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James-Edward-Major Mansion (Fulford Residence)

1221, Guy Street, Montréal


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Published on : July 22 2021

Last modified on : May 10 2024

The Fulford House was built in 1854. Since 1890, it has been dedicated to the housing and care of women. The Fulford residence closed in 2021 and has been vacant since.

As a heritage building, its physical survival alone is remarkable, as it is still a living and functioning relic of an entirely different era in the otherwise completely changed downtown Montreal. It is a unique witness to Montreal’s past, both in terms of its period architecture, but also in terms of its continued social and care vocation since 1890.

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Vue d’ensemble, résidence Fulford

Source: Brian Merrett, 2021

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Balcon couvert, résidence Fulford

Source: Brian Merrett, 2021

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Salle à manger communautaire, résidence Fulford

Source: Brian Merrett, 2021


History of the site

Built on the farmland of Étienne Guy, a notary and surveyor, the Fulford House, painted forest green with a beautiful front verandah, was originally called “Erin Cottage” when it was built around 1854 by John Edward Major to the designs of the young architect Thomas Seaton Scott (1836-1895), which was in fact his first major commission.

The founder of the residence was Mary Fulford, wife of Francis Fulford, Anglican bishop of the Montreal diocese from 1850 until his death in 1868. Through her well-established British family ties and as the Bishop’s wife, Mrs. Fulford had the influence, means and social energy to establish the Church Home, initially a temporary shelter for young immigrant and friendless women, first on St. Dominique Street in 1855, then on Aylmer Street in 1864 before moving permanently to Guy Street in 1890.

Mary Fulford returned to England in 1868 following the death of her husband, where she died in 1873. In 1869, Bishop Ashton Oxenden took over the management of the Church Home, transforming it from a home for residents with independent incomes to an institution for “ladies in precarious circumstances” and finally for convalescents from the Montreal General Hospital. Then, in 1890, the institution became a residence for elderly ladies and moved to Guy Street, where it remains today.

In Quebec, health and welfare initiatives of this kind were almost exclusively outside the realm of government management or funding until the 20th century. They were either created and managed by religious institutions – the Roman Catholic Church in the French-speaking milieu – or by charitable initiatives of private citizens in the Protestant and English-speaking milieu. These projects were often led by women, whose legacy, in the case of the Church Home / Fulford Residence as elsewhere, has been carried on through the active involvement of benefactors and volunteer supporters in the community to this day.


After having served the community for over 130 years, the COVID-19 pandemic weakened the institution that is the Fulford residence. Indeed, after having managed to avoid an outbreak of cases within its walls, an outbreak in January 2021 reached the residents as well as the staff. Of the thirty or so residents, about a third died, sending shockwaves through the heart of this tight-knit community. Moreover, unable to fill the vacancies and being a non-profit organization, the management of the residence is forced to close its doors by September 2021.

The families were shocked by the announcement of this closure and campaigned hard to find solutions to this decision of the Board of the not-for-profit owning Corporation, with a citizen’s movement led by Christopher Holcroft, the son of a resident at the Fulford, which sought to mobilize support to save not only the heritage building, but also its social purpose.

If, in the end, the Fulford Residence cannot continue as a residence for elderly women, then the not-for-profit owning corporation should give careful and active consideration to other proposals for its repurposing, provided such projects are implemented with respectful consideration for the heritage qualities of the building and, ideally, with a bias towards a project with a social and community-based vocation.

While it may no longer suit the health care standards for a health care residential facility, the building is in remarkably good shape. And so it is very possible that other organisations could take over the building to serve innovative and sustainable social and community based purposes that are consistent with Mrs. Fulford’s original 160-year-old legacy and its 130-year history as a residence facility.

Current events

Following the closing of the house in 2021, the Fulford House remains vacant. In May 2024, Chez Doris and Fulford Residence enter into an agreement to create a resource for Montreal’s vulnerable women.

Various buyers are interested in the property, particularly because of its central location on the Guy, near the Concordia University campus. The notice of intent to designate (obtained in 2022 following an application for classification filed by Héritage Montréal) complicates matters for some buyers since the integrity of the Fulford House must be preserved.

Actions of Héritage Montréal

On February 7, 2022, Heritage Montreal and its founding president Phyllis Lambert applied to the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications for the classification of the Fulford House. A few months later, a notice of intent to classify was issued, initiating the process of classification and protection for the building. In February 2024, the James-Edward-Major House is designated as a heritage building by the Ministère de la Culture. In May 2024, Chez Doris and Fulford Residence enter into an agreement to create a resource for Montreal’s vulnerable women.

“Following the Quebec government’s decision, prompted by Héritage Montréal and Phyllis Lambert, to designate the Fulford Residence (also known as the Major house)—along with its site and heritage interiors documented by photographer Brian Merrett—the acquisition by Chez Doris safeguards this heritage of social and architectural significance. Built in 1859, the former residence housed charitable organizations serving women for 130 years, until the pandemic. Héritage Montréal commends the collaborative efforts leading to this agreement, ensuring the project’s success to the benefit of the whole community,” emphasized Dinu Bumbaru, Policy Director and spokesperson for Héritage Montréal.

  • Municipality or borough

    Ville-Marie borough

  • Issues

    Mechanisms for protection

    Urban Development

    Interior spaces

  • Owner(s)

    Private: non-profit organization

  • Threat(s)

    Demand for land, speculation

  • Conception

    John Edward Major; Thomas Seaton Scott (architect, drawings and plans; 1836-1895)

  • Manager(s)

    Owner (Fulford Residence)

  • Categorie(s)



  • Construction year


  • Recognition status

    Located in an area of exceptional heritage value – De la Montagne Street and René-Lévesque Boulevard West

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News and medias

Stay tuned for the latest developments on this issue

April 1 2023

James-Edward-Major Mansion (Fulford Residence)

As the clock ticks, historic Fulford Residence decays

Montreal Gazette

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February 8 2022

James-Edward-Major Mansion (Fulford Residence)

Heritage Montreal requests heritage protection for former Fulford Residence

Montreal Gazette

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February 8 2022

James-Edward-Major Mansion (Fulford Residence)

Heritage Montreal requests heritage protection for former Fulford Residence

Montreal Gazette

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May 19 2021

James-Edward-Major Mansion (Fulford Residence)

The closing of the Fulford Residence

The Suburban

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March 12 2021

James-Edward-Major Mansion (Fulford Residence)

La pandémie achève la résidence Fulford

La Presse

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March 3 2021

James-Edward-Major Mansion (Fulford Residence)

Downtown Montreal seniors’ home Fulford Residence to close after more than 150 years

CTV News Montréal

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