Westmount places:
Olivier Avenue

The history behind the familiar: the former residents who called Olivier Avenue their home

By Michael Walsh

December 7, 2023

Patrick Walsh, thirty years of age, while throwing hay from a stable loft in Olivier Avenue, Westmount, yesterday afternoon, fell through a trap door and injured his back. He was taken to the General Hospital.

Montreal Gazette, April 7, 1902

One of the most surprising aspects of writing about city streets is that one never knows the journey’s direction. Olivier Avenue is no exception to the rule. Specifically, is the street named “Olivier” or “Oliver”? The answer lies in who you ask. (I can assure you that the name bears no relationship to the English actor Laurence Olivier.)

In 1877, the Village of Cote St. Antoine referred to it as “Street No. 2” bounded by property owned by Messrs. Cramp and Greene. By 1882, Council referred to it as Olivier Avenue. One year later, the first residents (Mackdie and Montgomery) are noted in the Council proceedings. In addition, from that date to the present, Council consistently refers to the street as “Olivier Avenue.”

358-364 Olivier

358 and 364 Olivier • Image: Andrew Burlone

This, however, is not the case with legal proceedings, deeds and newspaper articles. These publications, up to 1991, refer to the street as “Oliver Avenue.” For example, legal proceedings published in the Quebec Official Gazette (1927, 1931) refer to the street as “Oliver.” The Standard (1913) and The Montreal Herald (1901) followed suit.

To settle this matter once and for all, the City of Westmount consulted with Dr. Hélène Saly, a teacher at Westmount High School, local historian and editor of Old Westmount, who concurred that street is, in fact, named Olivier and honours Olivier Berthelet. Interestingly, this finding did not satisfy all Council members.

“Alderman Aitken reported that she had consulted with Dr. Helène Saly and discovered that Olivier Avenue was named after Olivier Berthelet. Mayor Gallery reported that when he had attended Queens’ School, it was commonly called ‘Oliver.’ ”
– Council Proceedings, December 17, 1984

‘… is the street named ‘Olivier’ or ‘Oliver’? The answer lies in who you ask. (I can assure you that the name bears no relationship to the English actor Laurence Olivier.)’

Once this confusion was brought to public attention, Council was approached by residents to officially refer to the street as “Oliver Avenue.”

“Researched name of Olivier Avenue; it was named after the great grandfather of Rev. David Oliver of St. Matthias Church; it should be called ‘Oliver’ as it was commonly known in the past, and not ‘Olivier’ Avenue; will continue her research on this.”
– G. Johnson, Council Proceedings, December 7, 1987

375 to 355 Olivier

375 to 355 Olivier • Image: Andrew Burlone

This leads us to the larger question: Is common usage grounds for officially renaming a City street, or should one rely on undocumented evidence? If one assumes the street honours Olivier Berthelet, whose proper name is Antoine Olivier Berthelet (1798-1872), what was the rationale in naming a street using his middle name? This is inconsistent with every other street that honours a historical figure.

In addition, Berthelet owned large amounts of property in the eastern end of Montreal – portions of which were donated to religious communities. In fact, the City of Montreal has a street named Rue Olivier-Berthelet in his honour. (As a side note, the Northwest Territories comprises a group of islands named “Olivier Islands” with no (public) record of the choice of nomenclature.)

What we do know, however, is that “Olivier” is an Old French noun derived from the Latin oliverium (olive tree). As to who the street honours is a question that will remain in doubt until one finds a definitive primary source.

The early residents of the street paid no concern to either the street’s name or its origins. In fact, its development comprised a mixture of residential, sports, religious and commercial buildings. Specifically, the erection of the Grace Baptist Church on the corner of Olivier and Western Avenues (1893). The building housed the Seventh Day Adventist Church (1926) and the Calvin-Westminster Presbyterian Church (1928).

‘What we do know, however, is that ‘Olivier’ is an Old French noun derived from the Latin oliverium (olive tree). As to who the street honours is a question that will remain in doubt until one finds a definitive primary source.’

In 1894, the Elm Lacrosse Club grounds were located on the corner of Olivier Avenue and St. Catherine Street. By 1911, W. E. Muir constructed a three-story building in this location that was used by Sterling Printing Service. By 1929, it was the site for Queen’s School. At the same intersection, Laing Packing and Provision Company maintained their headquarters. (In 1907, the company offered their building for the Town of Westmount’s Post Office.)

Laing Packing and Provision

Laing Packing and Provision envelope

In addition, today’s landscaped grounds housing Hydro Westmount’s sub-station initially housed the Ice Manufacturing Company and a livery stable with cabs for hire until 1929, when the Town of Westmount purchased the property.

Finally, in 1939, the Repertory Theater occupied cadastral lot 349. Today, the area is the location of Oliver [sic] House West apartments.

At this point, let us step back in time during a walk along Olivier Avenue and discover the stories waiting to be told.

203 Olivier
Westmount Transfer and Storage Company (1932)

205 Olivier
Badgley Construction Company (1926)
The Royal Trust Company, Branch Renting Office (1937)
Demolished in 1968.

