Manor back from the brink

juin 3, 2011

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Hidden from the thousands of motorists who pass by it every day on Côte-des-Neiges stands
a Montreal architectural treasure that few of us have ever seen. Thompson Manor, a jewel in the crown of the city’s most luxurious mansions, is entirely surrounded by fieldstone walls and two
large apartment complexes, the landmark Gleneagles and Trafalgar Apartments.
The red-brick mansion was built in 1907 by architect John Rawson Gardiner on the slopes of Mount Royal for James Gardner Thompson, a successful insurance dealer.
In the 1980s, it was abandoned and soon become a flop house for squatters who vandalized
and looted the interior, then set a number of fires that threatened to burn down the building. The manor was in a dilapidated condition. Then a developer bought the property in 1999, (along
with the neighbouring Sparrow Manor), with the intent of tearing both mansions down and building a 10-storey condominium tower in their place.
That plan was stopped in 2002 after the Quebec Ministry of Culture classified the entire islet (including Sparrow Manor and the Gleneagles and Trafalgar Apartments) as a historic site.
Local heritage conservation groups including Les Amis de la Montagne, Heritage Montreal and the Centre for Canadian Architecture forced the government to reconsider and the authorities
decided to save the manor from the wrecker’s ball by giving it historic status.
The estate was purchased privately, shortly after it received its protective status, and in 2005-07, the owner initiated major exterior and interior renovations, that brought the mansion back from the brink of demolition and to its former, original glory.
The result is that this opulent mansion has been transformed to its original grandeur, and is being listed for sale by Sotheby’s International Realty Quebec for a cool $7.875 million.
“The mansion was in complete disrepair before renovation,” explained Liza Kaufman, a broker/partner with Sotheby’s International Realty Quebec, who is listing the manor. “It was dilapidated and in terrible condition. It was almost at the point of being unsalvageable. We came
so close to losing this beautiful property.”
The new owner (who wishes to remain anonymous), was supposed to move into the newly restored manor but, “it took so long to get the permits for the renovation that he had to make other plans for his living accommodations. So he ended up moving elsewhere and put the restored Thompson Manor on the market, as well as the restored Sparrow Manor, which
he also owns,” said Kaufman. The exterior brick facade of the manor and the slate and copper roof were renovated in keeping with its original Edwardian style of construction and historic guidelines, using Gothic elements (such as the high chimneys) and limited use of ornamentation
that was typical of earlier Victorian style architecture.
The manor has five outside galleries with majestic views of Mount Royal, the St. Lawrence
River and the city. The windows and doors are all new and custom built to historical specifications. Other outside features include a classic coach house and loft that can be used
for additional living space. Below this are a three-car garage and a spacious courtyard
with exquisite landscaping, including mature evergreen and hardwood trees and gardens.
It boasts large wroughtiron entrance gates and an alarm system. Inside, Thompson manor
boasts an opulent and humongous living space of more than 10,000-square feet in which no detail was overlooked, from the extensive use of black walnut and wooden panelling throughout,
to the heated marble and slate floors in the bathrooms, kitchen and basement. There
are seven fireplaces with custom, intricately hand-carved, cream-coloured Travertine
marble mantles. It has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, two powder rooms, a huge, fully equipped eat-in gourmet kitchen with granite counter tops and top-of-the-line appliances,
a 5,000-bottle wine cellar and wine-testing room built of mahogany, a wet bar, a home theatre, solarium, a basement-to-attic dumb waiter, gym, cigar lounge, a den, an attic and basement.
All the plumbing, electrical, ventilation and central vacuum systems are completely
new. “I think there is consideration that it may make a good consulate, because it’s a
grand manor with lots of room for entertaining and it has a gated entrance way.
Even though it is a home with huge historical significance, it is brand new. It has all the
modern conveniences but the beauty of a stately manor,” explained the broker.
Kaufman believes that there is no reason why this property shouldn’t be standing for another 104 years or more as a result of it being saved. “It’s absolutely imperative to preserve our architectural heritage,” Kaufman said. Where would Rome or Paris be today if the locals
had destroyed all their ancient buildings? Only a person with an appreciation for architectural preservation and deep pockets could have done justice to this property. Thank God this man came along!” When James Gardner Thompson had his home built, he gave the estate the
Gaelic title of Fan-na Greine Estate, which translates into The Sun Always Shines
Here. Considering that Thompson Manor was almost certainly ground into the earth
and then reborn once again as an elegant mansion, this title couldn’t be any closer to
the truth.

Robert J. Galbraith for the Gazette