From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:
Business tycoon Francis H. Clergue built a massive industrial empire in Sault Ste. Marie within about six or seven years, so it is no surprise that he would want to build a house to match. In 1902, at the age of 44, Clergue began construction on his new home with a projected cost of $100,000!
Built on Moffley Hill, located on top of Elm Street, on what is now Langdon Crescent and Clergue Streets, this home became known as Montfermier. He chose this name to acknowledge his French background — “Mont” means hill or mountain and "Fermier” means tenant.
The first floor was built using the red sandstone excavated from the Sault Ste. Marie Locks. Inside, Clergue had a huge dining room located at the front of the house which could seat up to 60 people. For larger gatherings, the doors to the connecting “Morning Room or Blue Room” could be pushed back to create a massive room that extended across the front of the entire house.
The house also had a study, library, drawing room and seven bedrooms. Six of the seven bedrooms featured fireplaces.
Montfermier was probably the most impressive house that the city had ever seen.
It featured a wine cellar, valet room, billiard room, laundry room as well as an elevator shaft. Every room was lavishly decorated with imported furniture and decorations with some, like the broadloom rugs, coming from as far away as Scotland. Another impressive piece of furniture was Clergue’s large white grand piano that took up 12 square feet of floor space.
The master bedroom was located above the morning room and extended along the entire west side of the house. A magnificent circular staircase made of mahogany that led to the second floor dominated the lower level. Beyond the staircase was a library with built-in bookcases on three of the four walls. The house was even outfitted with electricity.
After the collapse of Clergue’s industrial empire, all of the remaining family members left the city around 1908-1909. It is believed that H.E. Talbott and his family from Dayton, Ohio moved into the home at this point. In 1912, Francis Grenfell began the process of purchasing the property. Unfortunately he died during the First World War and ownership of the property returned to Clergue. The Talbott family remained in the house until around 1914. The house then remained vacant and was looked after by caretakers.
Disaster struck on October 20, 1934 when the mansion was destroyed by fire. While the cause of the fire is uncertain, it was discovered following the fire that a heavy door had been beaten down so it is possible that foul play was involved. It was said that a crowd of 10,000 people gathered to watch the house burn. Though the house no longer stands, photographs of the house and its interior still show this extravagant residence.
Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.