While I was in Montreal last week, conducting interviews for a new project, I had the chance (that covid travel lockdowns had denied me) of swinging by an address that figures prominently in my forthcoming book Jackson’s Wars. The three-storey row house at 69 Hallowell Avenue, on the southern edge of Westmount, was the family home of artist A.Y. Jackson from 1904 until his mother Georgina’s death in 1921.
The home and neighbourhood appears today much as it would have been then. Across the street was the Montreal Athletic Association grounds, now home to Westmount High School; the school occupies the land that the MAA’s magnificent grandstand once did. The neighbourhood was not the best in the Anglophone enclave of Westmount. Immediately to the south was the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks (now the Ville-Marie Expressway), and close by was the CPR’s St-Henri yard. But the home was a world removed from the Park Street flat in working-class St-Henri, where Georgina had been forced to move with her six children after they were abandoned around 1891 or 1892 by her husband, Henry Allen Jackson. A.Y. Jackson lived here while working as a commercial artist and taking his first steps into the wider world. It was the home that he could always return to, the place where the “Hallobobs” (as he dubbed the rest of his family and neighbours) lived and gathered. It was also where Jackson destroyed (in the furnace) most of his early portfolio, about 160 works in all, in the summer of 1911, before setting out on an extended painting visit to Europe and wrote the postcard to his mother below.