Westmount places and their stories / 5
The history behind the familiar
By Michael Walsh
Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city’, for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities. Just as language limits what can be said, architecture limits where one can walk, but the walker invents other ways to go.
Rebecca Solnit — Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Westmount places – one could fill a (very) large book with their stories. Manufacturers, tailors, railroad agents and steamship owners are just a few of the professions held by people that called Westmount their home. In addition, there are also the forgotten plaques – left for us to observe – that contain their stories of important events that had occurred in the city.
The stories that follow were compiled over a nine-month period, much like a diary, while walking through Westmount and enjoying the architectural beauty of the homes that line the streets.
The City purchased the grounds, in 1968, containing a wonderful garden that became a popular tourist attraction. Montreal tour buses used to clog this narrow road to view the Japanese pagoda as well as the flowers and shrubs collected, over the years, by the Campbell family. By 1978, the City couldn’t justify the cost of the garden’s annual upkeep and sold the land to private developers.
T. M. Todd residence – Manager Allan Line (1899).
“Allan Line was a Scottish-Canadian shipping company founded by Captain Alexander Allan (1780-1854) with his newly purchased brigantine, Jean, which sailed from Greenock, Scotland, to Québec in 1819. In 1826 his second son, Hugh Allan, came to Montréal and developed a successful shipping business there; in 1839 Hugh was joined by a younger brother, Andrew. Two other brothers established offices in Greenock and Liverpool. In 1854 the Allan consortium incorporated the Montreal Ocean Steamship Company, which in 1856 won the government mail contract from Montréal to Liverpool.”
“With innovative engineering and design the Allan ships prospered on the Atlantic and other trade routes. The first steel liner to sail the Atlantic was the Allan Line’s Buenos Ayrean in 1880. After the turn of the century the company had difficulty financing new ships and was sold to Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd in 1909.” (The Canadian Encycopedia)
King George Park
A largely neglected, and overlooked, commemorative plaque installed in 1937, as part of the park’s inauguration. It is located south of the existant five Oak trees.
George A. Kohl, B. & S. H. Thompson (1900) – Hardware retailer specializing in the importing of American steel. The company was founded in 1790 in Birmingham England by the Chance family.
From: The Lachine Canal: Riding the Waves of Industrial and Urban Development, 1860-1950, Yvon Desloges, Alain Gelly, Les éditions du Septentrion, Oct 2, 2002: “The shipwright Augustin Cantin set up his first shipyard at the entrance of the Lachine Canal and Montreal harbour in 1841. But though orders flowed in, Cantin nevertheless went bankrupt in 1843. However, the man had considerable wherewithal and, in 1846, Cantin opened a new shipyard in St. Cunégonde… From that time on he was able to build and repair all kinds of ships from start to finish. This formula proved to be a success since, from 1846 to 1855, the Montreal Marine Works built more than 70 boats, including seven steamships.”
In 1872, John Ogilvie ventured to the Dakota Territory and purchased the first parcel of hard spring wheat to be shipped to Eastern Canada. The 800 bushels proved to be of magnificent quality. The success of this experiment led the Ogilvies to push for the growing of hard wheat in the Canadian West. For ten years John Ogilvie was a lonely visionary to the potential bread-basket available on the Canadian Prairies. In 1881, a mill was begun in Winnipeg and the first elevator in Manitoba appeared at Gretna. This was a calculated move for the arrival of the first Manitoba hard wheat in Britain had been a sensation. The early tests on the Manitoba product confirmed a grain of unsurpassable quality.
The first export of wheat from Western Canada occurred in 1885 when the Ogilvies sent a small shipment from the Winnipeg Mill to Scotland. The company received a staggering offer from the British military for a half million dollar shipment. An order that far outstripped the company’s ready supply but was a harbinger of the untapped economic potential in the Canadian West. By 1887, the Ogilvies held two million bushels of Manitoba wheat in their elevators prompting competitors to complain that the company was out to corner the market. The future was so bright that not even the death of John Ogilvie in 1888 could dampen the desire to push westward.
A quotation from the British Baker’s Manual of 1898 to illustrate the high regard with which Ogilvie flour was held in the article, Popular Penny Cakes for Counter Tray and Window: “For these lines there is something about Vienna flour which is absent from nearly all of the others. There is only one flour that comes near it. That is made by Ogilvie’s Royal Mill in Canada.”
