R.B. Angus House

240, later 3450 Drummond Street, Montreal, Quebec

Completed in 1884, for Richard Bladworth Angus (1831-1922) and his wife, Mary Anne Daniels (1833-1913). Situated on the west side of Upper Drummond Street immediately south of Belvidere, it enjoyed views over and beyond the river and down to Boucherville on the north east; the Lachine Rapids to the west; and, Mount Royal to its rear. It was designed by the father-and-son duo John W. & Edward C. Hopkins and on completion a contemporary report suggested it, "would, undoubtedly, hold its own in the opinion of a connoisseur, for beauty, solidity, and architectural finish, among any of its class in Canada". It remained in the Angus family until 1949 when it was acquired by McGill University as their Conservatory of Music until it was demolished in 1957....

This house is best associated with...

Richard Bladworth Angus

R.B. Angus, Co-Founder of the C.P.R., President of the Bank of Montreal etc.


Mary (Daniels) Angus

Mrs Mary Anne (Daniels) Angus


Donald Forbes Angus

D. Forbes Angus, Chairman of Standard Life Assurance etc.


Mary (Henshaw) Angus

Mrs Mary Ethel (Henshaw) Angus


Richard B. Angus was a native of Bathgate in Scotland and began his career in England with the Manchester & Liverpool Bank. In the same year that he married his wife (1857) he emigrated to Montreal and joined the Bank of Montreal (which then acted as Canada's national bank). He worked at the bank's offices in Chicago and New York before being appointed General Manager of the whole bank from 1869 to 1879. Entering the railroad business, he briefly lived in Minnesota working with James J. Hill before returning to Montreal where he formed a 'formidable' partnership with Lord Mount Stephen as they co-founded the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 - "the world's greatest transportation system". He was Vice-President of the C.P.R. but twice side-stepped its presidency and twice turned down a knighthood. In 1910, he did however accept the presidency of the Bank of Montreal (soon to become America's third largest bank) before retiring in 1913.

A Victorian Classic with No Expense Spared

Once his fortune was secured by 1882 Angus was careful to build a home rich in detail that focused on quality and craftsmanship. He purchased the land from Robert W. Reford who had recently bought the next house up the hill, Belvidere. Classically Victorian in style with its high gables, tower and bay windows, the Angus house stood three stories high over a raised basement. The principal bulk of the house measured 74-by-65-feet and was attached to an almost identical but smaller wing of 40-by-37 feet. It was built with pressed Philadelphia brick and Credit Valley and Pembroke redstone trimmings for the window and door surrounds that were relieved with an inlay of carved Ohio stone.

A Profusion of Richly Carved Woods

All the rooms on the ground floor including the service wing and staircase followed a corresponding layout: the lower four-feet of any of all of the walls were panelled/wainscotted in various woods depending on the room and above the wainscotting (also called the dado) they were lined with silks and satins in various shades and patterns.

The main entrance to the house was through a redstone porch flanked by two polished granite columns with richly carved caps and a moulded arch of carved foliage overhead. Once inside, the vestibule with its patterned oak floor and carved oak columns opened up into a spacious hall, floored and panelled in polished oak with a beamed ceiling and lined with bronze silk. There was a large open fireplace with a carved oak mantel and stained glass in the windows and doors. The staircase was also of oak and each of the doors off the hall that led to the principal reception rooms were flanked by carved columns.

Music Room, Drawing Room & Library

To the left of the hall, the Music Room (13-by-12-feet) opened directly onto the Drawing Room (37-by-23-feet) where again the floor and wainscotting were in oak. The walls were lined with a pattern of white and gold silk while the ceiling beams were infilled with "Linecrusta" (a deeply embossed wall-lining) painted a very delicate shade of pale blue picked out with gold. The ceiling beams, windows and door dressings were all made of "Prima Vera" - highly polished white mahogany. To the right of the hall was the library/reception room, a corner of which occupied the lower tower. It was finished in rich dark mahogany with built-in bookcases and the walls were lined with silver/gray silk.

Dining Room, Breakfast Room & Service Wing

A pair of double doors in the hall folded back to reveal the 30-by-22-foot Dining Room. It was finished in polished mahogany and followed a similar style to the Drawing Room and Library. The chimney-piece, sideboard, and side-tables were fitted into their positions within the room with the wainscotting. At the end of the room, another door opened onto a corridor that led to the service wing from which the first door on the left - opposite the Dining Room - opened into the Breakfast Room finished in polished black walnut. The service wing contained the butler's pantry, kitchens, a serving room, offices and various other staff rooms, all of which followed the same style as the rest of the ground floor.

Upstairs, Downstairs

The first floor was similar to the ground floor with a large landing wainscotted in oak - the same size as the hall below - off from which was "a charming boudoir" and a number of large bedrooms, dressing rooms, bathrooms, linen closets and storage rooms. The landing also led through to the Billiard Room on the first floor of the service wing. Aside from being the largest room in the house in regards to length, width and height, it also enjoyed the most light and the best outlook. Next to it was, "a lavatory etc., fitted up in the most complete manner" and the servant's staircase that connected all four floors. On the third floor were further bedrooms, dressing rooms and bathrooms that over the main house were for family and guests, and in the wing were for servants. The large and light basement was reserved for laundries, wine cellars, furnace and fuel rooms.

