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Westmount places and their stories / 3

The history behind the familiar

By Michael Walsh

When I am asked what I believe in, I say that
I believe in architecture. Architecture is the mother
of the arts. I like to believe that architecture
connects the present with the past and
the tangible with the intangible.

Richard Meier

We have all come across the term “storied streets”. What does that really mean? In a literary sense perhaps it is Dickens’ comment that he was “equally at home” in the back streets, as he was on the main thoroughfares of London because he “had a key to the streets” and could read their stories.

Westmount has its fair share of storied streets – some date back to 1897 when they were opened: Burton, Claremont, Elgin (now Melville), Springfield, Windsor and Winchester.
Interestingly, Winchester’s houses, along with those on Burton, have been described as having “tilted window sills” and “sloping transoms” over their front doors due to a river that still runs below both streets. Archival photographs of these streets provides a view of the houses that looks the same to this very day. (Other than the wooden sidewalks and unpaved roads).

What follows is another sample of Westmount’s places (and their artefacts) with their stories:

horse watering trough, Westmount placesSaint Catherine Street at Lansdowne
A horse watering trough used by delivery animals at the former POM (Pride of Montreal) bakery across the street.  It is now used as a flower container.

last road post, Westmount places

 

 

 

Cote St. Antoine and Forden.
The last road post in Westmount.
Used by the Sulpicians in the early 1700s.

 

 

cote st-antoine and sherbrooke, Westmount placesWhere Cote St. Antoine meets Sherbrooke
In the 1800s Sherbrooke Street West turned directly into Cote St. Antoine – it did not continue west as it does today. There was a toll-bar at this junction. It seems it was quite profitable. The Legislative Assembly for the Province of Canada, in 1854, reported that the St. Antoine toll-bar collected 817 pounds, 17 shillings and 4 pence in the period between December 1852 and March 1853.

 

352 metcalfe, Westmount places

 

352 Metcalfe Avenue
F. Ramsay of A. Ramsay & Son (1900s) – Montreal Paint Makers (est. 1842) – “The right paint to paint right”. Importers of paints, oils, colours and artists’ materials, English and Belgian sheet and polished plate glass.

259 metcalfe, Westmount places259 Metcalfe Avenue
Former home (1900s) of William Ross. “During his business career he served either as president, vice-president, director, managing director, or general manager of 19 firms, including many related to transportation (such as Montreal Tramways Company and Pay-As-You-Enter Car Corporation), several electric companies (Beauharnois Electric Company, Canadian General Electric Company), others involved in resource development (Dominion Iron and Steel Company Limited, Asbestos Corporation of Canada), and a variety of financial and land companies.”  (Dictionary of Canadian Biography)

250 metcalfe, Westmount places

 

250 Metcalfe Street
Alfred Hawksworth, Manager Merchant Cotton Company (1900s). In partnership with four other companies formed Dominion Textiles (1905). The company, located in St. Henri, was the second largest Canadian cotton mill.

12melbourne, Westmount places

12 Melbourne AvenueFormer home (1900s) of Horatio W. Nelson of the H. A. Nelson & Sons Co., Ltd. The company was a wholesale dealer of accessories and toys. They also manufactured wood cleaning items, such as brooms and brushes. A warehouse fire, in 1901, forced the closure of the company. H. W. Nelson was also the director of the Molson’s Bank (merging, in 1921, with the Bank of Montreal) and President of the Loan and Investments Association.

400 mount-pleasant, Westmount places400 Mount Pleasant Avenue
Doctor J. M. Elder House 1900s. “The Elder house, however, features an office and a waiting room at the front of the ground floor, most probably the owner’s medical offices, with a separate entrance on Sherbrooke Street. The private entrance hall in axis with the Mount Pleasant side entrance features a seat nestled within the curved main stair. The dining room and kitchen are to the rear. Upstairs above the offices to the front, a full-width drawing room is lit by a semicircular oriel window, while the main chambers overlook the rear. The attic floor features three more chambers, a maid’s room, a bathroom and a sewing room. The elevations reveal a playful rendition of Dutch urban houses with their stepped gables. One is centrally placed on the Sherbrooke front elevation and two are found on either side of the entrance on Mount Pleasant Avenue.” (Canadian Centre of Architecture)

15 belvedere, Westmount places

15 Belvedere
The Oaklands – built in 1906. The original owner was George Sumner. Former residence of Sam & Saidye Bronfman.

370 lansdowne, Westmount places

370 Lansdowne
Remember the game Trivial Pursuit? This is the former home of the game’s inventor.

 

57 belvedere, Westmount places

57 Belvedere
The last Westmount estate – two-thirds of the property have been previously subdivided.
Royal Bank of Canada, Westmount places

 

 

Royal Bank of Canada – Sherbrooke at Victoria
The Royal Bank of Canada (now named RBC) at Sherbrooke Street at Victoria. Built in 1907 and designed by Howard P. Stone. The building has gone through (at least) 3 alterations. The upper most floor was originally a residence for the bank’s director.

69 hallowell, Westmount places

69 Hallowell
This residence was owned by A. Y. Jackson – founding member of the Canadian artists’ Group of Seven.

quinlan site, Westmount places

 

4410-14 St. Catherine Street West (near Kensington)
The site of the former Quinlan Apartments. Their fate contains an interesting story. They were slated for demolition in 1976; however, the Quebec government stated that their porticos were worthy of preservation. During the demolition process, the building’s facade was found to be unstable and, as a consequence, was torn down. The building’s porticos eventually became a garden fixture, outside a house on Trafalgar Road close to Cote de Neiges. Interestingly, the house on Trafalgar Road, at the time, belonged to the grandson of the original portico’s stone mason – evidenced by beautifully sculptured stone facing the house’s driveway. The house is still standing, although currently undergoing major renovations. The bases of the porticos are largely forgotten, “parked” by the side of the house – their columns serving as driveway posts.

Read also:
Westmount places and their stories – part 1
Westmount places and their stories – part 2
Westmount places and their stories – part 4
Westmount places and their stories – part 5
Westmount places and their stories – part 6
Westmount places and their stories – part 7

Images: Michael Walsh


photo: Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh is a long-time Westmount resident and a higher education IT professional. A mycologist and statistician by training. While not at work, he walks his dog and tries to impart the beauty and hidden history Westmount has to offer to residents and visitors alike through his blog at Westmount Overlooked.



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  1. Charlotte Hussey

    Thanks Michael for providing us with more historical insight as to the illustrious people and their houses in Westmount!!


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