134 WEST GATE - "BEECHMOUNT" ~ THE FORMER J.B. MONK HOUSE
The 54-acre parcel of land known as Armstrong's Point has long been one of the city's most beautiful residential developments, home to many influential families living in some of the finest and most opulent houses built in turn-of-the-century Winnipeg. Click here to view a detailed history provided by the City of Winnipeg Historical Building Committee.
The property was granted to Captain Joseph Hill by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1848. Hill returned to England in 1853, leaving the wooded land in the care of his former batsman, Corporal James Armstrong. In July 1873 Armstrong, who had not heard from Hill in some time, sold the property to F.E. Cornish, soon to become the first mayor of Winnipeg. A year later, Armstrong was dead but rumors swirled that Hill was still living in London, England. Two Winnipeg businessmen traveled overseas to locate him and buy his land. Hill refused to sell and returned to Winnipeg in 1880. A year later the land was transferred to a local syndicate which quickly subdivided it.
One of the first palatial houses to be built on the Point was that of A.G.B. Bannatyne, pioneer merchant. His tyndal stone and red sandstone mansion was commonly known as Bannatyne's castle. On the river property just north of the castle, Bannatyne's son, A.R.J. Bannatyne, built a home in 1883. On march 3, 1894, this house and several lots around it were purchased by Lendrum McMeans, a well-known barrister and politician. He began remodeling the premises for his own use, but the building was destroyed by fire just six months later. Fire equipment could not reach the house because of muddy roads.
McMeans had contractor Hugh Murray build a new brick and stone structure in 1895. He never took possession of the house. He sold the property to bank manager John Benning Monk who named it "Beechmount".
The house was designed in the Queen Anne style which is distinguished by irregular asymmetrical plans, a lack of flat facades, bay and oriel windows, porches, towers and multiple roofs. The style made use of Eastlake decorations such as spindles, balusters and finials. The style was popular from approximately 1890 to 1910 and at its best created lively structures with a wealth of ornamentation and a picturesque quality.
The house is built of solid cream colour brick on a rubble stone foundation. The two and one-half storey building measures 39 x 34.5 x 32.5 feet. Limestone is used throughout for accent around doors and windows. A one-storey open verandah wrapped around the northeast corner of the house, with a second storey, used as a summer bedroom, on the east elevation. The verandah was removed in 1958 and replaced by concrete steps. The reconstruction of the original verandah was undertaken in 1997 and completed in 1999. The reconstruction is a replica of the original and is based on the 1907 photograph.
Over the last 15 years, massive interior renovations were undertaken to bring this house back to its original splendor. As with the exterior, many of the interior alterations completed over the years were extremely insensitive and intrusive. New stipple ceiling were hung throughout the house, almost all the wood trim was painted, the paneled doors were ply-wooded, the hardwood floors were covered over, and the service staircase leading from the kitchen to the third floor was dismantled. The renovations and restoration work is now completed.
In 1995, "Beechmount" (the name given to the property by the Monk family) was designated as a historic structure under Winnipeg's Historical Buildings By-law. The by-law was established to protect Winnipeg's rich historic buildings resource.