and their stories /20
The history behind the familiar: Revisiting Dorchester Boulevard in the late 1800s
By Michael Walsh
Previously published October 13, 2018
It’s creative destruction – to achieve progress we needed to destroy that which came before to make way for this new building. Rather than looking to old built fabric as something that could be restored or improved, we’re actually going to destroy it to make something anew.
Francesca Ammon, professor of city and regional planning and historic preservation, University of Pennsylvania
This is our third walk, in a series, through the various Westmount streets whose buildings were expropriated in the 1960s, and later demolished, to widen Dorchester Boulevard.
Even the casual pedestrian cannot avoid noticing the juxtaposition of residences while walking along Dorchester Boulevard, between Atwater and Hallowell. It is evident that the southern portion of the street is lined with beautiful nineteenth-century houses. The northern portion, however, is devoid of any residential life.
Historically, there were over ninety buildings between Atwater and Hallowell. Today, less than half exist and those between Atwater and Greene are captured in the images that follow.
Not only was the street’s landscape altered during that period of urban renewal, but the street’s name was also mired in controversy – which we will revisit in a few moments.
To begin, the street was originally named Grand Chemin du Roy and later changed to St. Jean Baptiste. Its current name, Dorchester, was approved by the island’s municipalities over 145 years ago. The name Dorchester honours Guy Carleton, 1st Baron Dorchester (1724-1808). His career as a British general and colonial administrator is a fascinating story that goes far beyond the scope of this article.
In brief, he assisted in the passage of the Quebec Act (1774) as well as the defeat of Montgomery at Quebec City. More importantly, he was responsible for the Constitutional Act of 1791 that allowed representative governments in Britain’s colonial territories.
Before we become acquainted with the former residents, let’s step back and revisit the toponymic controversy, in 1987, surrounding the street’s current name.
Within a week of the passing of René Lévesque in November 1987, Montreal Mayor Jean Doré announced the city would name a landmark in honour of the former Quebec premier. Two months later, the City of Montreal stated that Dorchester Boulevard will be renamed Boulevard René Lévesque.
This decision opened the proverbial “can of worms” and the battle lines were drawn. The Montreal Gazette reported Pierre Pascau (CKAC talk host) stating, “The majority think it is a wonderful idea that the nicest, largest, the most important boulevard in Montreal be named after René Lévesque”.
He added fuel to the fire, following the City of Westmount’s objections, by adding, “and Montrealers think its outright racism by the devious English who just don’t want a major Montreal artery bearing a French name”. Let’s take a less emotional approach and look at the City of Westmount’s objections.
There are several rules for renaming a street within Quebec’s Commission de toponymie. One of these is that one has to wait one year after death, to avoid name changes based strictly on emotional reasons. In addition, other municipalities often hold public consultations before making such decisions.
‘Not only was the street’s landscape altered during that period of urban-renewal, the street’s name was also mired in controversy…’
The City of Westmount’s (newly elected) Mayor May Cutler was staunch in her council’s opposition to renaming her city’s portion of the street. Calling it “quite unseemly” that the City of Montreal would go forward with this plan without any consultation with either herself or any members of the city’s council.
She stated, “In New York City, no matter how important, august or much-loved the person is… the matter goes through a lengthy process, including consultation with the community.”
Westmount Examiner, November 19, 1987
Luckily, in the end, cooler heads prevailed and the City of Westmount’s portion of Blvd. René Lévesque retained the name Dorchester Boulevard. In fact, in 2001, only months before the City of Westmount was (temporarily) “absorbed” into “mega-Montreal” concerns were raised about renaming street names – including Dorchester.
Mayor Peter Trent put these fears to rest with his typical British dry sense of humour, “If they felt now that Westmounters don’t want to have anything to do with the new city… the renaming of Dorchester would wind up with Westmounters putting up the barricades. They’d call themselves the Duchy of Westmount or something and ask the United Nations for special recognition.”
The Montreal Gazette, November 5, 2001
With this controversy behind us, let’s revisit Dorchester Street in the late 1800s and become acquainted with the numerous neighbours that were here before us.
