The story behind a piece of Quebec anglophone history, and its $25M price tag

Click to play video: 'Historic Westmount mansion on market for $25M'
Historic Westmount mansion on market for $25M
WATCH: One of the oldest homes in Westmount is for sale.The nine thousand square foot Braemar House was built in 1847. The current owner has lovingly restored it but feels it's now time to move on. Global's Tim Sargeant reports – Apr 19, 2023

A piece of Quebec’s anglo history is up for grabs in Montreal, but its price tag isn’t for the faint of heart.

The asking price for Braemar House, as the property is known, is a whopping $25 million.

The house is nestled on a hill, away from the street, on Westmount’s The Boulevard.

The City of Westmount is located as the name implies, on the southwestern slope of Montreal’s Mont-Royal. It’s known as a predominately anglophone enclave and is home to some of the most affluent neighbourhoods in the country.

Inside Braemar’s expansive interior are seven bedrooms, eight bathrooms, a powder room, six fireplaces and a chef’s kitchen.

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Braemar House was built in 1847 in the Regency style, which was popular at the time.

It is now one of the few remaining Regency cottages in the Montreal area, according to Quebec’s Culture and Communications Ministry. On its webpage devoted to Braemar House, the ministry says most Regency housing left in the province is found in eastern Quebec.

In a co-listing by Bunny Berke of Profusion Realty and Garen Simonyan of Groupe Sutton-Excellence, the building is described as a Regency-style plantation home, which is more typical in tropical climates.

The stately verandas that wrap around the house on both the main floor and the second level are among its most distinctive features. The upper balcony also offers a stunning view of the St. Lawrence River down below and miles beyond.

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Humpback whale spotted swimming in St. Lawrence

Brokers, however, are banking on more than the home’s architectural allure to make a sale, by highlighting Braemar’s intriguing past.

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The real estate listing suggests one of the dwellings’ early owners was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria. It is believed she may have named it Braemar “after the village in Scotland near Victoria’s beloved Balmoral Castle.”

In a 2015 article detailing the extensive preservation and restoration efforts by opera singer Sharon Azrieli, who purchased Braemar in 2010, the Westmount Historical Association specified that Eliza Jane Ross was a lady-in-waiting to the Queen when she visited a castle in Scotland by the same name.

The government, however, while acknowledging a woman named Eliza Lane Ross likely named Braemar in honour of Queen Victoria, makes no mention of a royal connection.

Likewise, the city of Montreal, recognizes that Ross gave the home its name but doesn’t allude to the queen at all. Instead, the city explains how Braemar translated from Gaelic means hillside beauty.

Nonetheless, a list of early owners of the property reads like a who’s who of Montreal’s Anglo community at the time.

In 1846, John Eadie, an actuary at the head office of the Saving Bank of Montreal and William Footner, a wine and food merchant purchased a vast piece of rural land.

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The following year, Braemar and its twin house Clairevue were built. William Footner’s son, whose large body of work as an architect includes Montreal’s Marché Bonsecours with George Browne, is also believed to have laid out the plans for Braemar. Although, the city of Montreal says it may actually have been Browne’s work.

While Braemar stood the test of time, Clairevue was demolished at least 100 years ago. In its place is The Study — a private girls’ school.

In 1850, the ministry says Eadie sold Braemar to John Redpath, remembered now by most Montrealers for his sugar empire. Redpath turned around and sold the home the same year to T.C. Morgan — a Montreal merchant.

Morgan stayed on until 1866 when Ross took over and gave it its official name.

Ross kept Braemar until 1880, at which time the ministry says it changed hands frequently. Among the notable owners were Thomas Carie Panton – a wine and food merchant, and Peter Alfred Thompson, vice-president of Nesbitt Thompson and Company Limited. Thompson owned Braemar from 1925 until his death in 1958.

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Touring Montreal’s history with a new app

In 1984, the Quebec government recognized the home as a historic monument but it was classified as a heritage building in 2012, under the Cultural Heritage Act.

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The ministry says Braemar’s importance stems not only from its architectural value but also because of its history.

The house represents a time of great transformation in Montreal in the mid-19th Century, when farms that dotted the landscape were gradually being replaced with “vast bourgeois residences, like Braemar,” the ministry said.

Its historical significance is also linked to the people who lived there – part of Montreal’s business elite. The house stands as a “witness,” the ministry said, to their way of life.

Its heritage designation means work done on the property is subject to city of Westmount regulations as well as those of the ministry. The status applies to the interior and exterior of the home, as well as to the land.

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