Belmont Park

by Yves Gaudreau

Translated by M. Di Iorio , Éditeur
'The Write Words to state your message... the World Wide Web to deliver it!

Our Web site presently summarizes perhaps 5% of archival data.

Welcome! Here, you will relive some of Belmont Park’s most wonderful moments. Here now, for your pleasure, is the true story of Belmont Park (Montreal).

Post Card

I am presently engaged in compiling a catalog on the amusement park, complete with photographs, documents, film and numerous interviews with which I intend to write a book.

Many thanks go to the descendants of the principal owners of the park. Your contributions are invaluable to this mission.

Soon to be published

I’d like to invite you to take a moment to relive the chronology of the Belmont Park story; a genuine French Canadian success story, brewed in Québec.

Last publication: August 2003

Bibliothèque nationale du Canada
Bibliothèque nationale du Québec
ISSN 0840-5956

As most of you know, in addition to my passion for genealogy, I am engaged in researching historical facts about the Gaudreau families. During a Gaudreau Family Association luncheon, held at Bill Wong’s Montreal Restaurant in 1991, I revealed my ties with one of the BELMONT PARK founders in a brief presentation.

My great uncle, Ernest Gaudreau, with three other shareholders, launched BELMONT PARK in 1923 with the purchase of a riverfront lot situated on the banks of Rivière des Prairies. My father had the privilege of free visits to BELMONT PARK. Many Gaudreau family members were employed by the park throughout the years.

Since that time, I have accumulated a lot of information on BELMONT PARK, notably: more than 2000 news clippings, 800 photographs and personal snap shots, three 16mm full color films and more than 1000 emails from the visitors and lovers of BELMONT PARK, each with a different tale to tell.

I have since established relationships with numerous collectors of souvenir items and artifacts from this amusement park.

My work consisted in:

· Identifying the principal owners and establishing the genealogical links of each of them;
· Finding the corporate names of the companies and concessions in the park.
· Verifying and cross-checking this information with old directories of Montreal.
· Pulling out and consulting notarized records to retrace the minutes that corresponded with concerned parties.
· In short, many hours were spent working in various archives in the last several years.

In 2000, I created a Website with which to transmit historical data pertaining to my family ancestry, and to deliver, free of charge, the Gaudreau family genealogy throughout the world. This Website summarizes a portion of my family history; the part that tells the story of BELMONT PARK.

I would now like to propose a short film on BELMONT PARK.

Archives Radio-Canada film VIE et SOCIÉTÉ "Adieu Parc Belmont"

Here now is the fruit of my research on the story of BELMONT PARK.

Have a pleasant journey to your past…

To begin, I’d like to say a few words about Ernest Gaudreau and his life previous to the acquisition of the park.

Ernest Gaudreau
The photograph was provided by Ernest Gaudreau’s family.

He was the fruit of patronymic parents, each sharing the patronym of Gaudreau, on the 4th of December 1872, in St-Simon de Rimouski. To marry, his parents obtained an exemption of consanguinity, granted to them on the basis of 4 degrees that separated them. He left his native region at a very young age to establish himself in Montreal. He found work with an uncle on his mother’s side who owned and operated a hotel in Montreal. Fortunat Gaudreau was, at the time, owner of the Palais Royal Restaurant, located on Dorchester Boulevard in Montreal. He would later assume ownership of the restaurant and Hotel Roncari, commonly known as ''l'Hôtel d'Italie'', situated on Dorchester Boulevard (known today as René Levesque Boulevard).

Ernest married Emelia Desmaisons on October 26th, 1903 at the Notre-Dame de Montréal Church. The couple gave birth to two girls (Fernande and Yvette) and lived on Maplewood, in the Côte-des-Neiges area, which has since been renamed Edouard-Montpetit. Ernest later acquired a hotel, well known as a meeting place for snowshoeing enthusiasts, together with Alexandre Courville, which they co-owned for twenty years. Lumkin’s Hotel, also known as HALFWAY HOUSE INN, was built around 1850 and burned in 1930. It was located on the north-west corner of Côte-des-Neiges Road and Queen-Mary. Occupying the site today are a METRO grocer and the old wax museum.