4005 Dorchester (former civic number)
Robertson Macaulay, managing director, Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada – 1899
4007 Dorchester (former civic number)
Thomas B. Macaulay, secretary & actuary, Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada –1899
4009 Dorchester (former civic number)
E. T. Bartlett – 1899
4015 Dorchester (former civic number)
Mrs. L. O. McDonald, widow D. McDonald – 1899
4019 Dorchester (former civic number)
A. Piers, superintendent, Steamship Department, Canadian Pacific Railway – 1899
4021 Dorchester (former civic number)
H. L. Putman, real estate agent – 1899
4025 Dorchester (former civic number)
C. A. Vaughan, broker – 1899
4029 Dorchester (former civic number)
M. Honan, advocate – 1899
4030 Dorchester (former civic number)
Walter Grose, hardware – 1899
4031 Dorchester (former civic number)
Hon. William Owens, Senator – 1899
“Born at Lachute, May 15, 1840, son of Owen Owens and Charlotte Lindley. Attended school in his home parish. First worked in his father’s business, then became owner, with his brother Thomas, under the name of T. & W. Owens. Retired from the business in 1887. Owens owned part of the land of the Seigneury of Papineau in Montebello, on which he installed a farm, mills and sawmills. Vice-President of the South Shore Railway. Postmaster in Chatham. In the military field, was part of the volunteer militia from 1866 to 1883 and was lieutenant of the 11th Ranger Battalion of Argenteuil.
Defeated candidate in Argenteuil in the federal by-election of November 4, 1874. City councillor and mayor of Chatham from January 15, 1872 to January 11, 1875. Elected Conservative member of the Legislative Assembly in Argenteuil in 1881. Re-elected unopposed in 1886 and in 1890. Resigned on February 20, 1891. Defeated Conservative candidate in Argenteuil in the federal election of 1891. Appointed Senator of the Inkerman Division on January 2, 1896.
Died in office in Westmount, June 8, 1917, at the age of 77. Buried in Montreal, in the Mount Royal Cemetery, on June 11, 1917.”
National Assembly of Quebec
4033 Dorchester (former civic number)
James Marshall, J. Rattray & Company – 1899
Amongst the largest importers and dealers in this special line of business is the firm of J. Rattray & Co., whose warehouse and office is at No. 428 St. Paul Street. The firm handles all the finest quality tobacco and controls a large trade, and as manufacturers of cigars supply a large demand from the city and country. The cigar factory is at No. 80 St. Charles Borromée Street… The house stands pre-eminent in this branch of trade and manufacture, and its affairs are, and always have been, from the date of its inception in 1878, conducted upon the soundest principles of commercial integrity.
Montreal, Leading Firms and Moneyed Institutions, 1886
4035 Dorchester (former civic number)
E. W. Wilson, chief city agent, Manufactures’ Guarantee & Accidental Insurance Company – 1899
4036 Dorchester (former civic number)
William Grant – 1899
J. P. Seybold, Seybold, Sons & Company – 1899
Hardware dealers located at 294 rue Saint-Paul Ouest and 291 place D’Youville.
The buildings still exist:
Merchant John Philip Seybold built a warehouse store in 1901-1902 to accommodate his wholesale hardware business, Seybold & Sons Co. The six-storey building was designed by architect Robert Findlay. The building replaced a former store acquired from Andrew Stuart Ewing in 1880 and destroyed during the major conflagration of January 23, 1901.
