II-73815 | Dining room, Mrs. George Stephen's house, Montreal, QC, 1884

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Dining room, Mrs. George Stephen's house, Montreal, QC, 1884
Wm. Notman & Son
1884, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , Photograph (77678) , residential (1255)
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Keys to History

All four of the CPR's Scottish directors owned mansions in the same area of Montreal, a district known as the "golden square mile," but only George Stephen's house has escaped demolition. His residence on Drummond Street in Montreal was built in 1880 at a cost of $600,000, a sum equal to perhaps $60 million in today's money. The mansion is now a private club, open to the public on Sundays.

The opulence of George Stephen's mansion is even more incredible when compared to the dismal conditions in which most of the working class of Montreal lived at that time. In the decade when Stephen built his $600,000 mansion, the city's shipyard workers were earning less than $300 a year. Living conditions for the poor were very bad: between 1899 and 1901, 26% of children born in Montreal died before their first birthday, representing one of the worst infant mortality rates in the world. These facts were first revealed in Herbert Ames's book The City Below the Hill, a pioneering work of Canadian sociology.

  • What

    This luxurious mansion, located at 1440 Drummond Street in Montreal, was designated a Canadian National Historic Site in 1971.

  • Where

    In the 19th century the dining room became, together with the living room, the favourite meeting place for members of a family. Its location in a house was always carefully selected.

  • When

    When the room was photographed in 1884, it was decorated in a Victorian style that was the height of fashion for the very wealthy.

  • Who

    The task of building this luxurious mansion, designed by William Tutin Thomas, Montreal's most famous architect of the day, was entrusted to the contractor J. F. Hutchison. The work began in 1880 and lasted three years.