It may be hard to imagine now, but back when Francis H. Clergue chose Moffley Hill as the spot for his new home, the area was outside city limits.
The ‘magnificent’ Montfermier was surrounded by 20 acres of lawn, and drew 10,000 spectators when it burned in 1934.
Read what the Sault Ste. Marie Museum has to say about this historic, if short-lived, structure:
OUTSIDE CITY LIMITS IN 1902
It was in that year that Mr. Clergue chose Moffley Hill, then outside the limits of both the Sault and Steelton, to build his permanent home.
Excavation started for the Clergue estate in 1902 in the spring.
By September the red sandstone masonry, which was taken from the canal area, for the first storey was
completed and the studding was erected for the second floor originally planned to be of a fancy wood design.
Twenty acres of the beautiful surrounding land was cleared for lawns.
Mr. Clergue moved into his magnificent Georgian type home at Christmas 1902.
He was joined there by his mother and father, his sisters Gertrude and Helen and his brothers Ernest and Bernard.
The beautiful home was named Montfermier, “mont” meaning “hill” and “fermier” meaning “tenant”….thus “hill tenant”. The name came from the family’s ancestral home in France.
THE SAULT LAYOUT
The only access to the property and the house was a pretty winding drive up the hill.
Carriages turned in the circular driveway and drew up under a large red stone portico which sheltered the main entrance, a gigantic door of two inch oak structure.
Through the main entrance, a hallway about 20 feet wide bisected the main building and extended to the front of the house.
Another door led from the opposite end of the hall to a spacious porch overlooking the town and the river and to the terraced lawns and gardens.
At the back of the house, on the right of the main entrance was a magnificent circular staircase completely built of rich red mahogany.
Back of the grand staircase and open stairwell was a fine library with built-in bookcases on three walls.
HUGE DINING ROOM
At the back of the house, on the left of the main entrance was a beautiful drawing room.
The dining room was situated at the front of the house, in front of the drawing room.
Sixty guests could be seated at one time in the dining room which overlooked the brow of the hill.
In front of the library at the front of the house was the “Blue Room” or the morning room.
This room was outfitted in blue and had a beautiful hardwood floor “squared” floor polished in cherry.
When Clergue entertained, the doors of the dining room and the morning room could be pushed back almost to the walls, making one gigantic room across the front of the house.
The rooms were superbly decorated in fine old furniture and had broadloom rugs to the walls, specially imported from Scotland for the house.
One of the lovely pieces of furniture was Mr. Clergue’s white grand piano which covered an area of about 12 square feet.
The master bedroom was over the morning room and library, extending along the entire west side of the house.
Four bedrooms faced the hill and two more were situated over the drawing room and front hall, facing the back gardens.
All the rooms downstairs and six of the seven bedrooms had fireplaces.
In the basement were wine cellars, a valet’s room, a billiard room, a laundry room and the elevator shaft.
Off at a slight angle away from the hill to the east was the servant’s wing which included the kitchen, butler’s pantry, pantry, servants’ dining room and the office, on the first floor.
The bedrooms were on the second floor of the wing, entirely separate from the house.
Carriages and horse were kept in stables at the back of the property.
On Saturday night, October 20, 1934, a great fire broke out.
Montfermier was completely destroyed.
The fire began at approximately 7:28 p.m. that night.
The historic landmark was demolished by 10:15 o’clock.
A crowd of some 10,000 people gathered to watch the fire which could be seen 15 miles away.
Myriad sparks and flames rose 50 feet in the air.