Gardens, Conservatory & Stables

Being on a slope, the gardens were terraced and measured roughly 300-by-180-feet. On the house itself, the south-facing verandah was 45-feet long and 10-feet wide and gave a fine view down over Sherbrooke Street and to the St. Lawrence River beyond. Angus had a passion for floriculture, particularly his beloved orchids, and the house featured an "elegant and shapely" conservatory - made entirely of galvanised iron and glass - that could be accessed from either the Veranda, Drawing Room or Breakfast Room. It had its own furnace, heating apparatus and pipes as did the adjoining "Forcing Room" - a greenhouse in the same style in which plants were artificially hastened in their growth. The stables, coachhouse and cottage were all contained in one building (a corner of which is seen in the left of the main picture) built in the same style as the main house.

Guest's Impressions and an "Exquisite Little Dance"

One of their first guests was Lady Clara Rayleigh (wife of Lord Rayleigh) who was visiting Montreal on behalf of the British Association in the summer of 1884: "Mr Angus' house... has much beautiful carved wood about it, but the houses are kept so dark on account of the heat and flies, that one can hardly see well enough to appreciate these beauties". Another guest noted that: "No two apartments were at all alike, and yet we could always feel that no matter in what room we might be, we were still in the same house, a fact which one can hardly realize in very many of the palatial residences of the present day".

In February, 1897, the Montreal Herald reported "the social event of this week was no doubt the exquisite little dance given by Mrs R.B. Angus. Mrs Angus' hospitality has been ever noted for its lavish refinement. With such a beautiful home... little difficulty is encountered in giving a thoroughly successful entertainment. Exquisite pictures, rare bric-a-brac, choice hangings all combined to make an ideal setting... At about nine o'clock the guests began to arrive and the dancing was kept up to a late hour. The supper was served in the dining room at midnight, the room and supper table were decorated in lavish profusion with pink azaleas. The greenhouses that were exquisitely lighted with electric light presented a fairy-like appearance and formed a cool retreat for the dancers".

"He Collected on a Small Scale and Well"

Along with the likes of Lord Strathcona, Sir William Van Horne and Sir George Drummond, Angus was among the most active members - and a President of - the Art Association of Montreal. They were eager to increase Montreal's cultural identity on the world stage while also demonstrating themselves to be the city's "arbiters of elegance".

Angus began collecting art in the 1870s and according to Janet Brooke in Obsession: Sir William Van Horne's Japanese Ceramics, "he collected on a small scale and well, if rather conservatively, beginning with French Academic and Hague School pictures" principally acquired from dealers in London, Paris and Glasgow. His collection grew to contain several fine examples of the Old Masters as well as a number of contemporary artists. As a whole, it was typical of the great Victorian collections emphasizing on 17th Century Holland, 18th Century England and 19th Century France, chiefly comprised of works by Bosboom, Maris, Weissenbruch, Israels, Rembrandt, Reynolds, and Raeburn.

Angus' collection also included Italian Renaissance paintings, terracottas and bronzes, which according to Silvia Sorbelli demonstrated in Montreal, "a relatively unusual appreciation of the diversity of subject matter in Renaissance art... Perhaps most significantly, in his bronzes, he acknowledged, as was not common among Montreal collectors, the fascination with antique 'mythology' that had played such a key role in the unfolding of art and other forms of cultural production in Renaissance Italy".

Angus was not merely content to collect for the sake of collecting as evidenced by an article that appeared in The New York Times in 1897. A "New York artist" (who preferred to remain nameless) paid Montreal high praise when he spoke, "in the most extravagant terms of several private collections there, saying that more thought and study are brought to the gathering of those than is met with on this side of the line. He illustrates how last year Sir William Van Horne and R.B. Angus, the railroad magnates, spent three months in Spain studying the Spanish Titians. The year previous they and several other art fanciers were in Italy four months. In contrast to this painstaking jaunt to seek what is good the speaker illustrated how the average New Yorker puts in about three weeks in the capitals of Europe, giving commissions to dealers or buying right and left haphazard. This last mentioned class does not, he says, aim at Fuller, Bonner, Johnson, or Chapman".

Facing the Music

Angus outlived his wife and lived a full and active life for 91-years, even embarking on a tour of Europe at the age of ninety. When he died in 1922 his eldest son, D. Forbes Angus, moved into No. 240 (that was shortly after renumbered 3450 Drummond Street) with his wife, Mary Henshaw, and their four sons. He made no structural changes, but moved his father's paintings by Alphonse Jongers to the library and the staircase.

In 1941, the Angus' lost their youngest son, Alexander, in an air accident while he was training for combat in World War II with the Royal Canadian Air Force. His funeral was held at the family home and less than two years later his father died too. In 1949, the widowed Mrs D. Forbes Angus gave the mansion to McGill University, becoming their new Conservatory of Music after the old Workman House at Sherbrooke & University (its previous home since 1902) was torn down. Just eight years later (1957) the Angus house was sold to a developer and demolished. It was replaced by yet another bland high-rise apartment block (originally called "The Drummond" and now "Le Parc"), utterly devoid of anything even approaching the character and workmanship of what had stood in its place.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 06/01/2022 and last updated on 06/10/2023.
Montreal Weekly Witness, May 7 1884; Obsession: Sir William Van Horne's Japanese Ceramics (2018) edited by Ron Graham; Living in Style: Fine Furniture in Victorian Quebec (1993) John R. Porter and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; Renaissance Art in Montreal (2010), by Silvia Sorbelli; The R.B. Angus Art Collection Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings by Gloria Lesser in the Journal of Canadian Art History; Montreal as an Art Center (April 10, 1897) The New York Times; 


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