City of St. Laurent
Birth of the village, 1702 – 1890
Among all the villages dating back to Nouvelle-France, St-Laurent is the only one on the Island of Montreal to have sprung up inland, away from water. Its unique location, at the crossroads of severa main arteries, was strategic for both communications and defence. The rist village core dates back to 1702, the year following the Great Peace with the Iroquois. The Sulpicians granted land to colonist to cultivate the territory, and this land soon became Côte Saint—Laurent. The largest section of a series of “côtes” located between Mount Royal and Rivière-des-Prairies, Côte St-Laurent was crossed from north to south by Montée St-Laurent, which later became Boulevard Sainte-Croix.
In 1722, a court order established the boundaries of the parish of St-Laurent, which encompassed the côtes of St-Michel, Notre-Dame-de-Liesse, Notre-Dame-des-Vertus and, of course, Côte St-Laurent. The development of farmlands progressed steadily, and was structured by the main communications arteries. Chemin de la Côte-Vertu took on considerable importance, since it was along this côte that the concessions were delineated. It was at the crossroads of the road and Montée St-Laurent that the eponymous village was to grow.
The village was formed around a chapel, which was the first place of worship. Its original location was different from the current St-Laurent site. The village originated on the current site of the Rockland Shopping Centre.
Although the young community comprised just eighty-three families at the turn of the century, the expansive nature of the parish made it difficult for many to attend the only chapel. In 1728, after years of debate, the decision was made to erect a new church in a more central location. Montée St-Laurent emerged as the ideal site. The construction of the church was the catalyst for the formation of the village core.
St-Laurent grew slosly and steadily from 1731 onward, on the location we know today, centred on activities that were essentially rural at first. The first farms were erected quickly on the conceded lands along Chemin de la Côte-Vertu. On the main street, Montée St-Laurent, where the church was located, a roadhouse and a few basic services gradually developed.
The more long-term dynamics of the village, however, were dependent on relations with the rest of the territory. Montée St-Laurent was a major artery linking Ville-Marie to the North Shore and Laurentian regions. Thus, starting in the 18th century, the first commercial activities appeared on this thoroughfare, which led, among other things, to the opening of inns and blacksmiths workshops.
From the second half of the 19th century onward, the village of St-Laurent grew by leaps and bounds. Two major events helped underscore the positive effects of its beneficial geographic location: the building of the College and the arrival of the railroad.
In 1847, the Pères de Sainte-Croix settled in St-Laurent and, in 1852, founded the village’s first teaching establishment. The College laid the groundwork for the small village’s future reputation. College of St-Laurent quickly became one of the leading academic institutions in Canada. This reputation in turn enhanced that of the village. The arrival of a large number of students added a certain vitality.
The arrival of the College also strenghened the economic vitality of St-Laurent. The influx of new residents significantly increased the already considerable traffic along Montée St-laurent, a main through road for travelers in transit. The activity generated by the College was without doubt related to the flourishing growth of the retail trade: in addition to a number of boutiques and workshops run by artisans, there were no fewer than three hotels on this small stretch of road.
In 1885, the introduction of the railroad, which ran to the south of the College, paved the way for the development of industrial activity in St-Laurent. It brought an end to the relative isolation of St-Laurent in the centre of the Island of Montreal.
The village, whose chief industrial activities at the time involved the provision of goods and services underwent a transformation that was to make it into a leading industrial hub. The position of the railroad shifted the pattern of urban growth to the north and west.
St-Laurent’s privileged location led to trade with Montreal and with the other villages on the island, although the development of the village took place in a relatively independent manner. Its self-reliance explains how it managed to retain its rural character until political upheaval and there was no massive exodus of the population during the British invasion. The village soon evolved to become a dynamic municipality.
Photos : Archives de la ville de Saint-Laurent.
Photo 1 : De l’Église street, in front of the 1575 de l’Église
Photo 2 : St-Mathieu’s avenue, which is today the Côte-Vertu boulevard, approximately 1900
Photo 3 : Joseph Beaudry’s grocery store, at 189 main street, now the 883 Ste-Croix, approximately1890.
Photo 4 : College of Saint-Laurent, approximetely 1882
Source: Saint-Laurent, du village à la ville par Johanne Brochu et Béatrice Sokolofe