In the novel Bonheur d’occasion by Gabrielle Roy, Florentine’s mother goes there when little Daniel’s health is failing. The Saint-Henri district has changed a lot since then, but the doctor’s house is still there and it is looking for new occupants.
In the rue du Couvent, you can recognize the residence by the red cross which adorns the stained glass window above the door. From its construction in 1874 to the 1980s, it was inhabited by a local doctor who received his patients in his office on the ground floor. At the time of the publication of Bonheur d’occasion in 1945, Dr. Charles-Émile Lalonde was practicing there. Regularly, guides who offer a literary circuit in the working-class Saint-Henri of the time stop with their group in front of this house, recognizable by its red brick facade decorated with a frieze and its false slate attic with two skylights.
Jo-Ann Kane and Philippe Gervais moved there 11 years ago, becoming the third non-doctor owners. The house, one of the few detached houses in the area, belonged to a friend of Ms. Kane’s, but she had never set foot there. She visited it for the first time when he put it up for sale. “It was an instant crush, we bought it,” she remembers.
The four-bedroom property – or even five if you include a walk-in closet that could be transformed into a small bedroom or a second full bathroom – is laid out over two floors. The living areas, surmounted by high ceilings, are on the ground floor.
Over time, the house has changed, without being distorted. The space probably used for the medical office and its waiting room became the living room and the dining room. The woodwork was painted white to brighten the space. The current owners replaced the front windows with others that more closely matched the style of the original windows. They installed a gas fireplace in place of the old electric fireplace while retaining the chimney breast. Finally, five years ago, they completely renovated the kitchen after thinking a lot about its organization and they knocked down a wall that separated it from a small room at the back, where the kitchen was probably located. era. It is the most modern room in the house with its black cabinets combined with walnut, its Spanish quartz countertop and its hidden appliances.
Despite this shaping and reshaping, traces of the past remain: the cast iron heaters, the ornate wooden staircase and its sculpture, the service staircase at the back, the stained glass windows at the entrance, the plaster rosettes on the ceiling and even the old coal chute hidden behind a partition in the ground floor bathroom. In 2014, the property received one of the Public Favorite awards from the Saint-Henri Historical Society, which aim to recognize efforts to preserve the architectural qualities of houses in the neighborhood. “I am very respectful of heritage, through the work that I do,” says Jo-Ann Kane, who is an art collection management consultant. “Philippe has always loved history, so both of us were keen to keep the heritage and not do anything. »
Once installed, they took the time to tame the house, to live in it and to understand its light before changing anything. The light is not discreet in this house. It enters abundantly in the afternoon through the windows at the front, facing west, and upstairs, through two skylights, creating a soothing ambiance in the immaculate white interior. This light is Mr. Gervais’ favorite. “I really enjoy sitting in the living room in the winter, on a Friday after work or on Saturdays and Sundays at the end of the day. The light is beautiful. It’s cold outside, but we’ve got the fire. »
If so much daylight penetrates there, it is because in front of the house there is a primary school, which is set back far enough not to block the sun’s rays. Despite the usual back-to-school hubbub, this school is, according to him, an asset. “They are not there in the evenings, weekends and summer, they are neighbors who do not make noise. »
Calm also settles in the back, in the courtyard, surrounded by mature trees. “I invested a lot of hours in it,” emphasizes Ms. Kane, who regretfully leaves it when life takes them elsewhere. “Since there’s no alley, it’s like a garden. There is no back and forth. It is a haven of peace. »
There is therefore no private parking. However, assure the owners, it is a street where, with a sticker, it is easy to park. A street that Gabrielle Roy described as a “small peaceful avenue, lined with bourgeois houses”. If this has not changed, it is different for the neighborhood, working during the war and subject to dirt and the incessant passage of noisy trains. Today, Saint-Henri is popular for its neighborhood life, its restaurants and its proximity to the Lachine Canal, the Atwater market, the city center and even the McGill University Health Center. If a doctor wanted to buy the property and move in, the circle would be complete!