The Architect John Ostell

The residence of Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine is not only important because it is the former residence of the father of responsible government and the defender of the French language.  The Mansion was built by one of the most important architects in Montreal history during the time of 1836 to 1859 named John Ostell.[1] John Ostell also “designed the Custom House, Place Royale, the McGill arts building, the Episcopal Palace, the Grand Seminary of St-Sulpice, the Court House and the Church of St-Jacques.”[2]


The former residence of LaFontaine is the last remaining residence built by Ostell in Montreal, because he did not normally build residential homes except for more prestigious clientèle. The home faces the water instead of the main street, a remnant of the past in which the homes faced the main method of transportation by boat.  The exact date of its creation remains unknown, although it is speculated to have been built in the 1830’s so it could possibly be one of Ostell’s first works, although this is just speculation. The style is “Neo-Classical greystone mansions built in the St. Antoine ward in that era.”[3]  There are not many mansions left from this era which makes this an architectural tragedy as well as a historical one.


The following illustrations are rough sketches of what the Mansion of Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine would have looked like in the 1830’s.  The home was actually located outside the city walls and in an apple orchard, as LaFontaine supposedly liked his privacy.[4]  The trees surrounding his home were Kentucky Coffee Trees which are a very rare breed in Montreal, unfortunately these historic trees was cut down by the current owner.



[1] Stephen Leacock, MacKenzie, Baldwin, LaFontaine, Hincks. (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1926) 32.

[3] Interview with anthropologist Anna De Aguayo, (Montreal: March 04, 2011).


[4} Andy Riga. Another crumbling Montreal Landmark: Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine’s former Home, January 29th, 2011. (accessed March 6th, 2011)

[5] Interview with anthropologist Anna De Aguayo, (Montreal: March 04, 2011).

[6] interview with architect Michael Fish allowed us to build a timeline of the activies to this day.