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History of The Chateau Versailles in Montreal
The greatest of historic Montreal hotels will always have a story to tell – from who has walked through their doors to the unique relationship they have with a city and its history. This holds true for Montreal with the Château Versailles. Our hotel in the heart of the city has 100 years of unique history, as it stands on grounds originally owned by a religious order of distinguished French aristocrats known as the Gentlemen of St. Sulpice.
In 1676, the Sulpicians founded a mission village for Indians on the slope of Mount Royal that comprised of a fort or “priests’ farm,” a Château, and four stone towers surrounded by stone walls. This mission was built at the expense of the Abbe François Vachon de Belmont, who became the Superior of the Seminary in 1701. And, in what was probably a nostalgic attempt to recreate Versailles and the French court of Louis XIV, Monsieur de Belmont also constructed a reflecting pool and formal garden in 1694. Years later, the fortifications that were erected by the Abbe de Belmont were demolished to make way for the Grand Seminaire (1857). The two towers that can still be seen a few feet away from the Château Versailles hotel are the only vestiges of Abbe de Belmont's mission village and are among the oldest existing structures in Montreal.
By the end of the 19th century, Sherbrooke Street had evolved into an avenue lined with majestic trees, elegant townhouses, and the mansions of this young country’s merchant princes. This was Canada’s Fifth Avenue. Most of these splendid mansions and townhouses lay within a charmed area known as the Golden Square Mile. In the early 20th century, 70% of Canada’s wealth was reputed to be concentrated in the blocks surrounded by Sherbrooke Street, Cote des Neiges Road, Pine Avenue, and McTavish Street.
In 1911, James Seath-Smith, architect, art collector, and the owner of the first automobile in Montreal, began the construction of fashionable townhouses at 1657 and 1659 Sherbrooke Street West and later at 1669 and 1671. Owner of the townhouse at 1657, Seath-Smith lavishly decorated his home with woodcarvings, ceiling friezes, Italian-carved marble, and ornate Dutch fireplaces. The Honorable Narcisse Perodeau, fourteenth Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec, owned the latter.
It wasn't until 1958 that Marie-Louise and Andre Villeneuve turned the vintage townhouse at 1669 Sherbrooke Street West into a small hotel called Versailles Lodge. The family later purchased the three adjacent townhouses, thus creating Château Versailles as it now stands, bringing together four distinct homes, styles, and histories.
Today, the Château Versailles hotel, the finest of all historic Montreal hotels, boasts countless antique details, including, among others, 13 original fireplaces with mouldings, high-ceiled rooms with remarkable ceiling friezes, a unique Art Deco lamp, a selection of photographs of past residents, and an antique sewing machine that once belonged to Gabrielle Bernier, a well-known Montreal fashion designer who resided in the townhouse at 1669 Sherbrooke Street.