Located 15 minutes away from downtown Montreal, Hampstead is known for its architecture, parks, greenery, and tranquillity, setting it apart from the rest of the Island of Montreal. The plan of its founders to impose high standards is carried on to this day by the current executive council.
Laid out in 1914, the vision of the city was based on the popular 19th century “Garden City” model, with the intention to safeguard its residents from post-industrial cities by creating a rural-oriented residential area with distinctive architecture and green spaces. Houses were intended to have ample green space to facilitate gardening for residents. The curving of roads was designed to reduce the traffic through the City.
Hampstead takes its name from two cities in London which influenced the original planners, with some of the street names used also being found in the original cities. Even during difficult periods, founders took what was once a forest-covered plot of land, only accessible through Queen Mary road, and transformed it into the distinctive Town it is today.
Eight businessmen can be thanked for making the Town of Hampstead what it is today. Amongst them was engineer-trained Sir Herbert Holt, the first president of the Hampstead Land and Construction Company. The businessman’s company played a pivotal role in the creation of the town. Before setting his eyes on Quebec, he owned or directed over 300 companies, overseeing the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Rocky Mountains. His position as the owner of the Montreal Light, Heat, and Power Company was central to the establishment of the Town.
Vice president of the Hampstead Land and Construction Co., Sir Charles B. Gordon had an impressive portfolio of directorships and holdings. He was president of Hillcrest Collieries Limited, president of Montreal Cottons Limited (where Sir Herbert Holt was vice president), director of the Bank of Montreal, CEO of Dominion Glass and Dominion Textiles, CEO of Ogilvie Flour Mills and CEO of the Royal Trust, to name a few.
In 1911, Côte St. Luc Realties was set up in order to help consolidate all the land of the proposed site. The holding company’s president was G.W. Farrell, a reputable financial agent and associate of Sir Herbert Holt. The vice president of Côte St. Luc Realties, J.K.L. Ross was also an associate of Holt’s, during his term as director of the CPR. The other partners of Côte St. Luc Realties were F. Orr Lewis, G.M. Bosworth, Sir Fredrick William-Taylor, and P. Molson. Eventually, this consortium of eight sold its share of the land to another syndicate also headed by Sir Herbert Holt.
This new group included Malcolm Arthur MacFarlane, George M. Cole, David Paterson, John Paterson, John Henry Hand, James Kerr, and John Husband. Though new ownership did not possess the extensive directorship and financial affiliations of the former, they were highly skilled in the building and marketing aspects. This group applied to the Legislative Assembly of Quebec for a bill to decree its land holdings as a municipality. On February 19, 1914, Bill 59 was passed, and the Town of Hampstead was officially incorporated.
On April 7, 1914, the Town’s founding mayor, Mayor James Ballie, convened the first council meeting, where a $5,000 note was drawn up to pay for the incorporation costs of the Town. The meeting focused on the building of infrastructures and basic amenities. The Town’s first priority was to provide running water, entering into an agreement with the Montreal Water and Power Company on September 8, 1914. Unfortunately, the Town did not actually have access to running water until 1921. The reason for this was that the City of Montreal refused to grant the Montreal Water and Power Co. the right of way needed to build a water line from Notre-Dame-de-Grace to Hampstead. Thus, the contract was eventually annulled.
The City of Montreal made it very difficult for the Town to get off to a successful start. After signing an agreement with Town officials allowing the connection of Hampstead’s its sewer system to the trunk system of the City of Côte St. Luc, the City of Montreal poured concrete down the pipes connecting the two systems. The effect was severe flooding in many of Hampstead’s new homes, forcing the building of an alternative link that did not pass through Montreal jurisdiction. There were even two annexation attempts made by the City of Montreal- first in 1916 and again in 1924- to no avail. Throughout, the Town managed to retain its independence as a bona fide municipality and as a shining example of a well-run independent town.
During World War I, the Town experienced a very slow rate of development, only picking back up around the 1920s. The first building was built in 1916, and is the present site of Hampstead’s town hall. The Town only had 8 buildings in for a few years, and had no building by-laws, depending instead on those of the City of Westmount. By-law 16, passed in 1923, created very strict building standards, consequently a building inspector was hired. In 1926, an Architectural Advisory Board was established after an amendment to the building by-law, ensuring that the distinct character of the Town is maintained. By February 1927, many of the restrictions in by-law 16 were eased in order to allow the Town to offer prospective residents many of the expected amenities.Allowing a previously built one-storey school to add a second and third storey.
The Town’s fire station was built in the 1920’s. At that point, Hampstead also began offering rudimentary policing services. By 1934, the Town had two police constables patrolling either on foot or by bicycle, ensuring safety and a low crime rate.
