Montreal's oldest social club turns 100
Published Wednesday, January 15, 2014 10:35PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 16, 2014 2:55PM EST
One of the city's oldest social clubs celebrated a milestone Wednesday; it has been housed in the same downtown building for 100 years.
About 150 members paid a visit to the University Club of Montreal to drink champagne to celebrate the momentous occasion.
A century of tradition lies behind the heavy doors at 2047 Mansfield St. at President-Kennedy Ave.
It is the oldest of any Montreal social club, said vice-president Francois Senecal.
“It's an integral part, I think, of the history of Montreal and of the history of Canada,” he said.
It is steeped in history -- one of the University Club founders who wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’. Lt. John McCrae first published the famous poem anonymously, but a fellow member of the club recognized his style.
“He wrote his friend and said, ‘John, is this in fact your poem and you the author?’ and in fact it was,” said Senecal.
Humourist and club co-founder Stephen Leacock famously has his own corner there, as well.
Through the decades to the present day, it remains a place to meet, discuss, and eat.
"At the time (dining) was one of the raisons d'etre for the private clubs, because restaurants in Montreal were… not what they are today,” said Senecal.
Originally only Anglophone men were permitted membership, but even though the décor has stayed in the past, the club has moved forward.
“It’s a clubhouse, which is a marvelous place. A home away from home,” said Robert Bourdius, a member since 1968, who said the club is changing with the times: female members were accepted in full as of 1989.
“We want more. We're about a quarter female and we should be half,” said Bourdius.
Part of that starts with the club’s first female general manager, Sylvie Chevarie.
“If you look at Montreal, the women are more involved in the business. So if we want to be healthy and successful, we need to actually reflect the actual society,” she said.
Adorned with ornate décor and a massive, mesmerizing fireplace, some creature comforts may be relics from the last century, but members hope they will remain for a long time to come.