There’s nothing rich people enjoy more than lording it over the rest of us, especially when they can do so literally. Montreal began life as a provincial fur-trading village, but as it grew in wealth and prestige, the richest and most powerful members of society started to build fabulous mansions on the slopes of Mont Royal, in a neighborhood which would eventually be coined the “Golden Square Mile.”
The Golden Square Mile is found north of downtown, between Rue Sherbrooke and Mont Royal. The neighborhood’s fortunes have mirrored those of the city; when Montreal was a wealthy industrial powerhouse, roughly between 1850 and 1930, the Golden Square Mile was grand beyond belief. But after the Great Depression, WWII and the ensuing deindustrialization, Montreal lost much of its prestige, and its Golden Mile was hit hard. Today, less than 30% of the neighborhood’s original mansions have survived.
Luckily, there’s still plenty to see. We walked up Rue Peel, and explored the roads which lead onto the mountain. Streets like the Avenue des Pins and Docteur-Penfield are studded with one magnificent residence after the other. Most of the homes are built with stone (sandstone or granite), and designed in a wide variety of styles, from Gothic to Romanesque.
Some of the best houses are found on a circular road called Redpath Crescent, which is about as high up the hill as it’s possible to build. Each building on this street is unique, and each enjoys a fabulous view over the city. We noticed one stately manor with a “For Sale” sign, and let out a sigh. We’re starting to accept that we’ll never be able to afford such a place. Youthful hope has been replaced in our hearts with resigned envy. And that’s okay. It had to happen at some point.