Tag: Fairmount Villa

A Montreal Landmark

This photo of the Bagg house was taken by my grandmother, Gwen Bagg, in 1903. It is in one of the photo albums she put together that now belong to the McCord Museum in Montreal. This photo can be found on the McCord’s website.

The old house at the corner of Sherbrooke Street West and Cote des Neiges in downtown Montreal pops up regularly on the internet sites devoted to historical photos of the city, but often the information that accompanies those photos is incorrect. Frequently, people erroneously identify the owner as Montreal landowner Stanley Clark Bagg (1820-1873). In fact, the house belonged to his son, Robert Stanley Clark Bagg (1848-1912).

The building is prominently located on the corner of Sherbrooke Street West and Côte-des-Neiges, which leads up the hill toward Mount Royal. Thousands of people pass by daily, and it is hard not to notice the four-story red sandstone building with its pink tiled top floor.

It has gone through several reincarnations over the years. When it was built in 1891, it formed the south-west anchor of the Golden Square Mile, the neighbourhood where Canada’s wealthiest businessmen, manufacturers and bankers lived. Today it is a commercial building, across the street from other small businesses and medical offices.

The original owner, R. Stanley Bagg (I will refer to him as RSB), grew up in a house called Fairmount Villa that was at the corner of Sherbrooke Street West and Saint-Urbain. His father, Stanley Clark Bagg (SCB), was one of the largest landowners on the Island of Montreal, having inherited several adjoining farm properties along St. Laurent Boulevard from his grandfather, John Clark.

RSB studied law at McGill University and went abroad to continue his studies after graduation, but when his father died of typhoid in 1873, RSB came home. He practiced law in Montreal for a short time, but quit to manage the properties belonging to his father’s estate, a position he held until 1901. He married Clara Smithers (1861-1946) in 1882, and for several years the couple lived just around the corner from Fairmount Villa, where RSB’s mother still resided. Eventually they decided to build a new house in a more fashionable part of the city. When they moved, they had two daughters, Evelyn (1883-1970) and Gwendolyn (1886-1963)—my future grandmother. Their only son, Harold Stanley Fortescue Bagg (1895-1945), was born a few years after the move.

The Bagg house is in the bottom right corner of this map, found in Goad’s fire insurance map, 1915 edition, sheet 94. This collection of Montreal city maps can be found on the Quebec archives website. Go to https://numerique.banq.qc.ca and search cartes et plans (digitized maps).

Many houses in Montreal were built of locally quarried grey limestone because it was abundant and cheap, but RSB chose red sandstone, probably imported from Scotland. Originally designed by architect William McLea Walbank, the house was renovated twice in the eleven years RSB lived there, with a major addition constructed in 1902 and other changes in 1906.

It was a large house, even for a family of five, but the Baggs employed at least two live-in domestic servants—a cook and a maid—and perhaps a man to do the heavier chores. The interior was ornately furnished, as shown in photos my grandmother took of the drawing room, with a carved mantlepiece over the fireplace, heavy floor-to-ceiling drapes, and pillows and knickknacks everywhere. She also took photos of the interior of the tower on the Côte-des-Neiges side of the building. It must have been a sunny spot for reading and a good place to watch people struggle up the hill during a snowstorm.

My grandmother’s photo of the living room is in one of her photo albums now belonging to the McCord Museum.

RSB died of cancer while on vacation in Kennebunkport, Maine in 1912. Clara (who was usually identified as Mrs. Stanley Bagg) divided the house into two apartments and continued to live there until her death at age 85, in 1946.

After she died the house was sold and renovated, with a new entrance facing Côte-des- Neiges, and Barclay’s Bank (Canada) moved in. Many of Montreal’s elite families became customers of this British-based institution. In 1956 the Imperial Bank of Canada took over Barclay’s (Canada) and five years later, it became the Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada (CIBC). In 1979 CIBC decided it could no longer upgrade the old Bagg building to the modern requirements of banking and it moved its customers to a branch down the street at the Ritz Carlton Hotel.

For the next few years, the building was home to a jazz bar on the main floor and a bookstore upstairs, until a fire destroyed the interior in 1982. It may have been that fire that destroyed the cone-shaped roof of the tower. Many years earlier, my mother noticed that a stained-glass window displaying the Bagg family crest had disappeared.

The building was restored in 1985-86 and two art galleries moved in, but the interior featured bare brick walls, a style that was popular at the time in some older parts of the city, but was not appropriate for this Edwardian-era building. An oriental carpet store rented the main floor in the mid-1990s.

