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Redstone and Limestone houses on Mackay and Bishop

Stylish upscale Victorian houses with fronts of limestone and red Scottish sandstone on Mackay and Bishop Streets are a reminder of a different era for the neighbourhood in which Concordia lives.


Bishop Street houses (west side) Bishop Street houses (west side), 1988. Between October 1966 and September 1967, 2160 Bishop (on the right) was a housing co-op for Sir George Williams University students. I049-02-311

Mackay Street is named after James Mackay (1760-1822), Scottish explorer and trader for the North West Company. Bishop Street is so named probably because the residence of Francis Fulford (1803-68), first Anglican Bishop of Montreal, was down the street at what is now René-Lévesque Boulevard. Beginning in 1968, under the leadership of Chancellor Fraser Fulton, SGW systematically bought buildings on these streets to protect future expansion. Fulton quietly raised funds to carry out the “Real Estate Protection Plan”, originally for a twin to the Hall Building to be built to the north of it. City officials vetoed the plan because it would impede the view from Sherbrooke Street. Although SGW planned to demolish them, paradoxically these buildings were probably saved because it was the university that bought them, not a developer. Concordia continues to use them, although not as residential housing. Despite creaky floorboards, clunky plumbing, and cold winter drafts, these buildings maintain a grand Victorian air and an elegant but homey atmosphere reminding us of former glory days.

The annexes on the west side of Mackay The annexes on the west side of Mackay, ca 1988. I049-03-401
Fraser F. Fulton Fraser F. Fulton, SGW Chancellor 1965-71, ca 1970. I049-02-535

A number of the greystone and redstone houses on Bishop and Mackay have become closely identified with departments or units that have been there for many years. Although the houses present problems because they are not handicapped-accessible, these gracious former residences provide a small and distinct environment within Concordia as the University gets progressively larger. Three of the colleges established in the late 1970s are housed in these buildings: the Liberal Arts College, the School of Community and Public Affairs, and the Simone de Beauvoir Institute. At one time a green space was planned behind the houses north of the Hall Building, on the east side of Mackay. A bold experiment in 1978 to paint the exteriors of the Mackay Street houses in garish bright colours was greeted with horror by many people in the community, although some liked it. Over the years the houses reverted to sedate colours more in keeping with their style. In 1998-99, repairs were done to the Mackay house exteriors, and the copper detailing was replaced, restoring the original look to the houses. In 1999 the houses were painted Concordia maroon. Concordia plans to keep them and will continue to use them.

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