A Church Home that was Once a Mansion
Before our move to NDG and to the shared space with St John's Estonian Church, for many years Montreal’s Finnish Church Home was located in a district of the city known as “the Square Mile”. In the second half of the 19th century, as the city expanded from its early beginnings along the St Lawrence River, the orchards, farms and country estates on the southern slope of Mount Royal developed into a wealthy residential district for Montreal’s affluent merchants, industrialists, and business tycoons.
The home that the Finnish community purchased in May 1960 (see photos) was built in 1870. It and its neighbour are what remain of “four Gothic cottages” that stood side by side and were designed by famous Montreal architect John James Browne (son of another prominent architect, George Browne). The “cottages” were built on farmland that had belonged to the McGregor-Auld family and was divided up into building lots in 1868. They were the oldest houses on the street and are much more modest in size and style than the mansions that were built around them. The “cottages” were called “gothic” because their decorative features were inspired by the Gothic Revival style that was fashionable at the time. Both houses were subsequently altered. The house which served as the former Finnish Church Home was altered in 1920 and expanded in 1929 by the Montreal firm of architects Barott & Blackader.
The property consisted of a corner house, a charming wall-enclosed garden, and a coach-house (garage with a little apartment on top) at the bottom of the garden. The same grey stone was used throughout. Due to increasing problems with the property, including water leaks and a stone fence that was eventually condemned by the city, St. Michael's was eventually forced to sell the property, and moved in to rent with the Estonian community of Montreal in NDG. At the time of the sale, the Finns had owned this historic and important property for more years than any of the previous owners.