Old Montreal Official website
Charles Percy, Treasurer, Grand Trunk Railway –1899
St. Stephan’s Chapel, Church of England, Venerable Archdeacon Evans, Rector – 1899
4043 Dorchester (former civic number)
J. P. Black, J. P. Black & Company – 1899
4049 Dorchester (former civic number)
G. M. Bosworth, traffic manager, Canadian Pacific Railway – 1899
4051 Dorchester (former civic number)
Michael Hirsch, G. Hirsch & Sons, tobacconists – 1899
4053 Dorchester (former civic number)
Lewis B. McFarlane, superintendent, Bell Telephone Company – 1899
4069 Dorchester (former civic number)
O. Deslauriers, contractor – 1899
4071 Dorchester (former civic number)
Albert E. De Lorimier, Angers, De Lorimier & Godin, lawyers – 1899
F. Edgar, Mackay Brothers – 1899
4111 Dorchester (former civic number)
H. B. Loucks, clerk – 1899
4113 Dorchester (former civic number)
J. C. Lattrell, clerk – 1899
Henry Fry, Fry & Clark – 1899
Mrs. H. Barker, widow Richard Barker – 1899
Walter L. Fellowes – 1899
George Graham Churchill – 1899
Charles Handyside – 1899
His father, David Handyside was born in Edinburgh… 1794. With his two brothers, they left their native land when they were young men to come to Montreal and became merchants in St. Joseph street. The two brothers afterwards owned and operated a large distillery at Longue Pointe, the ruins of which to-day are made into fine stables, barns and outhouses belonging to Mr. Viau, who now owns the property. David’s Distillery was on St. Mary street, and the foundation and walls are still seen in the large tobacco factory opposite Fullum street. He was named a member of the new Corporation of Montreal in 1840. He married Melinda Adams, of Burlington Vermont, and died…1855. His eldest daughter married Joseph Jones, the Coroner, a man who, though over eighty years of age, is still able to perform the duties of his onerous profession.
History and Biographical Gazetteer of Montreal to the Year 1892
C. E. Uscher, general passenger agent, Canadian Pacific Railway – 1899
4139 Dorchester (former civic number)
Captain William Ross – 1899
W. W. Craig, cattle exporter – 1899
One of the founding members of the Canadian Livestock Association (1895).
4143 Dorchester (former civic number)
G. Q. O’Neil, traveller – 1899
Mrs. Mary Eaves, widow Edmond Eaves – 1899
John Eaves, manager, Edmond Eaves – 1899
4145 Dorchester (former civic number)
J. H. Silver, manager, Matthews, Towers & Company – 1899
Matthews, Towers Co., Men’s Furnishing Goods, 7 Victoria Square, Corner St. James St., Montreal
Chronology of Montreal from A.D. 1752 to A.D. 1893, John Lovell & Son, 1893
James Innes, bookbinder – 1899
4147 Dorchester (former civic number)
George H. Bishop, manufacture’s agent – 1899
William Henry, clerk – 1899
W. H. Henry, agent, Delaware & Hudson Railway – 1899
4149 Dorchester (former civic number)
D. Gillmor, Chase & Sanborn (1899)
“Chase and Sanborn was founded in Boston in 1878 by Caleb Chase and James Sanborn. It specializes in coffee roasting, grinding and packaging. It also markets tea and is known as one of the first companies in the coffee industry to package its products in welded metal cans.
Concerned about the origin of the beans, the two associates travel to South America to meet with the various producers. In 1884, Sanborn leaves for the sub-continent with his daughter Helen, who serves as his interpreter. Later, the company bought a farm in Guatemala and invested in the erection of a railway.
The company quickly becomes successful and distributes its coffee throughout the United States. In 1893, the company was chosen to supply coffee to all the trade shows at the World’s Fair in Chicago. Soon after, the company opened branches in Canada. It acquired a warehouse and a sales outlet in Montreal, first on Saint-Paul Street from 1906 to 1907 and then on Sainte-Hélène Street from 1907 to 1929. In this building, the Chase and Sanborn roasts, grinds, packages and sells its coffee.
From 1929 to 1981, the company was part of Standard Brands. In 1981, this company merged with Nabisco. The Chase and Sanborn brand was then sold to Sara Lee in 2002. The company is now a subsidiary of the Massimo Zanetti group since 2006.