206 Olivier
Damaged by fire (August 1984)

Queens’ Public School

Queen’s Public School (c 1900) • Image: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

208 Olivier
Queen’s Public School (1899)
Designed by Alexander Hutchinson and George W. Wood. The building was comprised of pressed red brick with cut limestone from Bedford, Indiana. Amongst their other works, these include additions to the Henry Birks & Company building, St. Catherine Street (1905), a new wing at the Royal Victoria Hospital and Heather Curling Club and rink (1905) located at Kensington and Western Avenues.

Septimus Fraser (c. 1875)

Septimus Fraser (c. 1875) • Image: Perkins School for the Blind

225 Olivier
Oliver House Apartments (1966)

258 Olivier
James S. Jellyman, R. Jellyman & Company (1904)

“Canada Paper Box Factory. R. Jellyman & Co., 582 Craig Street, Montreal, Hatters, Milliners, Druggists, Jewellers, and all kinds of Fancy Boxes, made to order.”
– Advertisement, 1867

“… found dead yesterday morning in his house… The body was found by a painter… suicide was suspected, but the facts, the police say, do not indicate self-destruction. Jellyman, depressed over his business and private troubles, had been drinking heavily.”
– Montreal Gazette, March 29, 1904

Septimus Fraser (1937)
Pianist and Director of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind

262 Olivier
Nursing Sister Vivian Tremain (1916)
No. 1 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, France. Attended His Majesty the King, who was injured while reviewing his troops in France. Awarded the Royal Red Cross and the Victorian Order.

Vivian Tremaine

Vivian Tremaine • Image: Imperial War Museums

Vivian Tremaine, a graduate of 1907, was born in Montmorency, Quebec in 1880. For six years following graduation, she attended private cases, and when war broke out, she was one of the first to volunteer for service. From her service record issued by the Department of National Defence, she was appointed Nursing Sister, C.A.M.C., C.E.F. (1st Canadian Contingent) in 1914 and embarked for England in October of the same year. She served in England and France and was promoted to Matron, Canadian Army Nursing Service, in 1916. In 1917, she proceeded to Canada on Transport Duty and returned to England later that year for a variety of postings. In 1919, she was posted for duty with Medical Services Military District No. 5, Quebec, and left the service in March 1920.

“When (1915) His Majesty King George was recently injured by a fall from his horse, the best of nursing talent available was called upon to care for him. Among those summoned to the King’s bedside was Miss Vivienne Tremaine of Montreal, a graduate of the General Hospital…”
– Newspaper clipping, source unknown

Matron Tremaine was in charge of the clearing station at Aire-sur-Lys when the King had his accident. She accompanied the King to England and was on night duty at the palace for several weeks. She received many honours among which was the Royal Victorian Medal (Victorian Order, 5th class) conferred upon her personally by His Majesty while at Buckingham Palace. In addition, she was awarded the Mons, Victory, and General Service medals, as well as the Royal Red Cross first class.

Florence Nightingale medal

Florence Nightingale medal

In 1922, the Department of Immigration requested the Red Cross Society to carry on with the work of the nurseries, which had begun as a war measure by voluntary workers of the I.O.D.E. and Miss Tremaine was appointed Supervisor of the Canadian Red Cross Seaboard Nurseries.

“Nineteen thousand children and 15,000 women cared for, cheered up and sent on their way rejoicing is not a bad record for one year’s work in the Red Cross Nurseries of the ports of Quebec, Halifax and Saint John. And this is only part of the recent activities to the credit of Miss Vivian Tremaine of Quebec to whom the Florence Nightingale Medal of the International Red Cross Committee of Geneva has just been awarded. Miss Tremaine, who is in charge of the nurseries of Quebec and Saint John, is one of only three Canadian women to receive this high honour.”
– Newspaper clipping, source unknown, (The Alumnae Association of The Montreal General Hospital School of Nursing)

258-262-266 Olivier

258, 262 and 266 Olivier • Image: Andrew Burlone

266 Olivier
The building was altered into a two-family dwelling (1938)

267 Olivier
Harold Mudge, Manager and Director of Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company of Canada (1945)
He participated in the Boer War and fought at the siege of Ladysmith. His daughter, Gertrude Mudge, had a long career at McGill University – today she is remembered through the Gertrude Mudge Memorial Student Aid Fund.

“For thousands of graduates from the Faculty of Medicine, Gertrude Mudge’s presence as the Faculty’s assistant secretary helped make their McGill experience more meaningful.”

“Mudge was born in 1886 to a middle-class family with four older siblings. Upon her father’s death in 1910, when she was no longer needed to help care for him, she decided to seek an independent career of her own. The choice was a brave one – at the time, rejecting marriage and seeking a career was not the usual choice for a young woman and she was rebuffed by some of her friends.”

