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InspirAction

InspirAction #5: Notman House

51 Sherbrooke Street West, Montréal

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Crowdfunding

Published on : October 03 2015

Last modified on : November 21 2020

Leveraging of new online crowdfunding tools to draw on the creativity, resources and know-how of a broader group of people in helping to restore a heritage site.

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Maison Notman

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“The challenge with heritage today is revitalization. In this case we have a very contemporary use designation, which is going to bring new life to the space. William Notman was a visionary of image and information technology, so there’s a wonderful continuity here.” Dinu Bumbaru

120.548

Amount raised in 21 days

21

Percentage by which the final amount exceeded the initial objective

513

number of campaign contributors

History and issues of the site

This heritage residence, having undergone major restoration and adaptation work after sitting abandoned for more than 10 years, has been given a new lease on life through an initiative blending entrepreneurship, new technologies and conservation of built heritage. The Maison du Web / Home of the Web project, launched by the non-profit OSMO Foundation, encourages local creativity, the free flow of ideas and innovation in new technologies

The new Home of the Web headquarters was set up in 2012 in this former home of the pioneering photographer and image-technology visionary William Notman, originally built in 1845 and enlarged in 1894 to house St. Margaret’s Home, a hospital for the terminally ill. Notman House is a luxury bourgeois home in the Neoclassical style. The two-storey stone and brick residence comprises a main building topped by a hipped roof with a wide modillion corniche.

  • Built in 1845 for lawyer William Collis Meredith, from plans by John Wells.
  • Acquired in 1876 by the renowned Montreal photographer William Notman, who would live there until his death in 1891.
  • In 1894, with support from Senator George A. Drummond, a hospital designed by architect Andrew T. Taylor is added to the house and becomes a shelter run by the Sisters of St. Margaret; it retains this vocation until 1991.
  • Classified as a historical monument by the Government of Quebec in 1979; the house benefits from a protective zone with a radius of 300 metres (500 feet) protective zone.
  • In 2009, the idea for the Home of the Web is put forward.

Context and intervention

In 2012, the Maison du Web staff was putting together their project financing, consisting of grants from the municipal, provincial and federal governments, private-sector contributions and a bank loan, but faced a shortfall of $100,000. They decided to launch one of the first crowdfunding campaigns—whereby many modest donations are collected online from the general public—to close the funding gap and complete renovations to the building.

A diverse community of Montrealers made up of representatives of the new technologies industry, as well as heritage conservation groups, including Heritage Montreal, joined forces support the campaign and promote it via social media. In just 21 days, $120,548 was raised from 513 donors, which was 21% more than the initial objective. But the crowdfunding imitative was not the only contribution from the start-ups community to the restoration of this remarkable building. As with any new technology-based project, the approach was gradual, starting with an idea put forward in 2009 that evolved in stages.

Although ambitions were high, the vision of the Home of the Web began with a prototype, tested on Montrealers when the team convinced the owner of the Notman House to rent the space to them. That prototype became the proof of concept of the Home of the Web. This approach not only made the restoration process easier and more encouraging, but it was also pivotal in persuading a greater number of players to support the project.

Impact

This project destined for young entrepreneurs is a fine example of latter-day action in defence of built heritage in Montreal that is now playing a role in the growth of the city’s social economy.

Lessons

The case of the Notman House is a reminder of the extent to which built heritage conservation depends on creative, innovative engagement not only by owners and investors, but also by the community as a whole. It also reminds us of the power of history and the brilliance of a heritage site in rallying a broadly diverse group of stakeholders around an integrated project.

  • Municipality or borough

    Le Plateau-Mont-Royal

  • Owner(s)

    Private; non-profit organization

  • Conception

    John Wells, architect, Notman House (1845); Andrew T. Taylor, architect, Sisters of St. Margaret Shelter (1894); Sid Lee Architecture and Pelland Leblanc architects, renovations (2012)

  • Manager(s)

    OSMO Foundation

  • Categorie(s)

    Commercial

    Cultural

  • Construction year

    1845

  • Recognition status

    Classified heritage building (1979); Located in the protection area of the William-Notman House (1979); Located in the protection area of the Bon-Pasteur Monastery (1981); Building of exceptional heritage value; Located in an area of exceptional heritage value – Sherbrooke Street (between Aylmer and Atateken)

Join the discussion

How do you see this Montreal site? What legacy has it left us? What future can we create for it? Where to start to get there? Who wants to participate in the project?

You have questions? Want to do more, but lack the information? Consult our toolkit to learn more about the heritage of the Montreal metropolitan area, the preservation mechanisms in place and possible actions.