A short time before its annexation to Montreal, the Côte-des-Neiges city council discussed the purchase or the construction of a city hall on the site. They pondered the idea of using the Lumkin Hotel site. They even enquired of the Prendergast successors as to the price and conditions that would convince them to concede the property occupied by Mr. Courville and Mr. Gaudreau.

In the minutes of spring 1907, one can read the request made to Mr. Gaudreau and Mr. Courville to ‘immediately remove the automatic machines known under the moniker of slot machines and the reminder, in future, to observe the Sunday law, which forbade the operation of commercial venues.’

During the early twenties, a group of hotel operators prepared a development project for an amusement park. Though it remains unknown whether the Sohmer Park fire of March 24, 1919 sparked the idea of a new amusement park, we can safely assume that it fed the vision. With World War One barely over, the masses were already expressing a renewed interest in living. Come nightfall, the city assumed a mesmerizing rhythm; the public discovered new American dances, enjoying the music of jazz bands into the wee hours of the morning.

Ernest Gaudreau, the 50 year old son of François Gaudreau and Julienne Gaudreau, joined in the fray; becoming one of the four founding shareholders of BELMONT PARK.

A profile of the other 3 founding shareholders of BELMONT PARK:

Louis-Philippe Godin
The photograph was provided by Ernest Gaudreau’s family.

The first, Mr. Louis-Philippe Godin, when registering the letters patent, recorded himself as belonging to the bourgeoisie; his wealthy family originating from St-Eustache. He married Adèle-Alida Charbonneau on May 16, 1893 in Ville St-Laurent, Montréal (Quebec). He declared a residence at 1265 Côte-des-Neiges Road and the couple was childless. He became the owner of the Canadian Pacific Alberta Hotel, located at 131 and 135 Windsor, in Montreal. He advanced the greater portion of of cash needed to fund the purchase of the original lot; becoming BELMONT PARK’s first president at age 52.

Léon Couture
The photograph was provided by Ernest Gaudreau’s family.

The second, Mr. Léon Couture of Montreal, married Hélène Jacques on May 21st, 1891 at Sacré-Coeur, Montreal. Mrs. Jacques died in May of 1918. His second marriage was to Alida Valin. Though the couples never produced offspring, a child was nonetheless adopted during the second union.

At the end of his studies at the Jacques-Cartier Teachers’ College, he began his business career as a journalist/publicist for the Montreal based newspaper, Le Monde; transferring to the Journal around the turn of the century. He then assumed the function of traveling salesman for F-X St-Charles and for Legault Thompson.

He acquired Hotel Arbour, located at 185 and 187 rue St-Laurent (Montréal). At the time BELMONT PARK was launched, he occupied the position of manager and vice-president. He was then 51 years old and signed the letters patent as a hotelier, having his principal residence at 1919a Bordeaux Street (Montréal).

Edgard Methot
The photograph was provided by Ernest Gaudreau’s family.

Mr. Edgar Méthot, third of the four original founding shareholders of BELMONT PARK, married Marie-Anne Latour, of whose family I know little. At the time of the park’s launch, he was, at age 30, the youngest of the original owners. He declared, in the letters patent, being employed as a clerk. The first position he held at the park was that of secretary.

In a published article of La Patrie, and to celebrate the park’s 35th anniversary, Mr. Edgard Méthot stated that the establishment of BELMONT PARK was a ‘well seasoned project’.

Considering the regional development at the time, a judicious decision was made to establish the project in the north end of town. The local population was rapidly approaching one million when combined with that of the neighboring towns. Cartierville already enjoyed the favor of city dwellers due, in part, to its riverside charm and natural ability to attract people to visit such a vacation resort. At the time, reputable clubs were already establishing themselves, such as the Clubs canotage de Cartierville and the English Cartierville Boating Club, founded in 1904 by Mr. Hugh Paton; as well as the Polo Back River Club, of Cartierville. The Cartierville train station was located close by.

People of the time already enjoyed privileged access to the north shore via the Lachapelle bridge, long known under the moniker l’Abord à Plouffe (later known as Chomedey). The geographic location of the future park was an obvious winner.

