by Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca
The land on which the house stands was originally part of the estate of Simon McTavish in the Golden Square Mile. In 1860, his heirs subdivided the land and sold it off in several large plots. Ship owner and financier, Andrew Allan, purchased one these plots just south of the fourteen acre plot purchased by his brother, Sir Hugh Allan, on which Ravenscrag (today: Allan Memorial Institute) was built in 1863. In 1888, Andrew gave a parcel of this land to his youngest daughter, Isabella Brenda on the occasion of her marriage to Sir Vincent Meredith, who would become the first Canadian-born President of the Bank of Montreal and in 1916 was created the 1st Baronet of Montreal. After their marriage, the Merediths lived on Sherbrooke Street in the house
next door to the Van Horne Mansion. In 1894, they commissioned architects Edward & William Sutherland Maxwell to build them a house on the land gifted to them by Andrew Allan on Pine Avenue at the corner of Upper Peel Street. The home, which they named Ardvarna, was completed in 1897, and is considered to be an example of Queen Anne revival-style architecture, with some features resembling Richardsonian Romanesque. However, its facade reveals a multitude of architectural influences making it an admirable example of Victorian eclecticism. The turreted mansion is faced in brick, sandstone, granite and terra cotta, all red. In 1914, a large addition was built to the west of the central tower, again done by the Maxwell brothers. Two open-air verandas at the
rear of the house, gave uninterrupted views down over Montreal, the St. Lawrence River and onto the Green Mountains of Vermont.
During World War I, the Ladies of the Square Mile tirelessly raised money for the troops and some like Lady Meredith opened their homes to injured soldiers returning from Europe.
Vincent Meredith’s brother, Charles, lived in the house immediately to the west of his home and their cousin, Frederick Meredith, lived only a few houses further down from them, also on Pine Avenue.
When Sir Vincent died in 1929, Lady Meredith continued to live in the residence, until 1941 when she gave it to the Royal Victoria Hospital for use as a nurses’ residence. McGill acquired the house in 1975, but shared it with the Hospital for many years. In 1990, McGill’s Centre for Medicine, Ethics, and Law and the McGill Pulmonary Research Lab were both housed into the residence, now called the Lady Meredith House.
On January 7, 1990, the edifice was broken into and the old mansion was set on fire. Fortunately, the fire department and McGill responded quickly and there was minimal structural damage. McGill decided to renovate Ardvarna to its original elegance and hired Julia Gersovitz, a McGill graduate and professor, and her firm, Gersovitz, Becker, and Moss for the project.
The Lady Meredith House, located at 1110 Pine Avenue West at the corner of Peel Street, was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada November 16, 1990.
Sources: Groundspeak, Inc., McGill University