Sunday, 2 October 2016

A Family Homestead

The town of Montreal South was created from land of the Saint-Antoine-de-Longueuil Parish in 1888, and divided into building lots by developer George Parent.  In 1889 a station house was built for the Grand Trunk Railway tracks, connecting the community to Montreal.  The official incorporation as a town came in 1905 and in 1906 the newly-formed Montreal & Southern Country Railway built a trolley station to transport workers to the factories along the Lachine Canal.

The house at 16 Prefontaine Street was either built or purchased at around 1915 by Andrew Johnson, an immigrant from Stockholm, Sweden who had landed in Montreal in 1883 with his wife and young son.  His jobs as a day labourer and then a night watchman took him and his growing family to several locations around Montreal, until they settled on this quiet residential street in the suburbs.

Andrew's second-youngest daughter Clara was married in 1923 to John William Mayo, himself an immigrant from Manchester, England.  Soon after starting their own family, they bought the house from her father in 1928, and it has remained in the Mayo name since.

Originally the building was a single-story house, but in the early 1930s a second floor was added in order to accommodate the increasing needs of the family.  A long-running story claims that enough wood was used in the construction to build two similar houses.  In the mid 1960s the house was divided into two apartments, upstairs and downstairs.

As with many present-day families, the current generation of Mayo children who grew up on Prefontaine Street now have their own homes and lives.  The old homestead is in need of a great deal of restoration, but sadly there isn't the money to do it.  As of this writing the house has been put on the market, and it's likely that a new owner will decide that instead of fixing it, it would be cheaper to tear the house down and build new.

The home that sheltered four generations might soon be destroyed but it will not be forgotten.

Here's an article about the history of Montreal South.