Cartierville enjoyed streetcar service since 1896, and its ‘end of line’ or terminal was located near the park’s entrance. In 1926, a second terminal circumvented Ranger Street, Gouin Boulevard, Grenet and De Mesy Streets. Between the years 1915 and 1930, the number of vehicles on Quebec roads rose from 10,112 to 178,548 cars. These important facts helped to pave the future success of the park development project.

For all intents and purposes, the four founding shareholders purchased numerous lots. One of them featured an old stone walled house that had belonged to Dr. Daniel-Eugène Lecavalier, near the banks of Rivière des Prairies. The Lecavalier family had long owned land in Ville St-Laurent; more specifically, in the Village of St-Laurent, later known as Cartierville. Docteur Lecavalier’s grandfather was mayor to the Village of St-Laurent, while Narcisse Lecavalier, one of his uncles, was a conservative MNA for Jacques Cartier in 1867; reelected in 1871, 1875, 1878 and by acclamation in 1881. In short, they were a comfortable and well to do family.

Dr D.E. Lecavalier

In the Cartierville minutes and correspondence, Dr D. E Lecavalier lodged a complaint with respect to the Municipal Evaluation Roll for the land he owned. The value of the land under the future BELMONT PARK site was readjusted to $ 25,000, a full $ 5,000.00 less than the previous evaluation roll.

Among the other important lots belonging to Dr. D. E. Lecavalier were lots 28, 29 and 33, for a total combined value of $ 40,000.00. Lots 28, 29 and 33 were to become the future Raimbeault Park that we know today.

According to another article published in 1973, in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the park, it would seem that this lot was known as marshy ground. Additionally, the Cartierville minutes and correspondence inform us that this lot was deemed risky to tread. In the 1916 minutes, the owner, Dr Lecavalier, was ordered to fence the property that provided access to the new St-Léon Street, where the sewers had just been installed.

Climbing the chain of titles to the BELMONT PARK land back to the original seigniories, Les Messieurs de Saint-Sulpice (Society of the Priests of the Seminary of St. Sulpice) began conceding land in the portion of the Great Parish of Sault-au-Récollet that was to be designated under the name Haut-du-Sault just as soon as a town formed; eventually slated to become Bordeaux Village. Beyond and upstream was the Parish of Saint-Laurent, with the lands that would eventually form Cartierville Village.

This park was baptized BELMONT PARK.
The BELMONT PARK COMPANY LIMITED was legally constituted as a corporation with patent letters from the Government of the Province of Quebec, on May 16th, 1923.

An official charter of rules was adopted on June 1st, 1923.

· Establish, acquire, possess, rent and exploit recreational parks destined for public amusement.

· Establish and maintain restaurants and refreshment stands connected with these parks.

· Build, acquire, rent and exploit boats and rowboats, whether powered by vapor, electricity and other forces, and all designs destined for recreation and amusement, and all patents pertaining thereto.

· The right to hold theatrical shows, vaudeville et all manner of analogous amusements, such as dancing and games.

· Acquire, hold, sell, concede or rent buildings, land and buildings required to satisfy the needs of the company.

· Collect an entrance fee to the park for the right to experience pleasure and amusement from any of the intended installations.

· Exploit a restaurant, a tavern or a hotel.

· Pay for all properties and services mentioned here above with paid shares, subject to all applicable provincial, municipal and federal laws and rules of procedure with respect to the observance of Sundays and holidays.

· Exercise all corollary power with those who are the principal objects of the company’s needs, expectations and requests.

· Enter into agreements and/or partnerships with any companies or individuals for the purpose of sharing interests and/or profits.

· Purchase other companies’ shares, sell off, parts of or as a whole, shares in its venture.

Contained in the minutes of the shareholders agreements and covenants, pertaining to the registration of shares, was an inscription detailing a capital of forty-eight thousand dollars, and divided in shares of one hundred dollars each.

The shareholders had to wait until January 29th, 1924 to exercise the purchase option at the office of their lawyer, Emile Depocas. For all intents and purposes, a commitment to purchase was agreed upon by the parties.

In it, is stated:
‘The directors of the company are authorized to purchase, in the name of the company, from Daniel-Eugène Lecavalier, medical doctor, the building located in Cartierville (Montreal), and which is the object of a lease with a commitment to purchase, made and passed on April 30th, 1923, in the presence of J. Théophile Legault, Notary, in consideration of the terms and conditions stipulated in said lease, and to sign all acts or documents related to the aforementioned sale.’