On May 30, 1902, the executors of William Watson Ogilvie sold the flour mills and seventy country elevators to a Canadian owned syndicate.” (University of Manitoba, Libraries, Ogilvie Flour Mills)
“Founded in 1841 by Lewis Tappan, the Mercantile Agency — later known as R.G. Dun & Company — was the first successful commercial reporting agency in America. The company pioneered the new industry of credit reporting, an important tool in the development of American commerce during the 19th century. Dun & Bradstreet resulted from the 1933 merger of R. G. Dun & Company and its chief competitor, J. M. Bradstreet & Company. It continued to be an innovator in business information through the 20th century and beyond.” (Harvard Business School, Baker Library, R.G. Dun & Co. / Dun & Bradstreet Collections)
Randolph Hersey, Pillow Hersey Manufacturing Company (1899)
“Montreal Rolling Mills had acquired the Pillow-Hersey Manufacturing Company in 1903, seven years before the merger. And Pillow-Hersey was successor to the businesses of Mansfield Holland, founded in 1856, and the City Nail and Spike Works, founded in 1839 to carry on the business of a cut nail plant established in Montreal by John Bigelow some time in the 1790’s. Montreal Rolling Mills Company had itself been organized in 1868 to take over the business of Morland, Watson & Company, founded in the 1850’s. The property today forms the Notre Dame Works, largest of Stelco’s four plants in the Montreal area.” (University of Western Ontario, Canadian Company Information)
This piece of art has an interesting history. It is named Erotisme 1983-1986 and was created by Armand Vaillancourt. It was quite different in appearance when it was initially installed: it depicted frontal nudity. Due to the horror of some local residents, M. Vaillancourt was sent back into his art studio to create several pieces to cover the offending parts. So there we are, something for future archeological scholars, when we are all gone, to unearth about Westmount.
Queen Elizabeth Gardens
There is a (largely neglected) plaque, in the park, explaining the origin of the name Queen Elizabeth Gardens. A row of maple trees were planted by the City, on June 2nd, 1953, to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
It’s always nice to find old hand-lettered signs that haven’t been lost under years of paint. This one is on a building, in a lane behind Greene Avenue.
Site of the former J. J. McManus boarding stables & Abbott (horse) Cab Service (1899). Now a green space in front of the City’s electrical substation.
Advertisement from the Westmount News, September 20, 1812: “Abbott Cab Service – Cabs at all hours and regular rates – Strictly Sanitary Stables. Horses receive the best of care at the hands of experienced workman.”
His son Andrew Ross McMaster was elected to the Quebec Legislative Assembly and was the Provincial Treasurer in Louis-Alexandre Taschereau’s cabinet. The residence was designed by David Robertson Brown. Brown and his partner Vallance designed, among other buildings, the Children’s Memorial Hospital (1907) in Montreal and the Medical Building (1910) of McGill University.
“…he was the largest producer in Canada and was selling across the dominion and into Newfoundland and the West Indies. He occupied a large six-story building at the corner of Notre-Dame and Saint-Henri streets where 125 tailors and cutters turned out pieces for 1,500 outside workers. But the firm was more a monument to Shorey’s enterprise and skill than a modern manufacturing company. By the early 1900s it no longer existed.” (Canadian Bibliography)
44 Academy – Academy Apartments
One of the doorways into the formerly named Academy Apartments. This building was built, in 1921, as a residential hotel. From: Montreal Gazette, February 12, 1921: “…built on the plan of the residential hotel and will contain fifty-two apartments… There will be a large ballroom on the ground floor and a cafeteria will be operated by the company on the same floor. Full hotel service will be furnished in the addition to the usual apartment house services. The new building will be of four stories and basement. In size it will be 185 by 115 feet, with outside courts. There will be four entrances.”
An intriguing crest on the front of this home.
313 Victoria — Martin Swiss Bicycle Shop
The façade of the Martin Swiss Bicycle shop fronts a building that was once an inn.
Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the house – the former inn’s doors still had brass numbers!
E. A. Cole – Lawrence & Cole – Merchant tailors (1897).
Merchant tailors started out as religious guilds in British mediaeval times that served to protect the interests of the tailoring trade. Today, the most notable are in London’s Mayfair District’s Savile Row.
From the Montreal Gazette (October 26, 1931): “In a setting that suggests the interior of a comfortable club rather than that of a motor showroom stand the first productions of the new Canadian Packard motor car plant in Windsor Ont., now on display at the Packard Montreal Motor Company Limited, St. Catherine street west. …these cars are the best possible tributes to Canadian craftsmanship and mark a new era in Canadian automotive industry.”
Westmount places and their stories – part 1
Westmount places and their stories – part 2
Westmount places and their stories – part 3
Westmount places and their stories – part 4
Westmount places and their stories – part 6
Westmount places and their stories – part 7
Images: 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.