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Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Monkland Village, Montreal....50 Years Ago

Monkland Ave. between Wilson and Harvard. Note the streetcar tracks. Late 40s or early 50s.

One of the main thoroughfares in the district of N.D.G. in Montreal is a street called Monkland Avenue. The street is named after James Monk who was the attorney general for Lower Canada (the province of Quebec) at one time. In 1804 Monk built an estate that became known as Monklands off of Decarie Boulevard at the eastern end of Monkland Avenue. The property later became the site of the Villa Maria, a Catholic private girl’s school.
Over the past number of years Monkland Avenue has become somewhat yuppified with a number of specialty restaurants and coffee shops with outdoor decks and umbrellas. It lends itself to an urban way of life where you can go and have a cocktail after work and see people from the neighbourhood, or do your grocery shopping without having to drive a distance.
Apartment buiding entrance 2012.

Apartment building on Marcil at Monkland 2012

I was born in 1947 and spent the first 3 or 4 years of my life living in an apartment building on the corner of Monkland and Marcil Avenues. We moved from that apartment building to a flat on Harvard Avenue. The apartment we lived in was quite large and I think the reason we lived there was because of the cost and my father trying to get back on his feet after being overseas in WW2.
Marcil Ave. 1949 near Monkland Ave.

Back in the early 1950s street car tracks ran along Monkland Avenue from Girouard Avenue to Grand Boulevard. When I was in grade 1 at Willingdon School a boy in my class was run over by a car and killed by a motorist after getting off a streetcar on Monkland Avenue.
The most notable building on Monkland would have to be the Monkland Theatre  with its art deco exterior walls. It was built in 1930 and closed its doors to movie goers in 1981. I have a feeling my mother spent a number of hours at the Monkland Theatre during the war years as I would sometimes watch old black and white movies with her in the 1950s and she seemed to know the names of a number of the character actors along with the stars.
Art Deco exterior of Monkland Theatre 2012
So…let’s take a walking tour along Monkland Avenue some 50 years ago. We will start on the south side of Monkland at the corner of Girouard and make our way down to Grand Boulevard.
There was a United Cigar Store on the corner in the Monkland Theatre Building. In the next block there was a restaurant called The Maryland Tea Room. The restaurant’s name was printed in gold letters on the wide plate glass windows. I remember that they served the darker coloured smoke meat. I think they catered to the after movie crowd.
For the next few blocks there were a number of 4 story apartment buildings. At some point in the past few decades stores were built into the ground floors of these apartment buildings. Between Harvard Avenue and Melrose Avenue I believe there was a furrier. There was a gas station on the corner of Melrose. My gut says that it was at one time Supertest station but I may be wrong. Between Melrose and Draper Streets was a Steinberg’s supermarket. Steinberg’s also had home delivery where they would pack up your groceries in a cardboard box.
At the corner of Royal Avenue, in the 1960s, there was a restaurant called the B & M. where kids from West Hill High and other schools often hung out. Next to it there was a barbershop that had little rocket ship crystal radios on display in their front window. Just off of Monkland and on Royal Avenue was The Monkland Tennis Club that I believe opened in the late 1920’s and still exists today. A little further down Royal Avenue was LCC (Lower Canada College) which catered to well to do families.
Monkland Tennis Club 2012
There were no more stores or businesses on this side of Monkland from Royal Avenue to Grand Boulevard. It was all houses or apartment buildings.
So…let’s start our walk again beginning at Girouard Avenue across the street from the Monkland Theatre on the north side of Monkland. I believe there was a bank on the corner. I also think there was a gas station at the corner of Old Orchard Avenue. Storefront businesses in the 1950s started at Old Orchard and ended up at Wilson Avenue going west. There was then a big gap of apartment buildings before stores resumed again around Hingston Avenue where there were a few blocks of more stores.
The Monkland Taverne was at the corner of Old Orchard and Monkland. Years ago it was one of those places where working men hung out and enjoyed cheap beer. Times have changed. In the block between Old Orchard and Marcil Avenues there was cake store that I believe was called La Patisserie de Nance. There was also a record store in this block at one time. In the 60s there was a laundramat in this block. Some kids would go for rides in the driers.
Monkland Taverne 2012
On the eastern corner of Marcil there was a small farm on Monkland. In the mid 50s it was bulldozed and a Thrift grocery store was built and later changed its name to Dominion. Magic Tom Auburn lived on Marcil just off of Monkland. On the other side of Marcil on Monkland was Tom’s (Monkland Tobacco & Stationery). For years my father would pick up his copy of the Montreal Star there on his drive home from work until one day his “reserved copy” wasn’t there and some harsh words were spoken and he never darkened that doorway again. As mentioned in another story, Tom’s was crowded with model kits and in the back of the store there was a barbershop.
Next to Tom’s there was a small grocery store. They also had a guy who would do home deliveries on bike. (I may have the blocks mixed up a bit as to where some of these stores were located.) I think the grocery store was called Powers.
There was another store quite like Tom’s between Harvard and Oxford called Nichol’s. The guy that ran the place seemed like a bit of an odd duck. I remember a friend winning a yo-yo contest outside of Nichol’s. On the eastern corner of Harvard was The American Drug Store, a good place to get diamond yo-yos and Classic Comics. When I was in my late teens I ran into the American Drug Store pharmacist a few times downtown. There was no doubt in my mind that he was interested in young boys and I steered clear of him.
On the other side of Harvard was a bank where I opened my first account. At the corner of Wilson there was another store like Tom’s and Nichol’s called Dexters. It was run by an elderly Jewish couple. I remember standing outside of Dexter’s with a fresh pack of trading cards. (The ones that came with a wafer of hard gum.) The cards were of planes from different countries and I was confused by one fighter jet that said Turkey beside it.
Between Wilson and Melrose Avenue there was a Chinese Laundry. The finished products were wrapped up in brown paper and string. From about this point on going west it was all apartment buildings until about Hingston. I can’t remember any of the stores in that area except vaguely another kind of corner store.
At Royal Avenue there was a long two story building that stretched the complete block from Royal to Hampton Avenues. A good part of the building was used for storing old films I believe. I seem to remember an old Paramount sign. A black or so further west was a Bell Telephone building. At least that’s what I think it was. It is still there today.
Other notable shopping areas in eastern NDG back in the 1950s……..
The little strip mall at Wilson and Somerled…. The NDG Food Market, Lackman’s Drug Store, a beauty parlor and a dry cleaner’s.
Strip mall on Cote St. Luc Road at Melrose…. Bellman’s Drug Store and restaurant, Bob Lunney’s Sporting Goods, Roland’s Barbershop, a delicatessen.
A joint called Harry’s was right next to the Share Zion synagogue  on Cote St. Luc Road near Marcil.  Next to Harry’s was another joint called Sid’s. In the 50s Sid’s got knocked down and they built a strip mall there. One of the stores was a deli where I often bought karnutzel. When they were building the strip mall we would often look for the workers empty pop bottles when they had gone home and use the refunds to buy candy.
Cote St. Luc Road around Clanranald. Near where the bus lane ran down to Queen Mary Road in Snowden….Labow’s Drug Store, Cote St. Luc Bar-B-Q, and a lumber yard. The Diamond taxi stand was about a block away.
I never knew that much about Sherbrooke Street when I was a kid. Of course there was the Chalet Bar-B-Q near Girouard. And the huge NDG park. I remember when the first Dairy Queen opened on Sherbrooke and hundreds of people would be lined up on hot summer nights. There were also the Empress and Kent theatres on Sherbrooke in NDG. One day in the 50’s Clayton Moore who portrayed The Lone Ranger made a personal appearance at the Kent Theatre.
Does anyone else remember this stuff?  I am pretty sure that I will be corrected on something. What the hell….I gave it a shot!