As for religious institutions, the Town’s needs were fairly limited. At the time, the majority of Hampstead residents were mostly protestants. The Queen Mary United Church was built in 1931 to serve their needs. The St. Malachy’s Church followed, accommodating the Town’s Catholic population. The Town adapted to the demographic shifts of the second half of the century, suiting the needs of its residents. The St. Mathew’s Anglican Church, the First Baptist Church, the Reconstructionist Synagogue and finally the Adath Israel Congregation were added to Hampstead’s list of religious institutions.
An important stage of the Town’s evolution,two important amenities were added to its already long list of services during the post-depression era. First, in response to the recommendations of a special committee, Council approved the construction of a private golf course as it would attract potential buyers, bolstering what was a small community. The Town Council also decided to resolve the public transportation issue present since the Town’s conception. On February 4, 1935, the Town of Hampstead reached an agreement with the Montreal Tramways Company. The agreement called for one bus route- costing $0.05 for adults and $0.02 for children -along Queen Mary road, to Snowdon Junction.
These developments were a sweeping success, triggering a massive population surge. The Town’s population jumped from 440 to 2,268 in the 11 years following the inauguration of the golf course and implementation of the public transportation system.
In order to accommodate this trend the Town was, once again, forced to amend some of its building by-laws. In 1939, by-law 90 was passed in order to allow for the construction of duplex housing units along Dufferin Road and MacDonald Road. By 1950, the Queen Victoria Construction Company had built over 150 duplexes along the eastern border of the Town. The Town also approved the construction of apartment blocks along the 52.8-acre stretch of land on Côte St. Luc Road, annexed in 1925.
This provided housing for an ever-expanding population. Apartments and duplexes maximized use of some of the land, efficiently increasing its revenue base. Council also believed that these projects could serve as effective buffers against the densely populated and commercial zones along the Town’s Montreal frontier.
While the Town was considered to be a predominantly Protestant settlement in the early years, the 1980’s post-war period witnessed crucial change to the Town’s religious constitution, with the population of the Town becoming predominantly Jewish.
Besides this, the Town’s population also experienced another significant growth period in the years following World War II, resulting in a renewed demand for housing. Available space, however, was extremely scarce, leading to the hiring of a planning consultant in 1956. Tasked with preparing a development plan, he recommended a two phased operation, starting with the development of almost 109 acres of untouched land in the northern and western parts of town, followed by the development of a 112.5-acre golf course. By 1970 the second phase had already begun, resulting in the complete development of all available land and the outline of the Town of Hampstead, as we know it.
Hampstead’s Town Hall, one of the first houses in Hampstead, was built in 1916 by real estate developer James Alexander Baillie. It was a wedding gift for his son, James Austin Baillie, who served as Mayor from 1924 – 1927, and 1930 – 1931. In 1942, James Austin Baillie donated his home to the Town, and it has been the seat of Hampstead’s municipal government ever since.
Kiryat Shemonah – Hampstead’s twin town since September 1978
Located just west of the Golan Heights, on the northern Hula Valley, Kiryat Shemonah was founded in 1949, growing out of a sizable Maabara, from the Hebrew “Avor”, transit. Biblically, Maabara meant a place where one could cross a river, either by foot or on makeshift bridges. Jewish immigrants flocked soon after independence to their newfound land, leaving all their earthly belongings in their old countries, Europe, Yemen, North Africa, relocating to transit camps named Maabarot.
Tents soon gave way to permanent housing projects, with the Maabara becoming a town at the tip of the Galilee finger, now housing 22,000 habitants. Its inhabitants had to cope with, integrating into the economy of the area generated primarily by surrounding Kibbutizm, integration into the Israeli school system, adaptation to the social structure of the state, and to its values, and the realities imposed by the proximity to the Lebanese border. Kiryat Shemonah was the target of terrorist attacks and shelling. It became a symbol of the attachment of the new immigrants to their town, of their courage and their tenacity.
Interesting fact: Built on the site of the abandoned Arab village of Helsa, Kiryat Shemonah was originally called Kiryat Yosef but changed to Kiryat Shemona in memory of Joseph Trumpeldor and his seven comrades who fell defending nearby Tel Hai in 1920 (shemonah means “eight” in Hebrew).
|1914 – 1923
|James A. BAILLIE
|1924 – 1927
|William S. LIGHTHALL
|1928 – 1929
|James A. BAILLIE
|1930 – 1931
|Archibald F. BYERS
|1932 – 1934
|Vincent E. SCULLY
|Harland G. PARSONS
|1936 – 1947
|Lyman I. PLAYFAIR
|1948 – 1964
|Stuart M. FINLAYSON
|1964 – 1974
|Irving. L. ADESSKY
|1974 – 2001