Published in the Montreal Gazette of January 22, 2011
The James Edward Major Home on Guy Street
When the Rt. Rev. John Cragg Farthing closed the Church Home annual administrative meeting on January 28, 1909, the august Bishop congratulated the committee “on the good work they did for reduced gentlewomen, a class deserving of the greatest sympathy”. Little could he have realized that more than a hundred years later, the venerable institution would still be carrying out that same outstanding work, albeit under a different name.
To be sure, the remarkably – beautiful Fulford Residence (formerly Church Home) has been part of Montreal’s urban landscape for as long as anyone can remember. Set back from the east side of Guy Street, just south of St. Catherine, this jewel of Montreal architectural heritage dates back to a time when this city was the financial capital of the United Province of Canada.
The magnificent Victorian abode was originally constructed for James Edward Major, “pot and pearl ash inspector” with the colonial government of the time. At the relatively young age of 33, architect Thomas Seaton Scott planned the building with certain structural design characteristics of the Italian Renaissance period. Later in his career, Scott became the Chief Dominion Architect of Canada. Major’s country style house is, incidentally, one of the oldest brick homes in Montreal, and the fact that it was not erected in stone was a sure sign of a budget that was not limitless.
‘Erin Cottage’ (as it was first known) was built in 1859 when Guy Street was just a country trail passing through farmland and orchards. The land had been purchased from Sir George Simpson some fourteen years earlier. At the time, the immense property extended from St. Catherine southward towards Dorchester Street. Today, the priceless domain is considerably smaller, even though two additional wings were added down through the years to the old fashioned residence.
The interior of Major’s home was magnificent. High ceilings, white marble fireplaces, and splendid woodwork were to be found throughout the edifice – all of which survives today. The government potash inspector lived in the house for just over thirty years.
Afterward, in 1890, the Church Home, originally established in 1855 on St. Dominique Street, took possession of Major’s Guy Street elegant domicile after his death. The house was re-named Fulford Residence in May of 1982, in honour of the founder of the institution, Mary Drummond Fulford, wife of the first ever Anglican Bishop of Montreal.
Today, Fulford Residence is an independent, non-profit making home for thirty-eight elderly women, the average age of whom is 93. It is a private corporation receiving no funds from any level of government. Daily operations are financed with income from an investment portfolio, an annual fund raising campaign and a ten thousand dollar subsidy from the Anglican Diocese of Montreal. A Registered Nurse oversees health care during the day shift and nurses’ aides meet the needs of the residents on a twenty-four hour basis. Despite its Anglican origins and the annual subvention, Fulford is today a non-denomination dwelling, functioning in both English and French.
A full gamut of activities is regularly offered to the residents of Edward Major’s vintage home, including the well-publicized bi-annual ‘pub crawl’ to Crescent Street arranged with the kind assistance of the Montreal Police. In fact, an extensive network of dedicated volunteers organizes many of the fascinating events for the home’s inhabitants. More participants are always welcome.
Additional information about Fulford Residence, its colourful history and present vocation, can be found at www.fulfordhouse.com