Update: Nov. 23/12... Monkland Avenue shops 1957 as per Lovell's Directory.....

5500 Mallet's Tobacco Shop
5501 Bank of Montreal
5504 Monkland Theatre
5507 West Hill Pharmacy
5510 Monkland Drug Store
5511 Superfine French Pastry
5514 Laura Secord Candy
5595 Thrift Stores
5605 Monkland Tobacco & Stationery (Tom's)
5605 Monkland Barber Shop
5611 J.J. Pilon (small grocery store)
5617 Quebec Liquor Store
5624 Richstone's
5661 Nicholl's Stationery
5665 Power Provisions (small grocery store)
5669 Vogue Cleaners
5677 Acme Meat Market
5683 American Drug Store
5696 Emery's Exclusive Furs
5701 Royal Bank
5707 Peggy de Paris
5709 Dexter Stationery & Cigar
5757 Union Laundry
5830 Steinberg's (large grocery store)
5955 Paramount Film Service
5957 Warner Bros. Pictures Dist.
5963 Twentieth Century Fox
5969 United Artists
5971 Columbia Pictures.



  1. I'm trying to find a pre-1980's picture of the Monkland Theatre...please contact me if you have

  2. Sorry I can't be of any help. Perhaps someone else has a pick or 2?

  3. I lived in a basement apartment on Harvard just up from Monkland in 1976 while I was getting ready to emigrate to BC. I used to hang out at Dexter's which had turned into Dexter's Antiques, run by a frenchman named Andre Marion, who had kept the coffee bar and stools at the entrance.

    Monkland today is much as it was back then, a little gentrified, and still cluttered by leafy. Montreal in the summer is a very genteel place.

  4. Pete Farandatos23 March 2016 at 14:13

    Hi Colin,
    The Maryland Tea Room was owned by my dad during the war and late 40's. The front of the restarant had two ice cream making machines as ice ceam was hard to get during the war years. The farm at Monkland and Marcil was The Brody Farm, I believe.
    Pete Farandatos