Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Mile End - The C.P.R Hotel

The Canadian Pacific Railway Company’s fame stems, in part, from the construction of prestigious grand hotels between 1888 and 1930 designed to attract affluent tourists to spectacular sites served by the railroad. Inspired by the castles of France’s Loire Valley, they became icons of the Canadian landscape, including Château Frontenac in old Québec, Toronto’s Royal York and the Banff Springs Hotel in the Rocky Mountains. Less well-known is the fact that Mile End once had a hotel, much more modest in scale, which was known for many decades as the C.P.R. Hotel – although it was never part of that company.

While the structure exists no longer, the hotel sat on a site at the northeast corner of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Bernard Street for over a century, a few steps from the Mile End train station located a bit farther east on Bernard. The station, opened in 1876, created a new hub of activity in what had been a completely rural area. Previously, travellers and neighbourhood residents patronized hotels located at the other Mile End intersection, further south, where Saint-Laurent meets Mont-Royal Ave. The history of the C.P.R. Hotel is closely related to that of its founding family, the Hogues. Two interviews with family members, spaced about 50 years apart in time, provide information.

— Weren’t you once a hotelkeeper?
— Yes, I built the C.P.R. hotel, located at the corner of Bernard and Saint-Laurent streets, in 1878. In those days, there were no sewers, no sidewalks and of course no street lamps. My business was in a rather empty spot. To the north, I had no neighbours up as far as the land where the Institut des Sourds-Muets is located,2 where an Irishman lived at the time.
— And to the south?

— Not so peaceful as on the north side, I had no neighbours to the south until Laurier Street. But there was a shack around Saint-Viateur Street, where a guard manned the gate leading out of the city. The gate was managed by the Turnpike Trust, which charged an outbound toll that varied according to the type of vehicle.

In May 1985, La Presse journalist Gérald Leblanc found Télesphore Hogue’s grandson, Martial Hogue. At the time he was 77 and described himself as a poet-painter and a “professional outsider” who was born and grew up in the neighbourhood. The short interview revealed very little new about the hotel’s history, although the journalist called Martial Hogue “inexhaustible” about the subject, as well as about the tailor shop belonging to his father. 

But the article did provide a unique photograph of the building in its heydays. The old hotel which had been the pride of the Hogue Family was about to disappear. A fire completely destroyed it seven months later, in the early morning hours of January 5, 1986, in the middle of a snowstorm. Today, more than a quarter century has gone by, and the land on which the C.P.R. Hotel once stood is still vacant.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Mile End - The Rialto Theatre Opening Night 1924

The Rialto on a wintry day just before its opening on 27 December 1924. 

The ‘torch’ and the building-long iron-and-glass canopy are in place, and the ads for the opening movie, In Every Woman’s Life, are in the panels beside the doors. A florist, dress shop and tobacconist are among the stores already open.









The lobby in 1930: lots of marble and a fancy lamp. The door on the left led to the loges, the next to the orchestra. The third door was an exit for those leaving the theatre, and the stairway led to the balcony.


No wonder people build with marble. This is the lobby stairway in 1987, unmarred by sixty years of use.


The hall in 1930, with the great vaults of decorative plaster and stained glass on the ceiling and under the balcony. 

No other Montreal theatre had features quite like these, nor the amount or variety of both decorative plaster and stained glass. 

The vault’s colour-scheme was sombre: beige, gold and turquoise.

The corner of the upstairs vault. Note the plaster oak leaves and acorns, and the painted faces.


The downstairs vault in 1930. It may still be there, behind a false ceiling. Photo right


The Standard, Montreal, Saturday, December 27, 1924.
Montreal’s New Luxury Theatre The Rialto

Park Avenue at Bernard

Opens To-Night at 8.15

The opening of the Rialto tonight marks another step forward in theatre building and welds still another link in the famous chain of theatres operated by the United Amusement Corp. Limited, which also includes the Strand, Regent, Papineau, Belmont, Plaza, Corona and Mount Royal.

We feel proud of the Rialto, and justly so, as the most brilliant brains in the country were secured to transform the highest quality materials into what we believe to be the finest constructed and most luxurious theatre in Canada.

We cordially welcome you to the Rialto and sincerely hope that you will become a regular patron and a friend. It will be a pleasure to serve you at all times and we will welcome any suggestions you may offer for the improvement of Rialto entertainment or service.

