Town of Mount Royal, September 17, 2007 – Offered every summer and having experimented with different formulas since 2003, the Town of Mount Royal’s Heritage Walks are always a hit with history and architecture buffs. The September 9 walk, the only one organized this year, shattered all previous records for participation. On the walk, about forty people delighted in hearing the scholarly accounts and historical anecdotes delivered by Stephen Eden, Architect, and Bonnie Hill, Division Head – Urban Planning, as they explored the Town Centre, West Side.
Using the Mount Royal train station, now well known as the site of La Pizzaïolle restaurant as their starting point, the walkers learned a great deal about the Town’s birth and the important role that railway development played in it. During a long walk that then led them from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Rose Garden to the Reginald J.P. Dawson Library, by way of Town Hall, to Peace Park, along streets such as Stanstead, Moncrieff, Chester and others, participants learned not only about the birth of a town, but also its entire infancy. In all, about fifteen stops provided opportunities to discuss historic figures, architectural movements and green heritage along the way, while at all times favouring the creation of solid links from the past to the present in order to increase the walkers’ understanding.
« The route that we took included magnificent homes that received awards from the 2003, 2004 and 2005 editions of l’Opération patrimoine architectural de Montréal (OPAM), which gave us a chance to discuss the construction currents that have marked Mount Royal’s development and to superbly illustrate our comments » explains Stephen Eden. « Through exchanges with the participants, it was also an opportunity to situate some of the Town’s current regulatory aspects in their historical context where residential spaces are concerned » added Bonnie Hill.
The Heritage Walks, as we know them today, were inspired from an initiative of la Table ronde sur l’art de Mont-Royal (TRAM). In fact, it was members of that organization – notably Wendy Graham, with the help of architect Laurent Trudeau – who contributed voluntarily to develop the content of the activity and who launched the first circuits in 2003. Fittingly, during the course of the September 9 activity, walkers were able to admire TRAM members, on the court of the Parish of the Annunciation Church, pencils in hand, sketching the imposing building for the occasion. It was in fact one of the stops planned by the leaders of the walk.
The resounding success of the 2007 edition of the Mount Royal Heritage Walks once again demonstrates that there is a vast and varied audience for this type of activity – this time there were as many Francophones as Anglophones taking part and participants ranged in age from two to eighty – and that public interest, far from fading over the years, seems to be growing for the proposed routes. It’s enough to envisage the return of Heritage Walks in a coming year, even the development of new routes, perhaps under new themes, in the very near future.