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.