Town of Mount Royal was created on the initiative of the Canadian Northern Railway, which wanted to build a “model city” on the north side of Mount Royal. It was Frederick Gage Todd (1876–1948), considered Canada’s first landscape architect, who finally developed the plans. The Town was officially incorporated on December 21, 1912.
The Town of Mount Royal residential development was begun in 1910 under the guidance of the owners of the Canadian Northern Railway, Sir William Mackenzie and Sir Donald Mann, and CNR’s chief engineer, Henry K. Wicksteed. From the start, the Town was laid out along lines similar to those of Washington, D.C., with two main boulevards crossing diagonally through a central green space. To this day, the Town’s exceptional urban planning complies with the spirit of the original plans prepared by Frederick Gage Todd. Town of Mount Royal will celebrate its centennial in 2012.
In the early days, home building took place concurrently with the construction of the tunnel under Mount Royal, which would provide a direct rail link between the new Town and downtown Montreal. To avoid speculation, the project leaders were forced to exercise the greatest discretion, entrusting an intermediary with the job of acquiring the land needed to realize the project. In a few days, some 4,800 acres of land were purchased for the modest sum of $120,000, a transaction that today is viewed as one of the most spectacular in the history of Montreal’s real estate industry. Construction began in late June 1912 and ended in April 1917, when a special train carrying workers and guests inaugurated the tunnel. The first passenger train rolled through the tunnel on October 21, 1918; tickets cost 25 cents apiece.
Once the 5.3-km tunnel connected Town of Mount Royal to downtown Montreal, property values in the Town rose significantly. Several street names still bear witness to the close ties that existed between the Town and the railway, most notably Canora Road, made from the first two letters of the words Canadian Northern Railway, and Wicksteed Avenue, named in honour of chief engineer Henry K. Wicksteed.
In the beginning, the Town was a small farming community, known locally for its melons. The Daoust family farm grew the celebrated Montreal melon, also called the Montreal nutmeg melon. Green-fleshed and uniquely flavourful, the melons weighed up to 9 or 11 kg. So special was the Montreal melon that it was exported to New York, Chicago and Boston, where, in 1921, people paid as much as $1.50 a slice to taste it. Farming was abandoned over the years, with the gradual urbanization of the Town.
The first schools and churches were built in the 1920s and shops began to open soon after. The present Town Hall was inaugurated in 1948 by Mayor Richard Earle Schofield.
The Town entered its main growth phase in the 1950s. Companies began to invest in the industrial sector. The Metropolitan Expressway and Laurentian Autoroute replaced Côte-de-Liesse Road as the major local highways. Residential construction began on the site of the former golf course, and Jean-Talon Street was extended between Côte-des Neiges and Canora Roads.
To the existing Town buildings were added the police and fire station on Roosevelt Avenue. In 1952, the Town library and curling club opened their doors. Over the course of the decade, three new schools were built: Mount Royal High School on Montgomery Avenue, École primaire Saint-Clément on Laird Boulevard, and École supérieure Mont-Royal on Rockland Road. Reginald J. P. Dawson, first elected mayor in 1951, set a record by remaining in office for slightly more than 36 years.
In 1966, the Rockland Overpass was constructed, linking Town of Mount Royal and Outremont. In the same year, the old recreation centre was demolished to make way for a new one. In 1967, the present library on Graham Boulevard was built.
After years of growth and development, the Town has become a stable community that is part of Greater Montreal and offers its residents an exceptional quality of life. Visitors also find much to enjoy, including walks through the Town’s parks and other green spaces, where they find not only magnificent floral displays and urban forest but also many moments of peacefulness to savour, a pleasure the Town is only too happy to share.