Snowdon Junction – Décarie & Queen Mary Road
by Dick Nieuwendyk – Montreal Times
In 1824 James Snowdon Sr. purchased 60 acres on the island of Montreal. Originally an apple yard, his three sons, James Jr., William Comrie, and John James Snowdon, further developed this land. In 1897, John Snowdon donated part of his family’s original land to the Montreal Park and Island Railway streetcar line to serve as Snowdon Junction.
In later years, the surrounding area became known as Montreal’s Snowdon District. In the early 1920s, Snowdon, now a ward of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, was beginning to emerge as a middle-class suburb. During the 1940s, it became popular with Jewish families, who were moving west from the Main. A percentage of Jews living in Snowdon after the Second World War were Holocaust survivors, having fled from Europe.
Snowdon became a bustling commercial hub that drew people from across the west end to the shops and restaurants on Queen Mary Road and Décarie Boulevard. In 1947 the Toronto Dominion Bank opened its doors at the corner of Queen Mary and Décarie. The well-known women’s clothing chain Reitmans had a store on Queen Mary Road, which was once a thriving area for men’s and women’s clothing businesses.
Even though Reitmans is no longer in the area, the company’s green neon sign above the Toronto Dominion Bank (now an SAQ outlet) remains a reminder of its long time presence in the district.
The intersection located at the corner of Décarie Boulevard and Queen Mary Road, know as the “Snowdon Junction” was a terminus for several tramway lines and one bus line before the 1950s. For a period of twenty-five years, the 17 CARTIERVILLE brought transit users between the Cartierville and Snowdon districts. In 1959 with the retirement of the famed streetcar, one of the last tramway routes was abolished by the Montréal Transportation Commission, and replaced by the 17 DECARIE bus route. The landmarks for bus users along the Decarie Boulevard corridor included Belmont Park, Sacré-Cœur Hospital, Bois-Franc Train Station (formerly Val-Royal), former Cartierville Airport site, Norgate Shopping Centre, Vieux Saint-Laurent, Gibeau Orange Julep, Blue Bonnets, former Snowdon and Empress Theatres, and the former STCUM Saint-Henri bus garage (now the site of a Home Depot store).
That year Montreal planned for a network of expressways crossing the Island of Montreal. One of the proposed routes was along Decarie Boulevard. South of Queen Mary Road, a significant number of houses had to be demolished. Demolitions began in 1964 and construction began the following March. The Decarie was expanded to accommodate a six-lane 7 to 8 meters depressed expressway below street level to minimize noise and visual impact, and one-way service roads on either side. Along the southern half of the route, grassy berms separated the express roadways and service roads – in the northern half, concrete walls separated the expressway and service roads.
Fill from the excavations were used for the expansion of Île-Notre-Dame and Île-Ste.-Helene, the site of Expo ’67. On April 24, 1967, just five days prior to the opening of Expo ’67, Mayor Jean Drapeau and other officials declared the Decarie Expressway open to traffic.
According to the Ministère des Transports du Quebec, the Decarie Autoroute now carries as many as 180,000 vehicles per day, or twice the design capacity. The expressway’s depressed design and development along the corridor make any potential widening unlikely.
Source: montrealroads.com / wikipedia / ancestry.com