J.Théophile Legault, Notary

On March 1st 1924, a resolution is adopted at the shareholders and directors’ meeting, allowing Mr. Louis-Philippe Godin to personally advance the necessary monies for the acquisition of said buildings.

Here is the list of lots that formed BELMONT PARK in 1923

Map of Cartierville, showing the location of the future BELMONT PARK lands.
Seven lots of land, with frontage on St-Léon and Rivoli Streets, bearing numbers 44 and the following official subdivisions: numbers 88, 89, 101, 102, 103, 104 and 105.

Eleven lots of land with frontage on Rivoli Street, bearing numbers 44 and the following official subdivisions: numbers 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100.

A building made up of lot 51 and limited in the front by St-Léon Street, in the rear by the river, to the west by Lachapelle Street and by the lots belonging to Mr. Corbeil, Mr. Lagacé, Mr. Laurin - the seller and L.P. Godin, and to the east by the subdivisions of number 44. Two lots of land under number 44 and official subdivisions 86 and 87.

We can say of BELMONT PARK that is was a worthy heir to the American parks like its cousin, Coney Island, and those that could be found in Quebec during various periods, as noted in the following list:

Coney Island in the Windsor Mill region of Quebec, (around the year 1900 to ? ) - Not to be confused with the well known Coney Island attraction in the USA.

Coney Island was located on the banks of St-François. Canada Paper drowned the island while building a new dam for the St-François Mill. It was a historic site that lent itself well for the purposes of vacationing and picnicking.

An ideal day surrounded by Coney Island greenery, July 1910.

The grocers’ picnic, held at this beautiful location yesterday, was a frank success. The games program was enthusiastically executed. The banquet provided a golden occasion for eloquent speeches. Following the banquet, several new attractions were presented, a dance contest with musical accompaniment by the Desjardins band.

At six o’clock, guests boarded the Montreal bound train. Four to five hundred Montreal grocers boarded the Coney Island bound train at the Bonaventure station, yesterday morning, for this long awaited picnic.

If we take a closer look at the history of Montreal area parks, the first private park dates back to 1831, when a certain Mr. Guilbault planted a garden on his property, located at the corners of Sherbrooke and St-Urbain. It was named Guilbault Gardens (1831 to 1869).

Private parks like BELMONT PARK, among others, would crop up later. This type of park was to be powered by a brand new resource known as electricity. Outdoor lighting created a magnificent style, with electric powered rides. For obvious reasons, parks built on the island of Montreal would always be erected near a streetcar.

Sohmer Park (June 1st 1889 to 1919), located on the corner of Panet Street and Notre-Dame, closed its doors following a fire on March 24th 1919.

The Dominion Amusement Park (June 2nd 1906 to 1938), located at 6750 Notre-Dame Street East, near Haig, closed its doors after a long competition with BELMONT PARK for the favor of visitors.

At the start of the XXth century, Grosbois Island became the site for the King Edward Amusement Park and a hippodrome. Their combined efforts attracted many seasonal visitors. During the winter months, carriages used ice bridges to reach the site, providing a leisurely riding experience. King Edward Park (July 14th 1910 to 1931), located on Grosbois Island, one of the group of islands known as les îles de Boucherville was serviced by Imperial Boats Terrebonne and Boucherville, that departed from the docks on Pie IX Avenue.

During its generous life, BELMONT PARK was often challenged by competitors from both the private and public sectors, among others:

· For the public, one can find picnic sites like Mount Royal Park and its famed Beaver Lake, GrosBois Island, the enchanting St. Helen’s Island or Lafontaine Park with its own waterway. 1956 brought with it the inauguration of Le Jardin des Merveilles (The Garden of Wonders).

· During the same period, Barnum & Bailey’s Circus passed through Montreal each year.

· The 1929 Depression complicated park administration, bringing with it the closing down of the Cartierville train that disembarked passengers on Laurentian and Gouin Boulevards.

· The closing of streetcar services in 1959 puts an end to one of the most appreciated transportation services that had served the park well from the onset.

