Historical Village


Historical Village

On the edge of the Lake of Two Mountains, close to the Sainte-Anne Canal, stands the sector of the village core of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. There is a very interesting institutional set up of the Sainte-Anne church, its presbytery, the former convent of Sainte-Anne and a green space facing the canal. The streets of Sainte-Anne and the Church, which structure the area, are joined by a few residential streets with representative village architecture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The village has developed as a transit place in close connection with the water. First portage site because of the presence of rapids, then strategic location in the fur trade, it will experience rapid growth under the influence of the channel of St. Anne and railways. Because of its location on the shores of Lake St. Louis, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is becoming a trendy resort destination. Hotels and businesses then line Sainte-Anne Road, which is the old road along the stretch of water. The main elements of the village, such as the parish church, the convent, the town hall and the houses, are concentrated along the path, near the canal. The area still retains the appearance of a resort village and offers a privileged contact with the water.

Important place of transit

The Sulpicians, lords of the island of Montreal, concede the first lands of the west of the island during the decade of 1670. Five fiefs are granted to soldiers and nobles to ensure the defense of the territory and His development. The parish of Saint-Louis-du-Bout-de-l'Ile, whose territory covers the entire western tip of the island, was formed in 1677, a few years before the erection of a chapel at the bay of Urfé. At the time, the location of the current village of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is mainly a transit place. The rapids make it a stopping point for portage. A first bypass was built by the Sulpicians during the French Regime. We know very little about this canal, illustrated on a map of 1831. Given its location at the crossroads of lakes Saint-Louis and Deux-Montagnes, at the entrance of the Ottawa River, this site becomes at the end of the 17th century an important fur trading post with the Amerindians. During this time, some lands were granted to settlers for clearing and cultivation, but the territory remained little occupied until the end of the 17th century due to the threat of Iroquois attacks.

Around 1711, the old parish chapel at Baie d'Urfé was replaced by a new one further to the west, near the site of the present church of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. In 1714, the parish took the name of Sainte-Anne-du-Bout-de-l'Île. The territory is then divided into narrow and deep lands facing Lake St. Louis and a first path is opened along the banks. Later, this section in the parish of Sainte-Anne-du-Bout-de-l'Île is renamed Chemin Sainte-Anne. Most of the land was conceded at the beginning of the 18th century, but it was mainly at the beginning of the 19th century that they were occupied by settler families. The fur trade continues to play a major role in the sector's activities. Simon Fraser, a well-established fur trader, owns a house on St. Anne's Road. With a mill to grind wheat and a wool card mill, the village grows quietly as a service center for the surrounding countryside. The municipality of Sainte-Anne-du-Bout-de-l'Ile was created in 1845, then incorporated in the city in 1895 under the name Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue.

Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Lock

The Sainte-Anne Canal and the growth of the village

The importance of the wood trade and its transportation by river from the Outaouais to the Port of Quebec led to the construction of the Sainte-Anne Canal in 1843. Located at a strategic point on the continental scale, the canal s imposes as a gateway to the Great Lakes region. It allows you to cross the vertical drop of one meter between Lac des Deux-Montagnes and Lake Saint-Louis, which creates the rapids of Sainte-Anne. The canal has a decisive impact on the commercial and tourist development of the territory, which takes a real boom from the second half of the 19th century. Tens of thousands of passengers, including vacationers, transit the canal on steamboats. The installation of the canal marks a turning point in the development of the village. The present stone church is built in 1859 facing the canal, replacing the small chapel.

Farmland is being farmed and the village core is expanding at the foot of the canal. Wooden houses appear along Chemin Sainte-Anne, the main artery, or on the new streets drawn for the occasion. In 1854, construction by the Grand Trunk of the Montreal-Toronto  railway line, which crosses Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, also contributes to the development of the village. The wood-covered railway bridge, the very first on the island of Montreal, passes over the canal. In 1887, the Canadian Pacific Railway set up another railway bridge just next to the Grand Trunk.

Shortly after the opening of the Sainte-Anne Canal, its depth is considered insufficient. Work is underway to modernize it. The Becker dyke, completed in 1877, facilitates the passage of large boats, while the work surrounding the new lock, wider and parallel to the first, end in 1882. The first lock is gradually abandoned and finally backfilled in 1964.

Clarendon Hotel

Sainte-Anne: Resort City

With the train, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue becomes a crucial relay for the transportation of passengers on the road from Montreal to Ottawa and Toronto. The railways also facilitating access to the territory, the village is, at the end of the 19th century, among the most popular resorts in the west of the island. This new vocation involves the construction of hotels, including the Clarendon Hotel and the Hudson Bay House Hotel, pubs and other businesses, such as the D'aoust store, along Chemin Sainte-Anne. Several docks are located on Lake St. Louis, east of the canal. Crossings, in service until the opening of the bridge Galipeault in 1925, allow to visit Île Perrot. At the dawn of the 20th century, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is a popular summer resort and only a few houses are inhabited all year round.

Macdonald Campus Main Building

Macdonald Campus and Garden City Press

In the early 20th century, Sir William Macdonald donated to McGill University several lands he owned east of the village core of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue to establish an agricultural school. The main lodge, erected between 1905 and 1909, is followed by several other buildings, including residences for students and employees - a vast university campus. The arrival of this institution gives impetus to the subdivision of the last agricultural fields and the construction of residences in this sector. Since the late 1970s, John Abbott College has occupied several campus buildings.

In 1919, the printing house of James John Harpell settled in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, just north-west of the village core. Harpell develops around his factory a complex inspired by British garden cities, designed by landscape architect Frederick Todd and composed of residences for his employees, gardens, parks, vegetable gardens and a large pond. A visionary, Harpell also wants to train and educate his employees by offering evening classes. It is also his printing cooperative.

The development of rail transportation that began in the second half of the 19th century displaced navigation as a means of transportation and brought about the change of vocation of the Sainte-Anne Canal. It became a National Historic Site of Canada in 1972 and is now used primarily for recreational boating. With the urban promenade inaugurated in 1987 along the water, its many shops and its picturesque setting, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is now a destination frequented by boaters.

Electronic documents and websites

HÉRITAGE MONTRÉAL. Montréal en quartier. Quartier Vieux Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue [En ligne].

MINISTÈRE DE LA CULTURE ET DES COMMUNICATIONS. Répertoire du patrimoine culturel du Québec[En ligne].

PARCS CANADA. Lieu historique national du Canada du Canal-de-Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue [En ligne].

SOCIÉTÉ DU PATRIMOINE DE L’OUEST DE L’ÎLE. Circuit patrimonial à vélo [En ligne].

VILLE DE MONTRÉAL, SERVICE DE LA MISE EN VALEUR DU TERRITOIRE ET DU PATRIMOINE. Évaluation du patrimoine urbain. Arrondissement de l’Île-Bizard—Sainte-Geneviève—Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue. Montréal, Ville de Montréal, 2005, 55 p. [En ligne].