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The Fire of October 18, 1922

The Marler Family still owned the Grantham Hall property in 1922. One afternoon in September, Herbert Marler and his son Howard took a long walk around the estate. They walked along one of the paths that passed by the Watts cemetery, then made their way to the bridge crossing the Black River (today, the St. Germain River), which was near to where Heriot had built his mills many years before. From there, father and son decided to walk through the stand of virgin forest, meeting rabbits and partridge along the way, to finally emerge near the 8th hole of the golf course.

Black and white photograph showing an aerial view of the golf course along the Saint Francis River. It also shows several houses scattered in the fields surrounding the golf course.

Aerial view of Drummondville Golf & Country Club and abandoned Grantham Hall, around 1926.

No one knows if Herbert Marler had a premonition of something to come during this long ramble across his estate … but a few weeks later, on October 18, 1922, Grantham Hall went up in flames. When this magnificent estate—the summer residence of a past federal member of Parliament for the riding of Saint-Laurent and Saint-Georges—began to burn, the Drummondville Fire Department was urgently called to the scene. A brigade of volunteer firemen had existed since the turn of the 20th century, but their equipment was of the most rudimentary kind—they didn’t even have a fire truck until several years later, in 1928. Their hoses turned out to be too short to reach Grantham Hall, located on the edge of town. People gathered and watched helplessly as the house was engulfed in flames and reduced to ashes, with the exception of a few stone walls which remained standing. The library, a billiard table, and a portrait of a family member were all that could be saved from the fire. Although they did have insurance to cover part of the damage, it was a devastating loss for the Marler Family.

Black and white photograph of the Drummondville Golf & Country Club clubhouse. The building, which is built lengthwise, is covered in climbing plants and surrounded by trees.

Drummondville Golf & Country Club Chalet, Drummondville, around 1926.

Herbert Marler never set foot in Drummondville after this terrible ordeal, according to his son, Howard. With their dreams of protecting their family legacy in Drummondville literally up in smoke, the family decided that a secondary residence closer to Montreal would be more practical. It would allow Herbert Marler to visit more often than simply during the summer holidays. He bought a property close to many of his friends on the western tip of the Island of Montreal, in Senneville. The existing house on this land became the gardener’s cottage—for John Kirkpatrick had followed his employers from Grantham Hall. Kenneth Rea, Marler’s old friend, drew up the plans for their new house. Construction began in 1923; the colonial-style home was finished by the spring of 1924. It was made of wood, painted white, and surrounded by beautiful gardens and landscaping features. The family held a housewarming party on Victoria Day.

Black and white photograph of a two-story wooden colonial-style house with window shutters and columns surrounding the entrance.

Residence of Herbert Meredith Marler, Senneville, unknown date.