· The Line 3 project for Metro services expansion was abandoned. It was to include 15 stations and make use of the Canadian National Railway tracks to reach Cartierville.

· The arrival, in 1967, of Man and His World (the universal exposition) and the inauguration of its famed amusement park, La Ronde, also played a major role in the loss of an important portion of their clientele.

Other phenomena affected attendance figures during the park’s lifetime, such as:

The increase in the number of cars on Quebec roads after the war allows the population to leave the island and drive around – leading to visits of parks in other, perhaps far off locations.

In time, educational parks and sites gained favor with the population, like the Botanical Gardens, Arboretums, Planetariums, etc.

The owners did everything in their power to ensure the success of their project. Each year, one of the shareholders attended the amusement parks convention in the USA and visited competing parks to discover new rides and attractions. They established a sound business plan to help develop the park in the next few years. After all, three of them had already operated hotels and had each attained the pinnacle of being 50 years old, making them mature and experienced businessmen in the tourist industry.

According to the papers, the owners informed the population in advance of their upcoming projects, as if it was all well thought through. Being from Montreal, they surely must have studied the methods used to attract visitors to Sohmer and Dominion Parks. The owners of BELMONT PARK basically used the same tactics to attract visitors to their park.

The formula consisted in offering a good variety of amusement that could please varying tastes. They renewed each and every year with new ideas. The owners invited internationally known celebrities. Strong publicity in both Anglophone and Francophone papers was reinforced using colorful descriptions of upcoming activities. Good cooperation was achieved between the transportation agencies to help facilitate access to the park. They ordered posters and invited popular radio and eventually TV networks to host their shows on site. They worked out price reductions and incentives for companies to hold their annual picnics at the park. All institutions eventually came to spend a day at BELMONT PARK.

BELMONT PARK was a forerunner in the development of entertainment in Quebec. Today, all you need to do is to think about La Ronde, the Cirque du Soleil, the theatre, concerts, musical comedies or the different festivals to realize that we have a unique culture in entertainment.

For a period of sixty one years, from 1923 to 1983, BELMONT PARK was the meeting place for thrill seekers and ride lovers of all types.

They came from everywhere, by car, by train and by streetcar. In the old days, people traveled to the park sitting in a straw bench of an orange streetcar on line 17.

The beginning of the park’s chronology and its step by step evolution:

Following up on the different problems facing the owners of BELMONT PARK throughout the years, there were suits of all kinds to contend with, on site security for the visitors, mechanical verification of various equipment belonging to the park and destined for public entertainment, cleanliness and safety, and let’s not forget the agreements with all levels of government for permits, taxes and insurance.
New technology evolved, affecting different rides and machines of all kinds.
The shows also needed to be adjusted to satisfy the evolving tastes and changing styles of music, like Jazz, Boogie-Woogie, Fox Trot, Rock and Disco.
They also needed to plan the different contracts with the shop owners and dealers, the list of show companies and groups, as well as the arrangements made with companies holding their annual picnics at the renowned park. Last of all, they needed to write all of the clauses for the heirs and sales until the park’s closing in 1983.

I’ve always protected my sources until I’ve had time to verify their declarations. As a follow up to what I’ve already shared with you, there was a need to update the facts published in 2003, and more.

Besides the four founding shareholders, another person contributed in an important way to the success of the project: Mr. Louis-Marcel Lymburner who was already present for the park project.
Louis-Marcel Lymburner
There is a last group of important shareholders I’d like to present to you.

Twenty-three years after its disappearance from the amusement park circuit, all that’s left of this wonderful park are vague memories. That is why nostalgia pushes me to research this jewel of Montreal Island.

BELMONT PARK was a forerunner in the development of entertainment in Quebec. Today, all you need to do is to think about La Ronde, the Cirque du Soleil, the theatre, concerts, musical comedies or the different festivals to realize that we have a unique culture in entertainment.

The image quality has been voluntarily kept at a minimum to help avoid image theft until completion of my project.

