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Private Home for Senior Ladies



When visitors arrive at the Fulford Residence for the first time, they often ask, “What would it have been like for one family to live in this beautiful place?” When my mother-in-law, Lois Winn, moved into her pretty little room on the top floor, she liked to tell people, “I am living in the servants’ quarters.” She surely was! With a dormer window, facing Guy Street, Mom loved her room, especially when the sun poured in during the morning hours. But she also loved to imagine life in the house in the 1800s.

Built in the 1850s, the house, called Erin Cottage, belonged to James E. Major, with grounds extending to St. Catherine Street, and southwards about two-thirds of the way to Dorchester (now René Lévesque). Guy Street was only 40 years old and had been part of a farm belonging to Étienne Guy, a notary and land-surveyor.

When James Major moved to Guy Street, it was largely open land, a gentleman’s park. Major held a well-paid position as Government Inspector of Potash. Canadian potashes were a major export to Great Britain and Europe as the basis of common soap.

Today it comes as a surprise to many passers-by to see this large, country style house surrounded by the buildings of modern downtown Montreal. The wide space of land which separates the house from the street, the large old trees and the verandah that runs along the façade give it the look of a summer cottage. Visitors and residents enjoy stepping into history in the interior of the house, with its high ceilings, delicate stained-glass windows, curious recesses at the corners of the ground floor, white marble fireplaces and a raised verandah with massive wood beams. The kitchen, as was the custom, is in the basement, but today a modern Servery, with a food elevator from the kitchen, delivers food hot to the large pleasant dining room on the main floor. The grand salon, used for house activities and gatherings, boasts an ornately carved wood rosette attached to the ceiling.

Two additions have been made to the house. A wing was added in 1910, along with alterations to accommodate more residents, and in 1957 several new rooms were added. In recent years carpeting has been removed to reveal original oak floors. The maintenance of the house is ongoing and necessary, enabled by the generosity of donors.

Thanks to many benefactors, lovely old pieces of furniture adorn the public rooms, and a variety of paintings hang in the corridors. Old china is displayed on walls and shelves, and tea is always served in a china cup! My mother-in-law was convinced that the furniture had come from her mother’s home. Everywhere she looked she saw familiarity and comfort. She always said that her happiest pastime was sitting on the front porch, watching the world go by! Many of Fulford’s residents would agree with her.

- Susan Winn


Painting by Sara Colby 

Painting by Sara Colby