“Mudge began her career doing secretarial work for local firms in Montreal, eventually ending up at McGill in 1915, where she held multiple roles before she joined the Faculty of Medicine in 1923. While her office work was impressive, her most recognized quality was her empathy and care for students. One graduate recalled, “My student days at McGill were the happiest of my life. This was due, in no small part, to association with such wonderful persons as Miss Mudge.”
– as quoted in Hanlan, Getrude Mudge 1886-1858, Fontannus, Vol. 7, 1995, p. 55

“When ‘Mudgy’ (as she was known to students) retired in 1953, the medical students held a ball in her honour to wish her farewell. Upon her retirement, she embarked on an international journey to visit as many of the graduates as she could. In 1955, she received an honorary Master of Arts degree from McGill. She died in Montreal in 1958.”
– McGill University Bicentennial

Major R. A. Starke

Major R. A. Starke • Image: The Canadian Virtual War Memorial

331 Olivier
McManus Livery Stable (1909)
Hydro Westmount sub-station (1950)
This new sub-station increased the city’s capacity to supply electrical power from 8,000 to 12,000 kilowatts with a reserve of 7,600 kilowatts. It was expanded in 1972.

336 Olivier
Alexander McDonald, Superintendent of Point St. Charles Canadian National Railway Shops (1937)

339 Olivier
H. S. Bourke (1916)
Damaged by fire, January 1917

342 Olivier
Major Robert Andrew Starke, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, R.C.I.C. 1943) Died as a prisoner in Hong Kong.

344 Olivier
Dorius Menard Ltd., construction contractors (1933)

Bank of Quebec pound note

Bank of Quebec pound note • Image: Bank of Canada Museum

356 Olivier

356 Olivier

356 Olivier
John Walker, accountant, Quebec Bank (1894)
The Quebec Bank was integrated into the Royal Bank in 1918.
James M. Coleman, General Superintendent, Central Region, Canadian National Railway (1930)

363 Olivier
Hertel Larocque, radio publicist (1946)
Arrested for extorting $5,000 from the Maroon Club located at 958 St. Catherine Street.

364 Olivier
William Galbraith, Carter, Galbraith and Company, wholesale grocery retailers (1894)

371 Olivier
George S. Cameron D.D.S., Professor of Prosthetic Dentistry and Metallurgy, McGill University (1948)

375 Olivier
Dr. Adrien Dufault (1943)

379 Olivier
John Riddell, Assistant Superintendent, Grand Trunk Railway (1894)
Andrew Burns, Grand Trunk Railway (1926)

Empire Tobacco Company

Empire Tobacco Company • Image: MyCompanies Wiki

Empire Tobacco prize list

Empire Tobacco prize list – image: Abe Books

381 Olivier
Edward Archibald, Empire Tobacco Company (1894)
Their foundry, located in Granby, Quebec, made cast iron cutters for plug tobacco. Purchased by Imperial Tobacco in 1899.

382 Olivier
John Archibald, Empire Tobacco Company (1894)
Alexander Parker Willis, President, Willis and Company Limited, piano manufacturers (1934)
During his business career, he had two manufacturing plants in St. Therese and erected the Willis Building and Concert Hall at the corner of Drummond and St. Catherine Streets.

Willis Building, Montreal

Willis Building, Montreal • Image: Public Domain

Red Cross House, Westmount headquarters of the Canadian Red Cross Society (1939)
Montreal Women’s Club, War Work Committee (1941)
Catholic Women of Westmount, War Work Group (1943)
Weston School Incorporated, day school (1963)

383 Olivier
Fred Cooper (1934)
Fatally shot at his home while cleaning a rifle

388 Olivier
John Carroll, Secretary, Philips Electric Company (1894)
B. G. Martin, Chief Appraiser Montreal Customs (1937)
Major J. L. Carnegie, 1st Battalion, Black Watch (1944)
Killed in action at Normandy
Clarence Vernon Frayn, organist, Trinity Memorial Church, closed 2017 (1947)

Philips logo

396 Olivier
Angelo Apartments (1929)
Stanley MacPherson, Royal Securities Corporation Ltd. (1950)
A brokerage firm, today incorporated into the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Feature image: 383 to 355 Olivier, by Andrew BurloneBouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre – WestmountMag.ca

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Michael Walsh - WestmountMag.ca

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. Before moving to Montreal, he was contracted by the Ontario Ministry of Education to evaluate 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

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There are 3 comments

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  1. jacqui reid walsh

    Oh what a fascinating history of a street that has an ambiguously spelled name! cant wait until i walk down the street again.

  2. John galley

    Thank you for this very interesting and educational article. As an attendee and graduate of Queen’s School, it is interesting to learn about the many interesting people that lived on the street.

    Thank you for sharing

  3. C.Roper

    I used to sing in the excellent choir at the Church of the Advent on the corner of Olivier and de Maisonneuve, and always wondered why this Anglican “high” church was closed. Structurally it appears to be in sound repair, and I believe there is no other high Anglican Church in Montreal other than the Church of St John the Evangelist in downtown Montreal. Just curious!
    ACJ Roper

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