On November 25th 1984, a bomb was delivered in the form of a VCR to an apartment at the Le Maisonneuve apartment building, killing four and injuring eight. Those killed had themselves participated in the assassination of Frank “Dunie” Ryan twelve days earlier at a no-tell motel on Upper Lachine. Ryan, the reputed leader of the West End Gang, at the time one of the most important crime syndicates in the city. The blast was powerful enough to destroy most of the floor, though mercifully no civilians were killed, and the building didn’t collapse. Of note – the the time, a police station was located across the street at de Maisonneuve and St-Mathieu!
So which is it – are we uniquely devout Catholics or independently secular Modernists? Or are we Enlightened hypocrites? Its tough, and I can’t come up with a simple answer. The complex one goes like this: I can’t escape the long-term psychological impact of living in a Catholic society – hopefully I can use it for good and it will colour my worldview in a unique and palpable way. Ergo, don’t tear down old churches, find new uses for them. But when common-sense sustainable urban planning gets mixed up with ultra-nationalist opportunism, the credibility of the preservation movement takes a hit. This is why casual association with this group, or any other form of extremism – even if it is only rhetoric – is anathema to the success of the broader goal of social-cohesion through good design and conservation.
But when these idiots show up, it gives the impression that we don’t know our history or culture from a hole in the ground.
a) It’s named after former Mayor Camillien Houde, well-remembered for his charisma, anti-conscription related internment during WW2, the Kondiaronk Belvedere and the manyÂ Vespasiennes (adoringly called Camilliennes for decades) he had constructed as make-work projects during the Depression. He also vehemently opposed the construction of any street or boulevard bisecting Mount Royal. At the very least could we consider changing the name?
c) As a result of the parkway, there are several large parking lots on the mountain – land that had once been raw natural forest. Given that the mountain has, traditionally, been frequented overwhelmingly by locals, and not tourists, the necessity of so many parking lots near the summits can be called into question. Especially because, once upon a time, a tram ran the length of the parkway. Reclaiming the parking spaces could be done by investing in a new tram, one which would ideally run from the bottom of Guy (placing a terminus at the corner of William in Griffintown) up to Cote-des-Neiges, dropping people off at a mountain terminus near the pavilion at Lac aux Castors (you’ll notice, a loop already exists here). This could effectively allow the rest of the parkway and the parking lost to be reclaimed as parkland.
d) The photo above demonstrates another problem – there used to be a tunnel at that exact spot. The tunnel allowed people to get from the Mount-Royal side to the Outremont side over-top, not to mention offering considerably more room for the variety of animal species native to the mountain park. Even if the parkway remains, at the very least, a new tunnel ought to be built here, to allow for the maximum level of freedom of movement.
It’s been a while since I’ve been to the summit, though I think I was up there earlier this Summer. The improvements to the Peel Staircase and the access to the Olmstead Trail are excellent additions, welcoming urbanites with elegant and naturalistic entrances that fit into the idea of the sacred, leafy refuge. I remember the last time I was up there a temporary fence had been put up to divide the belvedere into two parts, though no work was being done at the time.
Still, as the city grows and the last remaining scraps of undeveloped land in the CBD is gobbled up as it will be over the next couple of decades, protecting our green spaces is going to become an even greater priority.
Don’t believe me? Consider the 1976 St-Jean-Baptiste Day celebrations, which saw tens of thousands of people descend on Mount-Royal. The damage to the park and pollution from one day’s worth of festivities was more traumatic and required a more extensive clean-up than did the Ice Storm of 1998!