The Oldest House in Griffintown

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The tiny house at 175 de la Montagne is quite probably the oldest house in Griffintown. In fact, it is so old that it was once part of a neighbourhood that predates even historic Griffintown.

Although the its architecture suggests that it was built around 1825-35, this house suddenly appears on an 1865 map of the neighbourhood.

Urbanist David Hanna has attempted to unravel the mystery of this temporal incongruity. The original owner was named Andrew Keegan, a schoolteacher at a school for Irish Catholics in Pointe-Saint-Charles. In 1862, Keegan built a row of four rental housing units on de la Montagne. Hanna has hypothesized that Keegan moved the little old house from its original location about 100 metres away on Murray street, which was being widened at the time. Either that or Keegan had a penchant for building excellent replicas of past architectural eras…

Keegan himself moved into the little house and named it “Mount Temple Place.”

Interestingly, Hanna refers to this house as the last vestige of the “Brickfields neighbourhood”. Apparently from 1825 until at least 1847 there was a brick factory located in the triangle made up of de la Montagne, Ottawa and Murray streets, which leant its identity to the surrounding neighbourhood, which also counted two groceries, a bakery, a bar and a hotel. The name Griffintown was already on the map at that time – after Mary Griffin who subdivided the land and planned out the street grid around 1804 – but Brickfields was located further west, off the street grid in the western part of that grid.

I remember discovering about a decade ago that the area downtown by the canal went by the rather mythical-sounding name of “Griffintown”. Now that Griffintown has entered the common vernacular, an even more mysterious place-name surfaces from the murky distant past… A quick search didn’t turn up any other references to the Brickfields  – does anyone know where I can get more info?  (And why do I have the sense that mentioning this on the web is inviting the next wave of condo developers to appropriate the name?)

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Source: David Hanna, Griffintown: son histoire et son cadre bâti (PDF)

More on Griffintown coming soon!

21 comments

  1. If a condo developer wanted to create something off the street grid like the original, they’d have my support for calling it Brickfields.

  2. Condo’s are just apartments that people happen to own.  In other words: housing.  Not sure why there is so much disdain towards condos.  In Montreal they aren’t even that expensive relative to other major cities.  

    As long as Griffintown is developed accordingly (original street grid, uncovering of cobble stone streets, period lighting, staying true to history while also being contemporary) I see nothing wrong with condos, apartments, retail that makes it once again a 24 hour community. We need more people living downtown and in the surrounding hoods.  

  3. Marc, you’re right. I certainly didn’t mean to start an anti-condo diatribe. I am perhaps annoyed with the tendency to appropriate history in a very superficial way (in name more than in form). But i shouldn’t generalize all condo construction.

  4. Griffintown is a 24 hour community. Condo’s are for the plateau.
    Keep griffentown working class,
    This is 175 de la Montagne. Go up the street north of notredame and take a look.
    And you want more condo’s?
    Sick fucks

  5. Montreal’s rôle de l’évaluation foncière lists this building as having been built in 1871.

  6. hi jesse,

    the author is not promoting any condos so you can relax. i forgot why did you ask me to post obscene comments?

  7. @Gringo – i saw that too, but on the éval foncière site this address is grouped in with the other buildings on the same lot: 167-175 de la montagne, a total of 5 units. Yet the architecture would suggest they were not all bulit at the same time.

  8. In the 21st century economy and going forward, what does/will working class mean? Vibrant and interesting neighborhoods are those that are mixed socio-economically.  I am all for keeping cities affordable, but honestly, so close to the CBD, I don’t think it’s going to happen.  I’m just being realistic here.  

  9. This house certainly doesn’t have any architectural value. Just because something is old, doesn’t necessarily mean that it worth keeping.

  10. As the university author of the original study on Griffintown, the reference for which is indicated on this site, I can clarify a few points. First of all, “Brickfields” was actually within the Griffintown town plan of 1806 laid out by Charland for Mary Griffin, who was the real estate agent and owner of the land rights in the 1800s and 1810s. This isolated western end development of the 1820s was referred to as “Brickfields” in the Doige City Directory of 1819 and on the Adams map of 1825. The municipal evaluation lists 1871 for the house, but this source is notorious for gross errors. Alanah is quite correct in stating that this house is either a very accurate 1864 replica of an 1820s house or indeed, if my research is correct, it is authentic and was dragged to the spot by Keegan in 1864. We know the dormers date from about 1864, but they would have been added. The rest of the evidence is hidden under a layer of stucco which I tried hard to stop as the original brick was fine (the unsympathetic owner also threw out the original door for a Reno-Depot model). As for the comment that the building has no architectural value, well, some people should know when not to display their profound ignorance for all to see.

  11. Thanks for the comment and clarifications, Mr Hanna. I’m glad that the house is still inhabited, even if that means it is subject to controvercial home-depot inspired “improvements”

  12. L’inventaire immobilier fut amorcé de façon détaillée dans la seconde moitié du 19e siècle. Tout ce qui fut construit avant 1850 est donc daté de façon approximative lorsqu’il ne fut pas basé sur des actes de ventes mais plutôt par tradition orale.

  13. Mr Hanna, if you have the time and the inclination, please enlighten me as to what the architectural value of the building depicted in the photograph is because I  admit to having a difficult time seeing it.

  14. Great stuff on Griffintown, I used to live there.

    For you historians: how did it get it’s name?

    Paul
    Calgary

  15. “Now that Griffintown has entered the common vernacular” I was born in the 50’s and Griffintown has always been called Griffintown. Most Irish in this city have known this area as Griffintown all our lives. So it hasn’t just entered the common vernacular.

  16. I just found this article while I was researching my ancestry. I have a great great great grandmother named Ellen Griffin born around 1805. She was married to a Michael O’Donnell who was buried out of St. Anne’s Church in Montreal. I have almost no facts on this family except my great great grandmother was Ellen griffin married to William Wren. The question I have could Ellen Griffin be a child of Mary and Robert Griffin. I can’t find any info on this couple. Sorry if this is the wrong forum but very curious to fill in my ancestry for my mother. Never knew about GRIFFINTOWN. Incredible times people lived through. Thanks for any info. Please send to my email and enter here also. Thank you.

  17. Amazing little article you have here about this little (big) part of history in Griffintown. Today it’s fate stands at the crossroads as this little house makes front page of the Montreal Gazette.

  18. Dear David Hanna,

    I just came across this article and it’s wonderful, I might add. this house is going on 200 years old and I HOPE it is still standing.

    The reason I found it is because I was looking for ‘Brickfields’. I am doing my cousin’s paternal ancestry, Curran, and I found on Lovell’s Directory for Montreal for 1848 … “John Curran, a carpenter, residing at Brickfields, Griffintown. Initially I thought it was the name of a company but I now know it was an area of Griffintown … because of this and your other article (French).

    As well, in 1853, John Curran, a labourer, lived at “William near Murray”‘ which I gather was in or near Brickfields.

    So I can’t tell you where else to find information on Brickfields on the Internet other than on the Lovell’s Directory for Montreal site (Link: http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/lovell/).

    I am originally from Montreal, Verdun actually. My father was raised in Victoriatown, better known as Goose Village or simply ‘the village’. I had relatives who lived in the Point and Griffintown so I am quite familiar with the area … and I enjoy reading about historical trivia about ‘home’.

    Thank you.

    Regards,
    Heather Holdgate
    Whitby, Ontario

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