Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Montreal Hunt Club & Equestrian Building History

Happy New Year everyone!

I feel absolutely knackered today as we were at a dinner till midnight last night. I'm getting too old to be staying up so late!

The stable down the lane from me is having a little Christmas/New Years horse show tomorrow with jumping and fancy dress classes. I'm not riding as I don't jump anymore and Hattie still doesn't have a shoe but I said that Josie could take her into the kid's fancy dress class side saddle.

The lane is flat paved from my field to the show and the class is being held in the indoor arena which has a soft surface and will be at a walk only. I'm going to pad out Hattie's hoof with that cotton gamgee stuff and then duck tape it all up to protect her foot from if there is the odd stray stone during our 5 minute walk to the show. She's been tearing around the field and shows no lameness in the hoof (her hooves are pretty good anyways) so I think she should be alright during the 5 minute plod to the show and a 5 minute walk around the area and back again. I'm gong to put on her front boots though just to support her legs too and incorporate those into her costume.

Josie is going to wear my Mrs. Santa Claus costume that I made for my Christmas dressage show last year and we'll dress Hattie up as a reindeer. I just need to find everything for the costume as it's packed up somewhere and clean her tack. I hate cleaning tack!!

I just hope the farrier is well enough to come this week as although Hattie has strong hooves, I don't want to leave her too long without a shoe, even if she is on soft ground. If we get a sudden freeze, then she's going to have to stay in the stable until a farrier can come out and I know she'll HATE that!

I was looking through some of the antique postcards that I collect and found this one from c. 1900 of the Montreal Hunt Club club house.

I love equestrian history especially that relating to old stables and buildings in Montreal (where I'm from) that had an equestrian use. Montreal, used horses right up into the 1950's- 1960's and had many stables in located in the populated urban area.

The house that my grandparents used to own on Bourgeoys Street in the Pointe St. Charles area of Montreal, Quebec, that I lived in from birth till I was 5 years old, was built in the Victorian era and originally had old stables in the backyard. If you click on the link below the photo, a larger photo will open up in Google Maps. The stable was located in the back of the garden where the big tree is.

View Larger Map

Pointe St. Charles was (and still pretty much is) a poor to working class neighbourhood but it is full of history. When I go back to visit my family, I like going there and walking around just soaking up the history. It has a large Irish Catholic population but Scottish and British people also settled in that area like my family did when they moved from Wales in 1956. Being an Irish area and with the Irish people's love of the horse, Pointe St. Charles had a big horse population for years and is one of the last places in Montreal where you can still find stables in use!

My grandfather demolished the wooden stable (which was two stories high) before I was born but my mom remembers it as a kid. There was an old wonky wooden Victorian era bridge leading from the upstairs of my grandparents house (where the black metal balcony is in the photo, but originally when we lived there, it was an old enclosed wooden balcony), right across the backyard to the stable loft. My mom used to go in the stable loft and read the old 1930's movie star magazines which had been stored in there for years!

As a child, I remember the concrete stable foundations which were still there but that was all that was left. Occasionally, my sister and I would dig up old draft horse shoes (complete with caulks!) or old horse shoe nails. My mom once found a Canadian penny from 1894 in the dirt!

A few streets over from my grandparents old house, there is an old working stable, called Écurie de Montréal, still in use. It is for the carriage horses used in historic Old Montreal for the tourists. Yes, you do see some questionable horses pulling carriages sometimes but this particular stable looks to take good care of their equines. I passed by there two summers ago and everything look clean and tidy, no strong pee smells either!

Not far either from my old house, on the other side of Pointe St. Charles in an area called Griffintown, is another working stable which was built in 1862 called the Griffintown Horse Palace:

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I've always been fascinated by this stable and even did a school project on it once when I was in high school! I was lucky enough to visit it one day with my mom and aunt with the owner Leo Leonard, showing us around the historic stables. It was just like stepping back in time! The stalls were the traditional standing stalls that the Victorians used and all the original stable fittings were all there and in use! It was like heaven! Unfortunately, they have had a battle over the years to keep it running as the City of Montreal wants to knock it down to build bland modern buildings.

Further west in Montreal, where I later lived before moving to England, there weren't as many stables but there was the odd gem that I used to stumble upon now and then- strangely enough, when I used to go to garage sales in my hunt for vintage clothing to add to my collection!!

One one such occasion, my mom and I happened across a garage sale a few streets over from where we lived. I had often passed by this house but took little notice of it as it had thick tree coverage at the front and was a nondescript looking little Victorian era looking house. There wasn't anything at the sale that I wanted to buy but somehow, I got on the subject of horses with the home owner and she invited me to see her stables! I was a bit confused as I thought the lady meant out in the countryside somewhere but she said, no, right at the back of the house!

It turns out that her house was built in 1875 and the building at the back which I thought was just a overrated garage, was in fact a carriage house and stables! The front of the building was originally the carriage house but when I saw it, had a car in it and normal household junk. she took me around to the back of the building and let me in and I just about fainted...there were 8 LARGE Victorian style standing stalls with their original metal stable fittings! There were four stalls on each side of a wide aisle with a door at the end of the aisle to go into the carriage house. It was very light and airy except for all the junk that was being stored in the stalls. I can't remember the exact color the walls were, but I think everything thing was painted a pale green color.