Today, Adrenaline Montreal Body Piercing and Tattoos has been located there for many years. I suspect my great-grandparents would not be impressed.

Note: Lovell’s Directory of Montreal shows the address of this building changed several times over the years. It was at 1129 Sherbrooke in 1894-97, and 739 Sherbrooke W. in 1908-1910. The attached house, on the right, had a separate address – 737 Sherbrooke West—and belonged to another family. The Bagg house had been divided into apartments 1 and 2 at 739 Sherbrooke W. by 1927-28, and the address had changed to 1541 Sherbrooke W. apartments 1 and 2 by 1935-36.

This post also appears on the collaborative blog https://genealogyensemble.com


Edgar Andrew Collard, “A sandstone house on Sherbrooke St.”, The Gazette, October 20, 1984. (There are several errors about the family history in that article.)

Répertoire d’architecture traditionnelle sur le territoire de la communauté urbaine de Montréal. Les residences. Communauté urbaine de Montréal, Service de la planification du territoire, 1987.

Charles Lazarus, “Farewell to Landmark”, The Montreal Star, April 30, 1979.

Stanley Clark Bagg’s Family

This is the fifth in a series of articles about Stanley Clark Bagg on Writing Up the Ancestors. To read the previous posts, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click on Older Posts. There are at least two more to come.

Portrait of Stanley Clark Bagg, probably painted from a photograph following his death in 1873; Bagg family collection.

In February 1841, my future great-great-grandfather wrote a letter to my future great-great-grandmother, explaining that his grandmother had asked him to write. It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that he was smitten. Perhaps his grandmother had also noticed.

Stanley Clark Bagg (SCB), 20, who lived in Montreal, wrote to Catharine Mitcheson, 18, in Philadelphia: “Grandmother not having received a letter from yourself or your respected parents for a very long time, felt desirous to hear from you or them, and requested me to write, hoping that you or someone of the family would have the goodness to write.”1

I do not know when SCB and Catharine first met; they lived a long way from each other, but their families had reason to communicate because they were related. SCB’s grandmother, Mary (Mitcheson) Clark (1776-1856,) was the older sister of Catharine’s father, Robert Mitcheson (1779-1859.) Both grew up in County Durham, England and immigrated to North America as adults, Mary to Montreal and Robert to Philadelphia.

In the summer of 1840, Catharine and her older brother, Robert MacGregor Mitcheson, who was studying to become an Episcopal minister at the Theological College in New York, visited Montreal.2 They arrived in July and probably stayed through the beginning of September to attend the wedding of another cousin, Mary Maughan, to Montreal merchant William Footner.3

In his letter, SCB continued, “This winter is quite a gay one and scarcely anything is talked of but the parties and concerts, but still we are very lonesome and have been so since you and Robert left here, particularly after Mary was married. We all regret very much that you and Robert are not here to participate in the pleasures of the season, but hope shortly to have the pleasure of again seeing you here. Father has gone a few days journey and now I am entirely alone, and can assure you that keeping ‘Bachelor’s Hall’ is not the most agreeable mode of living.” After adding some gossip, SCB ended the letter, “Wishing you every happiness that this world can afford. I subscribe myself, your affectionate cousin, SC Bagg”.

A Notman photograph of Catharine Mitcheson Bagg; year unknown; Bagg family collection

SCB and Catharine were first cousins once removed, but if anyone objected to their blood relationship, they must have overcome those objections. They were married three years later, on September 9, 1844, at Grace Church Episcopal Chapel, Philadelphia. Catharine’s brother, now Reverend Robert M. Mitcheson, performed the service.4

They signed a marriage contract several days before the wedding, stipulating that they were to be separate as to property.5 SCB pledged to pay all household expenses and expenses for their children. He stated that he had mortgaged one of the properties he had inherited from his grandfather. If he died before Catharine did, that money would be used to fund a $100-a-year annuity for her, however, if she remarried, she would no longer receive this annual payment. These clauses were designed ensure she would live comfortably, and to protect her from his creditors, but also to protect his property from a second husband if she remarried.

SCB and Catharine settled in Montreal, where he worked as a notary and where he owned extensive property. The couple spent their first year or two of marriage living with SCB’s father in his home, Durham House, while their own house, Fairmount Villa, was under construction nearby. Their first child, Mary Ann Frances Bagg, was born at Durham House on Aug. 19, 1845. She died at age two while they were visiting Catharine’s parents in Philadelphia.6 Twenty years later, SCB wrote a poem about losing his first-born daughter. Here is an excerpt:

Ah! I knew the love of angels 
Not long on earth remain. 
Therefore my sobs of anguish 
Which I could not restrain. 

