the loud sound of rushing water while walking down these steps.
Images: Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh is a long-time Westmount resident. He is happily retired from nearly four decades in the field of higher education technology. A “professional student” by nature, his academic training, and publishing, include statistical methodology, mycology and animal psychology. During this period, he was also an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. Prior to moving to Montreal, he was contracted by the Ontario Ministry of Education evaluating bilingual primary and secondary school programs. Today, he enjoys spending time with his (huge) Saint Bernard while discovering the city’s past and sharing stories of the majestic trees that grace the parks and streets. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his blog Westmount Overlooked