Monday, June 23, 2008

Mount Royal -- Montreal's Mountain

A View From The Chalet du Mont Royal Overlooking Downtown Montreal (in winter)

The jewel of Montreal’s city parks is, without question, Mount Royal. This 101-hectare park occupies part of the mountain that lies in the midst of Montreal island, and includes the highest spot in the city (234m).

In the 1860s, mass cutting of trees on the mountain for firewood outraged the populace and led to the area’s designation as a park in 1876. It was originally landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted, perhaps best known for New York City’s Central Park. The western lookout was first built in 1906 and is now officially known as the Belvédère Kondiaronk, named for the Huron chief who signed a major peace accord with the French regime in 1701.

The Georges-Étienne Cartier monument, where the tam-tam gatherings are held on Sundays, was inaugurated in 1919 and the illuminated cross in 1924. The lookout chalet (1932) and Beaver Lake (1938) were the fruit of work projects created to help workers left jobless by the Depression. In 1954, many trees were cut down to try to “discourage immorality” in the underbrush, which is why so few of the park’s trees are more than half a century old.
Aerial View Of Mount Royal

1958 saw the addition of the Beaver Lake pavilion, a sweet bit of retro-futurist kitsch that functions as changing room in wintertime for skaters and tobogganers. This building has recently been renovated and its rather tacky snack bar upgraded to a bistro and cafeteria with proper food.

Beaver Lake On Top Of Mount Royal

Over the years, the perimeter of the park has been nibbled at by surrounding construction. Many trees were lost to the January 1998 ice storm. Mount Royal was made a permanently protected site by a joint decision of the Quebec and Montreal governments in February 2003, and the demolition of the Park-Pine interchange has made access to the park more direct from Park Avenue. But there is still stress on the park from surrounding institutions: the enlargement of Molson Stadium is likely to cause some damage to the mountain's ecology.

Useful Links
Mount Royal -- Official Site
Mount Royal Cemetery
Parc Du Mont-Royal -- Montreal Plus
Mount Royal Park -- Bonjour Quebec
Saint Joseph's Oratory Of Montreal

Steel Cross On Top Of Mount Royal

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