Policy of the New Rialto

Admission Prices

Matinees except Sundays and Holidays: Adults 17c, Children 10c. Evening, Sundays and Holidays, Orchestra and Loges, 33c. Balcony 25c (tax included).

Film Programs
Complete change of program every Sunday and Wednesday. There will be two feature pictures on every bill except when presenting big productions of more than the usual length.

Coming Attractions
Marion Davies in “YOLANDA”
Milton Stills, Enid Bennett and Wallace Beery, in “THE SEA HAWK”
Harold Lloyd in “HOT WATER”
Norma Talmadge in “SECRETS”
Anna Q. Nilsson and All-Star Cast in “THE FIRE PATROL”
George O’Brien and Dorothy Mackaill in “THE MAN WHO CAME BACK”
Pola Negri in “FORBIDDEN PARADISE”

Gloria Swanson in “WAGES OF VIRTUE”


Rialto - 2015

Originally a neighbourhood movie theatre, the Rialto Theatre was built in 1923-1924 according to plans by Montreal architect Raoul Gariépy. The Beaux Arts façade was inspired by the Paris Opera while the neo-baroque interior features a rich décor signed Emmanuel Briffa. The Rialto Theatre was designated as a Historical Monument by the City of Montreal in 1988 and by the Government of Quebec in 1990, and also as National Historic Site of Canada in 1993.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Mile End - Church of St. Michael the Archangel

Perhaps the most recognizable architectural symbol of Mile End is the Church of St. Michael the Archangel of 1914-5, on Saint-Viateur Street at the corner of Saint-Urbain. 

The church, designed by Aristide Beaugrand-Champagne, was built for an Irish Catholic community, as expressed by omnipresent shamrock motifs; yet the overall style of the building is based on Byzantine rather than Western architectural traditions. 

Even more striking, the church has a slender tower that resembles a minaret. The building has been shared since 1964 with the Polish Catholic mission of St. Anthony of Padua, which officially merged with the parish of St. Michael in 1969 to form the current parish of St. Michael's and St. Anthony's;masses are celebrated in Polish and in English.

At the turn of the last century there was something of a migration of Irish-Canadian working people from their overcrowded Point St. Charles and Griffintown haunts north into Mile End. In 1902, the Catholic archbishop of Montreal, Mgr. Paul Bruchési, gave his approval for a new parish to be created. The first mass was said upstairs of a fire hall at Laurier and Saint-Denis that no longer exists. Their first small church building was on rue Boucher near there; it no longer exists.




By 1914 the growing parish decided it needed something bigger and grander. In July of that year excavations began. Work stopped briefly when war broke out that autumn, but resumed in April 1915, and the church was ready to use by that December. The price tag was $232,000 and the church could hold 1400 people.

This information comes from a booklet published in 1927 when the parish was already 25 years old. The text describes, and images show, that the dome and the cap on the tower were both decorated with patterns, and the massive façade with the words Deo dicatum in honorem St. Michaeli and a smaller motto on a banner over the doors. Those flourishes are gone, but carved shamrocks are still part of the façade, a nod to the time when the parish was pretty well a monoculture, with priests called McGinnis, Fahey, McCrory, Walsh, O’Brien, Cooney and O’Conor and church wardens Keegan, Gorman, Dillon, McGee and Flood.





Also, unusually, there’s no mention of bells, and no evidence that the tower ever contained any: unlike most church towers it’s closed all the way to the top.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Mile End Station


Mile End Station before expansion in 1913



The new C.P.R. station at Mile End


The first Mile End station building was erected in 1877 on the east side of Saint-Laurent Road, near what is now the intersection of Bernard Street.




A much larger station was built in 1911 it closed in 1931, when service was moved to the new Park Avenue Station (Jean-Talon), and was demolished in 1970 to make way for the Rosemont–Van Horne viaduct.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Mile End - The coming of the railway

The transcontinental railway gave Mile End its first growth spurt and separate identity. In 1876, the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway – a project vigorously promoted by Antoine Labelle and Louis Beaubien – came slicing through the area on its way from east-end Montreal to Sainte-Thérèse, Lachute, and Ottawa. This railway was bought in 1882 by the Canadian Pacific, and it was by this route that the first trains departed for the Prairies in 1885 and for Port Moody, British Columbia in June 1886 (extending to Vancouver in 1887). 