The Montreal Park and Island Railway inaugurated the streetcar service in Cartierville in 1896 with a terminal facing the Klondyke Hotel. Terminal on Grenet Street, south-east corner with Goin. This terminal was used until 1925.

september 18, 1957
1923 marks its opening with a Ferris wheel, a carrousel and a dance-hall. The pool, which many enjoyed from 1924 to 1937, has disappeared, as have the circuses and some rides which were unprofitable. According to historical photo, Belmont Park has remained nearly as it was at the beginning. At the time, people came in family groups or to picnic. One notes that at the time, people needed a place to unwind, especially during hard economic times.

Belmont Park expanded in 1924. More rides were installed, more notably, the Cyclone which was called the Russian mountain or the "Scenic". There was also an athletic track and a softball park which have since disappeared.

Around 1930, we even see a roller skate park: our predecessors were ahead of the times.

For many years, another GAUDREAU was a member of the Administrative Board. Mr. Louis-Gonzague Gaudreau, a cousin of Ernest was its director.

Ernest Gaudreau, in addition to being a founder, was a director of the Park for many years. Ownership of Belmont Park changed many times. During the 1930s, Mr. Charles Trudeau, father of the former Prime Minister of Canada, was also one of its owners. More notably, it was then owned by the Gauvreau family, then in 1980 by the Pappas-Gervais group.

In short, people had fun on the rides, laughed at the clowns amongst the crowd, riders shouted in fear on the rides: Flying Scooter, Rotor, Magic Carpet, Caracole, Little Train, Trabant, Rapido, Safari, Marteau (hammer), Tourbillon (whirlpool), Pirouette, etc.


the park ticket are courtesy of Christine Van Yperen of Montreal

The Haunted House and the famous laugh of the fat lady

(grosse femme du Parc Belmont.)

Many found happiness there. It is said that this fantasy kingdom saw many marriages. At the marina, you could unwind after a hectic day enjoying a boat ride on the Lousyna I or II and admire the charming scenery on the Rivière des Prairies.

Belmont Park 1960-"Post Card"
Following the accidental death of Mr. Louis-Marcel Lymburner in the USA in 1950, the park designated Mr. J. Roméo Gauvreau as its fifth President.

Mr. Roméo Gauvreau occupied many management positions in a number of amusement companies such as the "Club des Royaux de Montréal". In 1945, the president and director-general of the Brooklin Dodgers Branch Rickey, gave a contract to Jackie Robinson. This professional contract stipulated that Robinson would join the Dodgers farm team, the "Montreal Royals", for the 1946 season. "form left to right" We can see Mr. Hector-H. Racine president of the "Montreal Royals", Branch Rickey, Jack Robinson and Mr. Roméo Gauvreau vice-president sign the first contract.

With the opening of the Ronde for the Universal world Exposition in 1967, the years 1967, 68 and 69 were rather difficult.

Attendance reached a record of 750,000 visitors in 1972.

Subsequently, single tickets were replaced by day tickets, $6 for adults and $2.50 for seniors and children, which included parking, access to all rides ( as many as one wanted ), stage shows, a discothèque and the roller skate track.

As the years went by, other attractions, each more exciting and modern, were added, such as the Bouche du Texas (Texas mouth), bought for $400,000 from the Crystal Beach Park in Ontario and the Astro-Fusée (Astro rocket) valued at $110,000 from New Orleans.

Belmont Park would forever influence the cultural history of the people of Montreal. Film makers, authors, writers and poets keep the spirit of Belmont Park alive through their work.

Various facts about Belmont Park:

Births at Belmont Park. One child, whose mother undoubtedly miscalculated the arrival, was born earlier than expected. And it was baptized " Belmont ".

Belmont Park saw a citizen's protest. A group of citizens of Cartierville, living close to Belmont Park, considered obtaining an injunction next summer to combat noise pollution from the amusement park. The owner replied: " people who bought a house around here should have known we have been here since 1923 ".

Belmont Park, whose future has been compromised last summer when 3 children were injured in an accident, has re-opened its doors under new management.

A new start for Belmont Park. Belmont Park sold for $2,4 million."We want to make Belmont Park more attractive than ever" explained Mr. Paul Pappas, president-CEO.

Building the new "BELMONT PARK" The former owners had purchased Belmont Park in 1980 and closed it in 1983. They sold individual lots to people and to the city of Montreal. The Sofitec company started construction of 110 condominiums. The names of the two promoters will be known in 3 weeks.

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