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Charles Hosmer House

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by Dick Nieuwendyk

Charles Rudolph Hosmer was born in 1851 at Coteau-Landing, Quebec. He was a self-made entrepreneur who began working as a telegraphist with the Grand Trunk Railway Telegraph Company, later joining the Dominion Telegraph Company of which he became superintendent and then president. In 1880, he was appointed General Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway Telegraph Service.

Charles Hosmer House - 1901 ( Notman Archive - McCord Museum)
Charles Hosmer House – 1901 ( Notman Archive – McCord Museum)

In 1901, Hosmer commissioned Edward Maxwell, one of Canada’s most renowned architects who, with his brother William, designed the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, to design a mansion for him on Drummond Street.

The house, made of orange sandstone, shows the influence of the Paris Beaux Arts and has an ornate facade in a distinctly French style. The interior featured a different style in each room. The library, done in rosewood, resembled the Renaissance style. The reception room was done in the Rococo style of Louis XVI, and the entrance hall and main staircase showed the grandeur of the Baroque.

Recently, more than thirty original, Renaissance, stained glass panels were discovered in the windows and door panes of the mansion. They have since been reinstalled in the Macdonald-Harrington Building, enhancing the glass walls of the offices of the School of Architecture.

Even though, since the 1870s, the Windsor had been Montreal’s pre-eminent hotel, Hosmer felt the city needed a “first class residential hotel”, which catered not only to the 25,000 residents of what was then called the Golden Square Mile, an area which was said to have contained more than 70 percent of Canada’s entire wealth, but also to their business associates and visiting European guests. Having seen the success of the Hôtel Ritz in Paris started by his friend César Ritz, Hosmer set into motion the creation of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. With the support of Sir Herbert Holt, Sir Montagu Allan, and Sir Charles Gordon Blair, he formed the Carlton Hotel Company of Montreal.

A plot of land on Sherbrooke Street was purchased from Charles Meredith, who became the fifth partner in the Company. Construction began in 1911 and the hotel opened in 1912. They named the hotel after London’s celebrated Carlton.

By the end of his life, Hosmer had numerous business affiliations, being a director of twenty-six companies including the Bank of Montreal, the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Halifax and Bermuda Cable Company, and the West Indies Cable Company. He was also president of Canadian Cottons Ltd. and the Ogilvie Flour Mills Company.  Hosmer died at Montreal in 1927, leaving $20 million to his two children.

Charles Hosmer House - 2013 ( Photo: Dick Nieuwendyk)
Charles Hosmer House – 2013 ( Photo: Dick Nieuwendyk)

The Hosmer House was bought by McGill in 1969 and now houses the Department of Physical and Occupational Therapy. Over the years the exterior of the house has not changed much. Most of the rooms have been altered to suit the building’s new function, but the original concept is still evident.

The Hosmer House is located on 3630 Drummond Street.

Source: Heritage Montreal – McGill Archives

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