Living in Westmount
Westmount, a charming little city in the very heart of the Island of Montréal, mere steps from downtown, lies on the western flank of Mount Royal. This mainly Anglophone city of over 20,000 residents still has the wealthiest population in the country. LUXE takes you on a tour of the community formerly known as La Petite Montagne.
A bit of history
When the downtown began to expand into the Golden Square Mile, Montréal’s former upper-crust neighbourhood, Westmount started to transform into the posh bedroom community we know today. From the Victorian gingerbread trim on its row houses to the splendid architecture of the larger estates (ex-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney bought a house there for two million dollars) lining its winding, shady streets, most of Westmount’s development took place between 1910 and 1930. Architect Robert Findlay designed a number of landmark buildings during this period, such as the library, City Hall and a number of other public buildings, all in the typical English national neo-Tudorstyle. Strolling through Westmount is like taking a magic portal to Great Britain. Along with the luxurious residences we find smaller houses and condominiums that have attracted large numbers of middle-class residents and families, Anglophones as well as Francophones.
A garden city
The City of Westmount’s heritage is not defined solely by its distinctive architecture. Nature is there in all its glory, notably in the unspoiled woodlands on the top of the hill, to remind us of what the site used to look like. Westmount was originally covered by forests and occupied by Aboriginal peoples, as witnessed by the traces of a former cemetery found on the mountaintop. Westmount, known at the time as the Village of Côte-Saint-Antoine, was for a long time a rural village and home to the Décarie, Hurtubise and Leclerc families, among others. Over time it flourished into a city where urban convenience, a country atmosphere and the community values shared by all of its residents coexist.
Today it is home to an urban forest, numerous parks (the loveliest of which is certainly Westmount Park) and playing fields, a bird sanctuary and a lookout with a breathtaking view. With its 11,000 trees and innumerable manicured lawns and gardens, Westmount’s greenery is by no means confined to its public green spaces. It also has a brand-new sports complex housing two underground skating rinks and a magnificent swimming pool.
In short, Westmount is a true jewel set in the heart of the metropolis. It offers an exemplary quality of life and its wealth is measured not by the size of some of its estates but rather by the spirit of its community.
Greene Avenue, an essential stop for anyone who wants to tour Westmount and take a pleasant stroll, is the city’s commercial artery. This quintessentially English-Canadian street is lined with attractive boutiques, art galleries, antique shops and bookstores. How can anyone resist the treasures in La cache, home to the cutest of tablecloths, dishtowels and table accessories? And what can you say about the Oink Oink toy store and Coral jewellery store, places whose magical atmospheres, a thousand leagues from your typical mega-department store, immediately conquer our heart? Between visits to boutiques you can raise a glass on the patio of Taverne sur le Square.
Hurtubise House, built in 1739 and located at 561 Chemin de la Côte-Saint-Antoine, is the oldest house in Westmount. It is the sole survivor of the farms built on La Petite Montagne in the early 18th century. It has changed very little since it was built. Inside, the old partitions with low doors are intact and the interior woodwork is attached with hand-forged nails.
Westmount Square is a multifunctional complex consisting of four buildings in the heart of Westmount. Designed by American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, it is made up of two residential towers, two office buildings and a shopping centre, all connected to Place Alexis Nihon through a tunnel.
Westmount Park is a 26-acre multi-purpose space with fields that provide the illusion of the countryside in the middle of the city. A walk through this green space takes you to unexpected oases of tranquillity beside its ponds, trees and small waterfall.
The park’s greenhouses regularly play host to floral exhibits and the gallery in the Victoria Hall, a former performance venue erected in 1924, houses exhibits by local artists. The Westmount Library, located in the park, was the first municipal library in Québec. Its frescos and stained glass are worth the side trip.
Text: Diane Stehle
Photos: Ville de Westmount