Filling in the blanks

By the time the gas station at Parc and Fairmount was demolished early this year, it was much reduced from its former estate; Petro-Canada removed the pumps when renovating its showcase gas station at Parc and Mont-Royal. After a few years of desultory use as a repair shop and as a valet parking lot for well-oiled lavallois that like to come into the city and pay too much money for grilled fish at interchangeable Greek restaurants, new ownership demolished the garage in half a day and began weeks of jackhammering 20 feet down into the bedrock.

Above, what is currently under construction on the site, a building called the Mile-End Lofts. This is the only rendering available from the developers, so we have few hints as to the materials. Note that it is slated to be a rental building, a sign that the market for new condominiums may not be quite as attractive and that despite their protestations, developers can and do have an alternative to building the most expensive condos possible. Neighbourhood rumor says that the property changed hands for $8 million, but the rôle d’évaluation is silent on the cost or status of the lot. The evolution of the large corner lot hints at some of the shifts in real estate strategy that resulted in Parc’s particular mix of structures.

In the years before World War I, there was a brief surge of interest in lower Outremont and the neighbourhood then known as the Annexe (the part of Mile-End between Mont-Royal and Saint-Joseph) on the part of wealthy anglophones. Since it was extended north of Mont-Royal just after the turn of the century, Parc was home to a string of mansions or country homes, often built in wood and home to Scottish families. Hence the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches that are still visible in the neighborhood, nearly all having gone on to new uses. Along Parc, one can still see the same kind of large triplexes preferred by prewar bourgeois households, not unlike their contemporaries on l’Esplanade, Saint-Hubert or Parc Lafontaine. A few early apartment buildings, then an odd experiment in duplicating structures and lifestyles from New York and London, likely inspired a similar strategy for the better-known conciergerie buildings in Outremont along Bernard. Other buildings were large 6-, 8- and even 10-plexes, probably cheaper wood structures clad in brick, that incorporated elements from more fashionable apartment buildings such as a common entranceway and internal staircases.

The Sharpe house was one of these. Built sometime before 1907, when the map at left was drawn, a Mr. C.J. sharpe sold it in 1912 when the photo at right was taken (where’s the picture from? oh baby don’t you know to go on down to the BANQ and ask for Mr. Massicotte oh baby he’ll treat you right don’t you worry about a thing). Note the wood buildings (in yellow) and the odd configuration of lots around the intersection, which suggest that straightening Parc and widening Fairmount may have been options at one point. Unlike Saint-Denis, Saint-Laurent or Rachel, Parc was originally built at its present width and thereby was not subject to the repeated demolition and transformation that typify the development of major corridors in the area.

The new owners intended to demolish the structure and build stores with apartments above, but hadn’t gotten around to it by 1914, the date of the map at left. In the 20’s and 30’s, unmarried women are listed as the owners of the house at 5201 Parc — could it have been a school, a brothel, a boarding house? Note the adjacent ancillary structures on Fairmount, indicated in less detail on the 1907 map, that are built of brick or masonry and were therefore likely intended as permanent. Directories note a “Fairmount Garage” in one of them during the same years, which suggests a more prosaic use for the main house and presages the later fate of the site.

By 1939, the building is in use as the “Outremont Club”, of which little can be found but a mention in a few autobiographies of former National Assembly members and some marginal references that suggest it is still active as a local businessperson’s gathering or some such. The outbuildings had been cleared away by 1949, when the map at left was drawn. It is unclear when the masion itself was demolished; the Outremont Club is listed as the sole owner of the building until 1968, when it appears to have been purchased by a Cosmos Stamadianos. Around the same time, listings for a “Claude Auto-Care Centre” start appearing, so the mansion was demolished by 1969 if not before.

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