The first Mile End station building was erected in 1877 on the east side of Saint-Laurent Road, near what is now the intersection of Bernard Street. (A much larger station was built in 1911; it closed in 1931, when service was moved to the new Park Avenue Station (Jean-Talon), and was demolished in 1970 to make way for the Rosemont–Van Horne viaduct.)

In 1878, the village of Saint-Louis-du-Mile-End was incorporated, population 1319. Its territory consisted of the western third of Côte Saint-Louis: bounded on the west by the limit of Outremont (generally along Hutchison Street), on the south by what is now Mont-Royal Avenue, and on the east by a line running mostly just east of the current Henri-Julien Avenue. The northern border was north of present-day De Castelnau Street or just south of Jarry Park.


The second growth spurt of Mile End coincided with the introduction of electric tramway service in 1893; the area can be considered an example of a streetcar suburb. The agricultural and industrial exhibition grounds at the southwest of the village, near Mount Royal, were subdivided in 1899 for housing. The village became a town in 1895 and changed its name to simply Saint-Louis. Apart from a tiny street located just outside the town's northwestern limit, and (for its remaining years) the railway station, the name Mile End passed out of the official toponymy for close to a century, coming back into use as a municipal electoral district only in 1982.

The town of Saint-Louis built in 1905 a magnificent town hall on the northwest corner of Saint-Laurent and what is now Laurier Avenue; the building still serves as a fire hall and firefighters' museum. The town was annexed by the expanding city of Montreal on 29 May 1909,[20] taking effect as of 1 January 1910, and became Laurier Ward (quartier Laurier). Population growth had been explosive: in 1891, the village had 3537 residents; in 1911, after annexation, the ward's population was about 37,000.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Mile End

Nineteenth-century maps and other documents show the name Mile End as the crossroads at Saint-Laurent Road (now Boulevard) and what is now Mont-Royal Avenue. Originally, this road was Côte Sainte-Catherine Road (heading west) and Tanneries Road (heading east). It is probable that the name Mile End was inspired by the East London suburb of the same name. 

Contrary to popular belief, the place is not precisely a mile away from any official marker. It is, however, a mile north along Saint-Laurent from Sherbrooke Street, which in the early 19th century marked the boundary between the urban area and open countryside. (Several decades later, the Mile End train station near Bernard Street was situated coincidentally one more mile north along Saint-Laurent from the original crossroads.)


Mile End was also the first important crossroads north of the tollgate set up in 1841 at the city limits of 1792. From the crossroads to the city limits the distance was 0.4 miles (0.64 km). The city limits were located 100 chains (1.25 miles or about 2 km) north of the fortification wall, and intersected Saint-Laurent just south of the current Duluth Avenue.

As early as 1810, there was a Mile End Hotel and tavern, operated by Stanley Bagg, an American-born entrepreneur and father of the wealthy landowner Stanley Clark Bagg. The earliest known published references to Mile End are advertisements placed by Stanley Bagg, in both English and French, in The Gazette during the summer of 1815. He announced in July: "Farm for sale at St. Catherine [i.e., Outremont], near Mile End Tavern, about two miles from town...". On 7 August, he inserted the following:

STRAYED or STOLEN from the Pasture of Stanley Bagg, Mile End Tavern, on or about the end of June last, a Bay HORSE about ten years old, white face, and some white about the feet. Any person who will give information where the Thief or Horse may be found shall receive a reward of TEN DOLLARS and all reasonable charges paid. STANLEY BAGG. Montreal, Mile End, August 4, 1815.


A photograph of 1859 shows members of the Montreal Hunt Club at the Mile End tavern.

The road variously known as Chemin des Tanneries (Tannery Road), Chemin des Carrières (Quarry Road), or Chemin de la Côte-Saint-Louis led to a tannery and to limestone quarries used for the construction of much of Montreal's architecture. 

The village of Côte Saint-Louis (incorporated 1846) sprung up near the quarries, its houses clustered east of the Mile End district around the present-day intersection of Berri Street and Laurier Avenue. 



It was to serve this village that a chapel of the Infant Jesus was established in 1848 near Saint Lawrence Road, on land donated by Pierre Beaubien. In 1857-8, the chapel was replaced by the church of Saint Enfant Jésus du Mile End. 

The church, made even more impressive by a new façade in 1901-3, was the first important building in what would become Mile End.