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Heritage Montreal visits Mount Stephen Club

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--May 9, 2017.

Built in 1882–1884 by W. T. Thomas—the architect who designed Shaughnessy House—Mount Stephen Club building, located in the heart of downtown, is a unique heritage building, by virtue of its history, architecture and remarkable interior decor. In recent years, after having long housed a private club, it underwent work and was converted into a hotel. In early 2016, the media would then report that the structure of the house had been seriously affected by the work, and that major cracks had appeared in its grey stone facade. This raised concern among heritage experts, the Minister of Culture and the Mayor of Montreal.

In response to this alarming situation for the building, which everyone had agreed on the importance of preserving, particularly the hotel owner and promoter of the project, Heritage Montreal:

· called on the Minister of Culture, the City of Montreal and the building owners to urgently meet with recognized independent experts in order to rally around Mount Stephen Club to preserve the building and its unique interior decor;

· through a resolution by its General Assembly, called for skills specific to heritage conservancy to be recognized and required, much like in the field of medicine, both for the design and the execution of work, particularly in the case of high-value and highly-sensitive buildings like Mount Stephen House;

· shed light on the issues and challenges of enhancing rich heritage interiors, such as that of Mount Stephen Club, in a context where efforts have so far focused on building exteriors, during the City Talks lecture in conjunction with the McCord Museum.

Stabilization, repair, and restoration work on Mount Stephen Club building are now complete. This heritage jewel proudly sits at the heart of the hotel, which was inaugurated on May 1st, 2017. On May 3, Heritage Montreal accepted an invitation from the hotel manager, Antoine Naoum, and the specialized architect who was hired by the owners following the events of 2016, Jean-Pierre Grémy, to tour the house.

Essentially, Mount Stephen Club has now regained its heritage integrity. Most of the structural distortions have been corrected by work that was described to us as exceptional by virtue of its scope, complexity and the number of experts that were brought on board —architects, engineers, conservators and specialized craftspeople. Despite concerns we voiced one year ago, the house’s remarkable interior woodwork was meticulously taken apart, reassembled and reinstalled. The emergency interventions even led to some discoveries underneath the 1920 additions.

All the while conscious that certain corrections remain in this very complex dossier, Heritage Montreal is very pleased to see that the actions it posed to ensure the integrity of this rich heritage house were successful. This experience should be used to provide Montrealers—as well as Quebecers and Canadians, given that the building has been recognized by both levels of government—with an understanding of the major challenges of this project, particularly preserving the jewel that is Mount Stephen Club, and that from the perspective of the owners and the experts themselves. We have already proposed to co-organize a public roundtable on this subject with the hotel administration.

As you read these lines, Heritage Montreal finds it important to remind you that the Quebec government is currently preparing its new Cultural policy and is outlining bills 121 and 122, which will provide a new legislative framework for municipalities and for Quebec’s metropolis. At the same time, the City of Montreal is working on the adoption of its Heritage action plan. We truly hope that these initiatives will reflect the lessons learned from the crisis that touched Mount Stephen Club, and will encourage all stakeholders to work together, rather than in opposition, thus ensuring promising, high-quality projects that reflect the value of each heritage site. Specifically, building owners and investors must receive the expertise and creative support needed to meet the challenges of conservation, enhancement and revitalisation of nineteenth- century heritage.

As always, Heritage Montreal will continue to offer its full collaboration.