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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Once upon a time, St. Louis Square had a basin

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St. Louis Square, often known as CarrĂ© St-Louis (though this is, to the surprise of many, actually an anglicism), is one of Montreal’s greatest public spaces. A traditional Victorian park, ringed by beautiful old greystone rowhouses and villas, it first came into existence as a reservoir in 1851. In 1880, the reservoir was drained and the square as we now know it was built, complete with walking paths and a fountain.

Except that wasn’t entirely the case. The beautiful fountain that now stands in the middle of the square, serving as a central focus for all of its activity, once found itself in the middle of a much larger basin of water. In one newspaper illustration from 1902, the basin appears to cover the entire central section of the park. It has been converted into a summer wading pool for children, who frolic in the water as their mothers, dressed in long dark frocks, promenade around the square under the shade of parasols.

I’m not sure when the basin was redeveloped, but it continued to exist as recently as 1943, according to one photo showing workers improving the basin’s drainage system.




Crossposted from Urbanphoto



  1. It would be interesting to find a winter photo – people must have skated there in wintertime.

  2. One of my favourite spots in Montreal; I lived right around the corner when I first move here. I recently heard that the fountain was originally located in Viger Square.

  3. I’m not sure about the fountain, but the stone vespasienne/camillienne at the west end of the square (now an ice cream parlour) was taken from Viger Square when it was ripped up for the expressway.

  4. My siblings and I attended Aberdeen School (now a Metro Station)on St. Denis just east of the park. I remember watching buckets being hung on the maple trees to collect the sap during the winter thaw. There was a cabin a sucre closer to Laval. My mother’s family arrived in Montreal in 1913. They lived on Henri Julien and also crossed the park daily to go to school. Thanks for the memories

  5. That vespasienne was also briefly a local cop shop, when they were cleaning up the square; it apparently was pretty seedy for a while. I heard they changed all the directions of the streets around to make it more difficult for johns to circle the park and pick up prostitutes.

  6. I crossed through the square every day to go to Aberdeen, from Henri Julien,where we lived across from the armoury,to my kindergarten right through to grade 7. The fountain and pool were encircled by an iron picket fence which my pals and I used to vault over when playing football over the flower beds that paralleled the pool. When we saw the police coming up from the south side of the park to chase us out of our sport, we simply scampered up to Henri Julien, and ducked into the lane at the back where the cops couldn’t chase us. It was no contest. Anybody remember Chuck Connors, the first baseman for the Royals and later the Rifleman, living in the apartment on the corner of Henri Julien and the Square?

  7. I too walked to school each day and crossed the square so I remember it well. I’m not sure that I remember an iron picket fence in the beginning (kindergarten) although I know that one was installed at some point. To answer Milan Korcok re Chuck Connors as first baseman for the Royals–sure I remember him.I knew all the players after a stray wind-up pitch knocked me unconscious in the bleechers. After that nothing but the best for me and my friend, box seats every game at home, a signed baseball with the entire team signing. Still have a scrap book but the ball was lost. I was hoping to find a picture of the school itself. What at pity that it was torn down. Hard to believe that the mansion was not preserved as a heritage building. Is the ground it stood on still a parking lot?

  8. Where did you find those pictures? I live just off the square and I’d like to find higher resolution versions I could hang on my wall.

  9. I also attended Aberdeen School-grades one to seven and I loved walking through the park. Years later, I was chosen to redesign Square St. Louis – which for me was an honour! The ornamental fence around the bassin was there before 1935.
    Milan, we were classmates throughout my seven years at Aberdeen (I didn’t know you went to kindergarten).
    Remember Miss Rogers? Hey, what about Martha Faucher, with her beautiful blond hair.
    My first year,1943, Mr. Ferguson was the principal and his son was the famous Maynard Ferguson died recently) trumpeteer extra ordinaire! Later Mr. Bates and the last two years Mr. Saunders were the principals.
    Yes Milan, I sure do remember Chuck Conners, we used to pass by the corner apartment building, but only once did we see him.

  10. Billy, of course I remember you and I am glad you backed up my recollection of the picket fence. I also remember Mr. Ferguson and his son Maynard and walking through the square on cold winter days. And I remember meeting you in the early 90s at a Canada News sponsored Snowbird gathering–I think it was in Ottawa. You mention Martha Faucher, yes her I recall very well, even after all of these years. Last time I was in Montreal–a couple of years ago–I walked through the square again and it brought back all kinds of memories. Good ones. The clearest recollection I have is that now the tree canopy is so much larger and richer–an indication of the time that has passed. Stay well, old friend.


  11. Milan, I was happy to read your most recent comment and,I see, you also treasure your past! Yes, we may grow out of almost everything in our lives, but never our childhood! Aberdeen School and the area west of St. Denis will always remain close to my heart – for it was my childhood. Milan, could we keep in touch, perhaps an exchange once or twice yearly would not be too time consuming? Stay well, old friend and God Bless. Comment dated November 28, 2010

  12. I lived at 311 St. Louis sq. from 1946 to 1958. I attended Aberdeen school for a short time before transferring to Olier school. There was a statue of a wounded and dying d’Iberville at the East end facing the school, the fountain had 3 tiers, there was an ornamental fence surrounding a larger rectangular pond.

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