Jane’s Walk is a series of free neighbourhood walking tours that helps put people in touch with their environment and with each other, by bridging social and geographic gaps and creating a space for cities to discover themselves. Since its inception in 2007, Jane’s Walk has happened in cities across North America, and is growing internationally.
Jane’s Walk honours the legacy and ideas of urban activist and writer Jane Jacobs who championed the interests of local residents and pedestrians over a car-centred approach to planning. Jane’s Walk helps knit people together into a strong and resourceful community, instilling belonging and encouraging civic leadership.

Mayor Mitchell Brownstein with residents Ricky and Marla Zipper display photo of the former Cote Saint-Luc City Hall on Westminster Ave

 

This year’s Cote Saint-Luc Jane’s Walk was organized in conjunction with the CSL Historical Society and lead by environmental activist and City Councillor Dida Berku and Director of Library Services, Janine West. It took place on the first Sunday in May.
Despite unseasonably cold temperatures and intermittent rain the pair ran an informative and fascinating history lesson as the group walked the several historic blocks down Old Cote Saint-Luc Road from Westminster to the west.

Councillor Dida Berku, Library Director Janine West and resident Michael Dennis in Prudhomme Park (May 2017)

Prudhomme Park was a very appropriate the starting point where Berku and West began recounting the story of Cote Saint-Luc, much of it touching upon the Prudhomme family, going back to the founding of the Ville Marie and the original colonization of Montreal and areas to the west, now known as the City of Cote Saint-Luc. The land was all forested and good for hunting.
Along came Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, in 1642 with Jacques Cartier, bringing with them many settlers. The colony required food and de Maisonneuve granted land in the western areas of the settlement to farm and support the settlers.
Around this time, Jean Décarie was rewarded for services to the colony and the earliest grant of land was given to him in this area. The first settlers came to the Cote Saint-Luc area and set up seignueries. These were very successful farms with extremely fertile land.

Farm in Cote Saint-Luc

Prudhomme, Décarie and Lemieux, the landowners under the seigneurial system also became the early political activists as representatives of local government.
Cote Saint-Luc was much larger then, including all the land north of Cote Saint-Luc Road, encompassing all of Hampstead all the way up to Ville Saint-Laurent and continuing past the current area of Décarie and extending toward what is now Westmount.
There were three major farms in CSL back in 1750, all belonging to the Lemieux, Prudhomme and Décarie families. The land was well irrigated by the Little Saint Pierre River that now flows beneath the City of Cote Saint-Luc. The farmers used this river to transport grain to market in the heart of Old Montreal, at the Bonsecour Market. The river actually runs all the way to, and under, Pointe a Calliere museum. Beginning this year, 100 metres of the river will be exposed and viewable flowing in the basement of the museum in Old Montreal.

Chapelle Cote Saint-Luc (1899) once stood on the site of the current Saint-Patrick Square on King Edward Avenue at Cote Saint-Luc Road.

 

The Sulpicians began moving west and established a church, The Cote Saint-Luc Chapel, at the corner of present day King Edward Avenue and Cote Saint-Luc Road. This is the site of present Day Saint Patrick’s Square seniors residence.

Cette chapelle fut érigée dans la première moitié du XIXe siècle en plein cœur d’un secteur rural, le long du chemin de la Côte-St-Luc. Son emplacement exact correspond aujourd’hui au terrain situé à l’angle nord-est du chemin de la Côte-Saint-Luc et de l’avenue King Edward. Ce secteur, aujourd’hui densément peuplé, fut ouvert à la colonisation dès le début du XVIIIe siècle et conserva une vocation agricole jusqu’au début des années 1940.

 

 

CSL resident, Mike Dennis, grew up in the Prudomme Park area and he shared stories told to him by his father who was neighbours with one of the Prudhomme descendants, the grandson of of Mayor Luc Prudhomme.
Mike’s father was a photographer for the city in the 60s, 70s and 80s and he owned the land where the Old Cote Saint-Luc City Hall was eventually built on the corner of Cote Saint-Luc Rd. and Westminster Avenue, following its location at 8100 Cote Saint-Luc Rd. This building was first a school where Michael attended in his early elementary years. Eventually, he transferred to a modern public school built on Parkhaven, now owned by Ecole Maimonides.

CSL resident Michael Dennis displays old photos of the former City Hall

The Westminster Avenue structure eventually became unstable. Large support beams held the corners of the building steady in its final years. The city began to construct the present day City Hall on Cavendish Blvd. in the early 80s.
Berku explained that there were three major influences on the creation of Cote Saint-Luc: The Little Saint Pierre River, the Sulpicians and the Canadian Pacific Rail.
So, how did Cote Saint-Luc became a town in 1903? In the 1800s there were 209 people in the village, more than in NDG. By 1845 the people of Cote Saint-Luc asked for their own chapel and built a parish. In 1903 the church was organizing all civic matters. The people petitioned the government as an early demerger movement to succeed from NDG.
Pierre Lemieux, François Xavier and Jeremie Prudhomme asked for a special law from the National Assembly to create a new municipality which was granted by the government in 1903.

Cote Saint-Luc’s first mayor, Luc Prudhomme

Luc Prudhomme was nominated by Pierre Lemieux and Jeremie Prudhomme to serve as the first mayor of the village of Cote Saint-Luc.

8100 Cote Saint-Luc Road through the years: Home of CSL’s first mayor, Luc Prud’homme, Police Station, Fire Station, Recreation Department, Senior Men’s Club, Emergency Measures Organization, Emergency Medical Services, Public Security Department, Public Safety headquarters

 

The next stop on the tour was 8100 CSL Road. Built in 1927, 8100 was the home of second mayor and first city hall. Before this, city meetings were held in the church.
This building became the Health Department and Recreation Department. I recall as a youngster attending arts and crafts classes on the upper floor where the doorway was decorated with colourful beads, popular in 60s, peace-loving, hippy days.

Present day 8100 CSL Rd. houses the CSL Public Safety Department (AJM Photography)

Luc Prudhomme was the descendant of early brewers and a militia commander. The family owned over half of the land from Westmount to the western end of Montreal. Another Prudhomme relative became mayor of NDG in mid 1800s. The family was very successful and these three families intermarried and retained power for a very long time. Many of their family served on council Cote Saint-Luc for the first half of 20th century.

Jane’s Walk participants on the steps of 8100 Cote Saint-Luc Road (May 2017)

“Despite the rain, we were very pleased to see the turnout of over 25 people from near and far,” said Councillor Berku. “This first walking tour is chapter one in the history of CSL that has yet to be written,” she said.
Some highlights from the Berku-West tour:
  • Research uncovered that Cote Saint-Luc is as old  as Ville Marie. The familiar names of the original farming families like Prudhomme, Decarie and Lemieux trace back their ancestry as far back as 1642.
  • Cote Saint-Luc, and other west-end towns, like Montreal West and Westmount seceded from Montreal around 100 yrs ago in what was then the first demerger movement.
  • The three major factors in the initial establishment of the village of Cote Saint-Luc community was the Sulpician  church, the Little Saint Pierre River and the Canadian Pacific Railyards.

Councillor Dida Berku and Janine West address the crowd and show archival maps of the city in front of historic 8100 Cote saint-Luc Road (May 2017)

 

 Thanks go out to Councillor Dida Berku and Director Janine West, and to the volunteers in the fledgling Cote Saint-Luc Historical Society that I launched a few months ago. We plan to make much more information accessible to all about the place we call home.