Opening the Door to Backstory

Backstories are always fascinating to a fiction writer. How can you know the characters in your story if you don’t know what’s happened in their past and how that’s affected them?

Is that why I feel so sad when I see yet another of Montreal’s beautiful old mansions bite the dust? Because when we’ve lost Montreal’s old buildings, we won’t know Montreal?

I couldn’t help but wonder what the story was of this building on rue du Musée which is in the process of being gutted before becoming part of a bland upmarket condo complex.

mansion on rue du Musée, Montréal

What does the door say about its backstory? Who built the house? Who lived here? Why would they want a door like this – was it the original door? Surely not! So what kind of person would want to replace a possibly lovely old wooden door with one that’s hideous and seems to say ‘keep out’ pretty clearly? Or is it to keep people in?

detail of mansion on rue du Musée, Montréal

What I first thought were purely decorative embellishments above the door arch are in fact a cross and two Quebec fleur-de-lys. So did the house have a religious purpose or house a religious community?

Why the blank rectangle immediately above the door? Did the house have a life before the religious order moved in? Was that where the plaque giving its original name was mounted?

Just look at that balcony above the door arch! Looks to me like the perfect writing nook I’m always searching for!

The building directly opposite, the Redpath Mansion, built in 1886 and the only remaining example of Queen Anne style architecture in the city was razed in 2014 after years of neglect. And what a backstory that house had – a sugar magnate, a mystery, a murder never solved…


To enjoy more doors from around the world, visit Norm 2.0’s Thursday Doors and click on the blue frog.


7 thoughts on “Opening the Door to Backstory

  1. Are they tearing this down or just redoing/subdividing the interior?
    Such a shame about the Redpath Mansion.
    The sad fact with these old places, especially the ones that haven’t been well maintained over the years, is the astronomical costs to renovate and refurb them properly.
    On a more positive note I was glad to see the Mount Stephen Club re-open last week. I’m hoping to check that place out sometime this summer.


    • Just rescued your comment from Spam! Two old houses were joined together with a middle section built in 1967 (I think by Opus Dei). That section has been completely demolished. From the designs on the board outside the building it looks they are going to rebuild the centre part and maybe parts of the fronts of the two houses (that flat contemporary look). Looks like everything inside is being redesigned to get as many condos in there as possible. Some of the details on the side of the house that interested me are delightful (window frames…) I guess those will go. I agree, letting the Redpath Mansion deteriorate past the point of rehabilitation was really sad. I managed to peek in at the Mount Stephen Club – those old wood ceilings look terrific.

      Liked by 1 person

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