 When I look’d into the cradle, 
Where my babe in slumber lay; 
I saw its poor, frail body, 
But its soul had passed away.   

And out of my lone window 
I saw the angels soar. 
And between them gently resting 
My precious babe they bore.7

Eventually, the couple went on to have five children, one boy and four girls: Robert Stanley (1848-1912), Katharine Sophia (1850-1938), Amelia Josephine (1852-1943), Mary Heloise (1854-1938) and Helen Frances Mitcheson Bagg (1861-1935.) Fairmount Villa was a large house and it must have been filled with noise and activity for years. SCB probably had to get used to this because his own upbringing had been so different: he was an only child who lived in the countryside, his father was often busy with business and financial concerns, and his mother died when he was 14.

Unfortunately, SCB did not live to witness any of his children’s successes as adults, attend their weddings or enjoy his nine grandchildren. He died of typhoid fever on August 8, 1873, age 53, at Fairmount Villa, surrounded by family members. At the time, son Robert Stanley had recently graduated from law school and was studying in Europe, while his two youngest daughters were still minors.

As adults, the Baggs do not appear to have been a closely knit family, and at one point there was a serious dispute about the management of SCB’s estate. Nevertheless, Robert Stanley Bagg (often with his widowed mother’s input) managed the family real estate business for 27 years, and the Bagg girls grew up to be confident and capable women who travelled extensively and contributed to decisions about and kept track of property sales, and organized large social events.  

See also:

Janice Hamilton, “Reflections on a Great-Great Grandmother,” April 14, 2014 https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/?p=169

Janice Hamilton, “Fanny in Philly,” March 29, 2014  https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/?p=171

Janice Hamilton,  “Mary Mitcheson Clark,” May 16, 2014  https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/?p=164

Janice Hamilton, “Stanley Clark Bagg’s Four Forgotten Daughters”, Sept 30, 2017, http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com/2017/09/stanley-clark-baggs-four-forgotten.html

Janice Hamilton, “My Great-Great Aunts, Montreal Real Estate Developers.” Oct. 11, 2017  https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/?p=88

Janice Hamilton,“A Visit to the Holy Land and Egypt; A Mediterranean Cruise in 1919, part 2,” Nov. 21, 2019, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/?p=46

Janice Hamilton, Helen Frances Bagg, A Happy Exile,” Jan. 6, 2016,  https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/?p=125

Janice Hamilton, “The Life and Times of Stanley Bagg, 1788-1853,” Oct 5,  2016  https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/?p=108

Janice Hamilton, “Stanley Clark Bagg’s Early Years,” Jan. 8, 2020, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2020/01/stanley-clark-baggs-early-years.html

Janice Hamilton, “Fairmount Villa,” Dec. 18, 2019, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2019/12/fairmount-villa.html

Notes and Sources:

  1. Transcription of SCB’s letter, plus notes, probably by grandson Stanley Bagg Lindsay; Lindsay family collection.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Married: Sept. 8 1840 at Durham House by the Rev. Dr. Bethune, William Footner to Mary Maughan;” Mary Maughan’s mother, Elizabeth, was the younger sister of Mary (Mitcheson) Clark and Robert Mitcheson. Source: black notebook listing Bagg and Mitcheson family births, marriages and deaths; private collection.
  4. Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1078, database, Ancestry.com (http://:Ancestry.ca, accessed Dec. 22, 2019,) entry for Stanley Clark Bagg, 9 Sept. 1844; citing Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
  5. Nicholas-Benjamin Doucet, “Marriage entre Stanley Clark Bagg et Catharine Mitcheson,” notarial act # 30488, Sept. 5, 1844, BAnQ. To learn more about the laws of Quebec regarding civil matters, including community of property in marriage, see Bettina Bradbury. Wife to Widow. Lives, Laws and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Montreal. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.
  6. The child’s death is recorded in the Bagg family Bible, Bagg Family Fonds, McCord Museum, Montreal. She died in Philadelphia on Oct. 14, 1847. The funeral was held on Oct. 21, 1847 at Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal, (Ancestry.ca, citing Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin) and she is buried with her parents, grandparents and other family members in the Bagg family crypt, Mount Royal Cemetery.
  7. Stella (pseudonym of Stanley Clark Bagg), Leisure Moments: A Few Poems, Montreal: printed by Daniel Rose, 1871. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=aeu.ark:/13960/t92819p4n&view=1up&seq=10