John Henry Hutchison was born on Belmont Street in Montreal, a small city of some 40,000 people, on April 19, 1842, the fourth son of Scottish immigrants William and Helen Campbell Hutchison. He was educated in Montreal schools and in his early life was active in the Militia. He served with the Artillery during the Fenian Raids.
J. H. or "Old Harry" as he was known, served in his early years as supervisor in construction, carpentry and masonry on such buildings as the original Windsor Hotel and the Royal Insurance buildings and gained enough experience to open his own contracting business at the age of 28. Around the same time he married Elizabeth Knox.
During his career as a contractor, he built some of Montreal’s most important buildings, some designed by his brother and some not. Many of the residences on the Royal Mile were the handiwork of J. H. Hutchison. These included the homes of Lord Strathcona, Lord Mount Stephen, Lord Atholston, the Refords and the Molsons. Many of Montreal’s most beautiful churches and commercial buildings owe their existence and long life to J.H. Among these are the Erskine and American Church and Redpath Museum.
One of Hutchison’s more esoteric pastimes was the design and construction of ice palaces and arranging the contests and races that took place at winter carnivals in the 1800’s. He not only built some of Montreal’s more spectacular palaces, but served as a consultant to other cities in the construction of their palaces.
In his lifetime, Hutchison saw Montreal develop from a city of 40,000 to a metropolitan centre of nearly a million people. Described as a rather tall man, with a full rough beard and sharp eyes, he was active in the political, cultural, sporting and social life of the City. One of his great passions was curling and he was for 54 years a member of the Royal Caledonia Curling Club and was a president and honourary president of that prestigious organization. He also enjoyed yatching and golf and was a member and President of Whitlock Golf Club.
John Hutchison was a director of the Mechanic’s Institute, now the Atwater Library and a member of the Erskine and American Church for over 57 years.
J. H. and Elizabeth Hutchison had two daughters and six sons. Elizabeth predeceased her husband in 1922. His children survived him.
One of the founders of Westmount, J.H. lived here for 58 years and served as Councillor for Ward 2. He was described by his contemporaries as a man imbued with public spirit, loyal to his friends, straightforward and honest.
John Henry died at his residence at 4044 Sherbrooke Street in his 86th year, one of Montreal’s oldest native-born sons and a builder, in every sense of the word, of Westmount and Montreal.