Description of Historic Place
Senneville Historic District National Historic Site of Canada evolved from a late-19th-century resort village located on the shores of the Lac des Deux-Montagnes, at the western tip of the Île de Montréal. The district comprises more than 1400 acres and includes at least 82 buildings constructed between 1860 and 1930 as part of about a dozen country estates. The main thoroughfare of the district is chemin Senneville, a country road that runs parallel to the shoreline of the lake. The buildings are set well back from the road within large, wooded estates, many of which back onto the lake. The buildings include large manor houses, as well as smaller secondary residences, agricultural outbuildings and landscape elements. The district features a range of picturesque landscapes and Arts & Crafts-inspired architecture. It includes the ruins of Fort Senneville and the Senneville windmill, the Morgan Arboretum, a nature park (l’Anse-à-l’Orme) and an agricultural park (Bois-de-la-Roche) all of which are components of estate lands, as well as Braeside, a late 19th-century golf course. These latter four elements form an extensive greenbelt along the southern and eastern edges of the district which separates it from adjacent residential and industrial development. Official recognition refers to the historic district and its constructed and natural features at the time of designation.
Senneville Historic District was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2001 because:
- it illustrates the synergy created between the major Montréal financiers at the turn of the 20th century and some of the greatest Canadian architects of the period;
- it illustrates the development of Picturesque landscape design, as well as vernacular and Arts and Crafts architecture from 1865 to 1930;
- it includes several recognized examples and masterpieces from the history of Canadian landscape design and architecture.
The estate owners of Senneville were the founders, presidents or directors of some of the largest commercial enterprises of the period, including the Bank of Montreal and the Canadian Pacific Railway. They included: Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott (1821-1893), Mayor of Montréal and Canada’s third Prime Minister; John Lancelot Todd, professor of parasitology at McGill University; Louis-Joseph Forget (1853-1911), a stock broker and Conservative senator; and Montréal bankers Sir Edward Seaborne Clouston (1849-1912) and Richard Bladworth Angus (1831-1922).
The Senneville Historic District includes more than 30 major projects designed by a small group of eminent Montréal architects, landscape architects and urban planners, often working in collaboration with American designers. This group included some of Canada’s greatest architects and designers of the period. They shared a picturesque approach to landscape design, an eclectic approach to architecture and an affinity for the Arts & Crafts Movement. At the heart of the Montréal group were brothers Edward Maxwell (1867-1923) and William Sutherland Maxwell (1874-1952), who designed dozens of Senneville buildings, sometimes working in partnership with Montréal architect George Cutler Shattuck (1864-1923). The 20 Maxwell buildings that survive constitute a unique example in a single location of their work. Montréal architect and professor Percy Erskine Nobbs (1875-1964), in partnership with George Taylor Hyde (1879-1944), designed the buildings and grounds of the J.L. Todd estate. Landscape architect and urban planner Frederick G. Todd (1876-1948), working with American landscape designer Frederick Law Olmsted, designed the grounds of the Abbott/Clouston estate. Olmsted also designed the grounds of the Forget estate. Other eminent Montréal architects responsible for the designs of Senneville buildings included: James & H. Charles Nelson; Kenneth Rea (1878-1941); Harold Edgar Shorey (1886-1971); Samuel Douglas Ritchie (1887-1959); J.R. Hind; Robert Findlay (1859-1951); Frank R. Findlay; and David Shennan.
Built between 1860 and 1926, the Senneville estates and their buildings illustrate the development of the Arts & Crafts movement and Picturesque landscape design during this period in Canada. Because they were created by a small number of owners using a limited group of architects and designers over a relatively concentrated period of time, the buildings and landscapes of Senneville have a strong formal and stylistic coherence.
The Senneville Historic District includes several recognized masterpieces of Canadian architecture and landscape design, including “Bois-de-la-Roche”, the Château-style residence built by Senator Louis-Joseph Forget; and the J.L. Todd estate.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, 2001.
Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
- the large estates located along chemin de Senneville built and improved upon between 1865 and 1930, particularly those in the Arts & Crafts style set within picturesquely landscaped grounds;
- dwellings and ancillary buildings which illustrate the development between 1865 and 1930 of Arts & Crafts and vernacular architecture, including: the Dow house (140 Senneville; 1885); the J.B. Abbott house, “Hillcote” (149-65 Senneville; 1900 and 1920); the house and former stable of the J.L. Todd estate (180 Senneville; 1911-13); the D.F. Angus house, “Chatblanc” (200 Senneville; 1926); five ancillary buildings on the R.B. Angus estate (216-19 Senneville; 1895-1903; Peach House, a small country house, the caretaker’s house, a greenhouse and a barn); the house at 246 Senneville (1894); the Frederick Cleveland Morgan house, “Le Bousquet” (264 Senneville; 1912); the chapel, cowshed and other ancillary buildings (292 Senneville; 1901-02) at the Senator Louis-Joseph Forget estate; and ancillary buildings at the estate of Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott (later owned by Sir Edward Seaborne Clouston), “Bois-Briant” (168-70 Senneville) including: the caretaker’s house (1900), the ice house (1899), and the dairy (1899);
- dwellings and ancillary buildings in other popular turn of the 20th century architectural styles which illustrate the synergy between major Montréal financiers and Canada’s pre-eminent architects, including: the Neo-gothic, Charles Meredith house, “Bally Bawn” (202 Senneville; 1750, 1864, 1897, 1902, and 1909); the Shingle-style, E.M. Angus house, “Wanklyn” (238 Senneville; 1898 and 1908); the Neo-Tudor, Harry Abbott house, “Birchfield” (240 Senneville; 1892, 1899, and 1910); the Chateau-style, Senator Louis-Joseph Forget house, “Bois-de-la-Roche” (292 Senneville); and the Neo-Gothic Abbott/Clouston house, “Bois-Briant” (168-70 Senneville; 1860-5, 1899-1902);
- grounds and landscape features which illustrate the development between 1865 and 1930 of Picturesque landscape design, including: the J.L. Todd estate with its tea house; the F. C. Morgan estate; the Abbott/Clouston estate with its pergola and the ruins of a 17th century mill and an 18th century fort, and the Senator Louis-Joseph Forget estate;
- the setback of most residences from the shore of Lac des Deux Montagnes and from chemin de Senneville;
- the siting and landscaping of most residences, which prevents a view to the buildings from chemin Senneville;
- picturesque parkland formerly associated with estates at Senneville, including: the Morgan Arboretum (1912-45), the Braeside golf course (c 1898), Anse-à-l’Orme nature park, and Bois-de-la-Roche agricultural park;
- buildings which illustrate the design work of architects Edward and William S. Maxwell, including: “Bois-Briant” and its ancillary buildings (168-70 Senneville); “Bally Bawn” (202 Senneville); ancillary buildings at the estate of R.B. Angus (216-19 Senneville); “Wanklyn” (238 Senneville);“Birchfield” (240 Senneville); the residence at 246 Senneville; and “Bois-de-la-Roche” and its ancillary buildings (292 Senneville);
- buildings, structures and landscapes which illustrate the design work of Percy Erskine Nobbs and George T. Hyde, including: the J.L. Todd house, its ancillary buildings and its landscaped grounds;
- grounds and landscape features which illustrate the work of landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Frederick G. Todd, including the Abbott/Clouston estate; and the Forget estate;
- viewscapes of estates and their primary dwellings to and from the lake, such as the Dow House, the J.L. Todd estate, and the Charles Meredith house, “Bally Bawn”.