Quebec Cultural Heritage Directory
4156 Dorchester (former civic number)
J. Hardisty, manager, Hudson Bay Company – 1899
F. Gilbert, Gilbert Brothers – 1899
4161 Dorchester (former civic number)
David H. Rennoldson, wholesale grocers – 1899
A. E. Rosevear, freight agent – 1899
4163 Dorchester (former civic number)
A. F. Beevor, civil engineer – 1899
T. Brophy, Brophy, Cains & Company, importers of staple and fancy dry goods – 1899
J. Callow, artist – 1899
4167 Dorchester (former civic number)
H. V. Harris – 1899
Spencer Papps, clerk – 1899
Edwin G. Rykert, stockbroker – 1899
Samuel Johnston – 1899
James McGregor, manager, Commercial Union Insurance Company – 1899
4201 Dorchester (former civic number)
Mrs. C. McCall, widow F. McCall – 1899
4203 Dorchester (former civic number)
J. R. Wright, accountant, Sun Life Insurance Company – 1899
4205 Dorchester (former civic number)
Thomas Gibbard, Lyman, Sons & Company – 1899
4207 Dorchester (former civic number)
Reverend Thomas Everett – 1899
4210 Dorchester (former civic number)
T. H. Christmas, manager, Eastern Canada Branch, Aetna Life Insurance Company – 1899
4211 Dorchester (former civic number)
Newton Tucker, manager, Thomas May & Company – 1899
4215 Dorchester (former civic number)
Saul Hyman, tobacconist – 1899
4222 Dorchester (former civic number)
Colonel Fred Massey, Gurney-Massey Company – 1899
4223 Dorchester (former civic number)
Hugh Brodie, Brodie & Harvie – 1899
4224 Dorchester (former civic number)
G. H. Massey, civil engineer – 1899
Mrs. E. C. Fenwick – 1899
4227 Dorchester (former civic number)
W. Angus, Auld Mucilage Company – 1899
4231 Dorchester (former civic number)
David H. Gilbert, superintendent, Montreal Pipe Factory & Montreal Car Wheel Works –1899
4251 Dorchester (former civic number)
J. M. Farrell, exports and commercial merchant – 1899
4253 Dorchester (former civic number)
H. W. Wadsworth, secretary, Dominion Travellers Association – 1899
4258 Dorchester (former civic number)
Edward Cavanagh, Edward Cavanagh Company – 1899
4260 Dorchester (former civic number)
J. A. Pitts, wholesale jeweller – 1899
4262 Dorchester (former civic number)
J. T. McBridge, fruit importer – 1899
4263 Dorchester (former civic number)
R. L. Gaunt, M. Fisher Sons & Company – 1899
4264 Dorchester (former civic number)
Tancrede D. Terroux, Garand & Terroux and Company – 1899
4266 Dorchester (former civic number)
J. W. Palmer, John Palmer & Son – 1899
4267 Dorchester (former civic number)
Mrs. S. E. Underwood widow Joseph Underwood – 1899
4270 Dorchester (former civic number)
S. T. Spindlo, Black & White – 1899
4273 Dorchester (former civic number)
Senator William Kenwood – 1899
4274 Dorchester (former civic number)
Edgar Judge, commercial merchant – 1899
4275 Dorchester (former civic number)
Alfred McDougald, manager, British Empire Mutual Life Association Company – 1899
4277 Dorchester (former civic number)
John Shaw, general manager, Montreal Electric Company – 1899
4280 Dorchester (former civic number)
Robert C. Smith, Smith, Markey & Montgomery, law firm – 1899
4282 Dorchester (former civic number)
David J. M. Darling – 1899
D. Darling – 1899
4283 Dorchester (former civic number)
James Knowles, painter – 1899
4285 Dorchester (former civic number)
Mrs. P. A. Beilby widow Thomas Beilby – 1899
4287 Dorchester (former civic number)
Reverend W. T. Graham, Pastor, Grace Baptist Church – 1899
4289 Dorchester (former civic number)
William Gandle, stenographer – 1899
4293 Dorchester (former civic number)
Allan Macduff, bookkeeper – 1899
4295 Dorchester (former civic number)
W. A. Ralston, bookkeeper – 1899
4297 Dorchester (former civic number)
James Jephcott, manager, Montreal Lithograph Company – 1899
Images: Michael Walsh (unless indicated otherwise) – Feature image: Andrew Burlone
Michael Walsh is a long-time Westmount resident. He is happily retired from nearly four decades in the field of higher education technology. A “professional student” by nature, his academic training, and publishing include statistical methodology, mycology and animal psychology. During this period, he was also an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. Prior to moving to Montreal, he was contracted by the Ontario Ministry of Education evaluating bilingual primary and secondary school programs. Today, he enjoys spending time with his (huge) Saint Bernard while discovering the city’s past and sharing stories of the majestic trees that grace the parks and streets. He can be contacted at michaelld2003 @hotmail.com or through his blog Westmount Overlooked