Here is a picture I found of it on Google Maps but I don't really want to give out it's location as it's a private residence whereas all the other locations I have mentioned have been commercial (including my grandparents old house which is now a rooming house). You can see the heavy tree coverage at the front of the house, the carriage house/stables is the large green roofed building at the back down the driveway.

This is an aerial view I found on Google Maps so you can see how long their back yard was and the shape of the stables and carriage house. The stables were located in the back part of the building that sticks out.

Sadly, while this lady's stable is still in excellent condition and hopefully will remain so for years to come, the Montreal Hunt clubhouse, which was located on Cote St. Catherine street in Cote des Neiges, Montreal, did not fair so well.

The club is still existence and is going strong, a history of it can be read on their website but sadly, the grand old club house which was built 1897 (to replace a former one built in the middle of Dowtown Montreal which became uncroached with urbanization in the Victorian era) stood 101 years to eventually be demolished in 1998 due to neglect.

It was considered very modern when it was first built as it was one of the few houses in Montreal to have electricity and had hot water fuelled central heating. It had a ballroom, ladies dining room, grand dining room, reception room, bedroom, a ladies reception room as well as kitchens and staff rooms in the basement. At the back of the house were the stables and kennel block:

The hunt remained at the clubhouse until the 1940's when they decided to move further out into the countryside due to rapid urbanization of the area. They sold the clubhouse to a private family who later sold the house to the Jesuit monks who in turn, sold the land and house to the St. Justine's Children's Hospital which was built in the 1950's right beside the old clubhouse.

This photo taken sometime during the 1940's, shows the back of the clubhouse. The stables and clubhouse seem to have been demolished at some point after the club sold the house, only to be replaced with some sort of little cottage type building.

An architect's concept photo from c.late 1940's- early 1950's showing where the new hospital would be and how it would look like. Note the clubhouse and cottage beside the development and all the fields to the back of the proposed hospital and clubhouse.

A photo of the newly built hospital taken c. 1957 or early 1960's. The hospital differs in appearance a little bit than the 1940's concept photo but note all the new apartment buildings and roads now occupying the once vast fields at the back of the clubhouse and hospital!

Eventually a car park surrounded the clubhouse and the house fell into further disrepair. It was in this state that my mom and I managed to visit the house. We have an interest in Urban Exploration and had planned to try and get into the house to take some photos and see it while we could before it got knocked down. It was winter and although we managed to get through the high wooden fence surrounding the house, we couldn't get into the house itself as it was all boarded up strong. It was a very imposing house to stand next to.

This photo was taken in the mid to late 1990's shortly before it was demolished. A sea of concrete...

This is the view now without the clubhouse, how ugly and boring...

Since this is a side saddle blog, I managed to find one photo of a Montreal Hunt Club meet with a side saddle rider in it!

It was taken in the Montreal area in 1923 when the hunt would have still been based at the clubhouse on Cote St. Catherine when the Prince of Wales came to visit and went out with the hunt. I've enlarged the side saddle rider, you can see that her jacket has the hunt colors but her top hat brim looks rather wide!


  1. They could have relocated the building..its a shame this government has no interest in the history of this city.

  2. I wish we were able to get into it that day mumsey!

  3. Wow what a gorgeous old building. Such a shame it was allowed to fall into disrepair and end up demolished. :(

  4. I know Michelle :( Even when I saw it all in disrepair, it still look beautiful. I would have rather the hospital use it for some other function than knock it down, like say, a hospice for terminally ill kids or even a day care or lounge/rest area for the hospital staff.

  5. check
    this is a 9-min clip from youtube. min 4 to 6 is stuff you may like.

  6. LOL, no way!! I wish there was a convenient ramp still there when my mom and I tried to get in it!

  7. Very interesting!
    Just one comment: in the photo of the architect's concept for the new hospital, ca. 1949-1950, the building is shown facing the wrong way. The grand semi-circle entrance should really be facing St.Catherine Road (the one street whose name is written in white in the picture) - that is, it should be facing the mountain. That was always in the original plan, and indeed that is how the hospital was built. So, the photo is showing us the front of the future hospital, but really we should be viewing the back, as we're looking South. (The photo-montage was done wrong).
    So, in your next photo (the one showing the new 1957 hospital), you're actually facing the OTHER way - the photographer is somewhere on the mountain, and we're looking North.
    So all these new apartments buildings and houses that we see are NOT actually occupying the open fields we saw in the previous photo. In actual fact, all these buildings were built 1946-1951, before the hospital (1957). Basically, not much has changed between those two photos. (It's a wrong impression we get, due to the architect's wrong photo-montage).
    Many thanks for this very interesting blog!

  8. Thanks for the info Rachel! I had noticed that the buildings were the wrong way round but figured maybe they flipped the photo by accident or changed their minds about which way the building would go. :)

  9. On these three photos, circa 1888, isn't Lady Landry sitting on a side saddle under her robes? PRB

    1. She is defintely side saddle but two of the images have been flipped so that she is sitting on the off-side. You can tell that they are flipped as you an see the throatlatch buckle on the off-side. :)