Stewart Hall in Pointe Claire is one of the many historic buildings on the West Island Heritage Trail site. Courtesy photo.
Newcomers to the West Island can acquaint themselves with the rich history of the region via the Heritage Trail, a 70-kilometre path which wends its way past more than 100 ancestral homes and waterfront landmarks steeped in yesteryear.
Whether on foot or by bicycle, residents can tour the terrain at their leisure, while exploring the picturesque villages and districts whose roots can be traced back centuries.
The concept for the Heritage Trail originated with la Societé du patrimoine de l’ouest-de’l’ile, a non-profit organization founded in 2002 and whose mission is to promote local heritage.
The private dwellings and public buildings on the trail bear detailed, descriptive plaques, and can largely be found hugging the shores of Lake St. Louis, Rivieres des Prairies, and the Ottawa River.
Architectural styles range from the Quebec-style reminiscent of the early settlers, to Victorian influences which characterize the summer residences erected by Montreal’s financial magnates.
The most palatial was Stewart Hall, a Scottish-style manor built in 1916. Located at 176 Lakeshore Rd., the home was later donated by the Macdonald Stewart family to the City of Pointe Claire and is today a flourishing cultural centre. Pointe Claire’s history dates back to 1698, when it was settled by the Sulpicians. About a decade later the seigneurs built a fortified windmill overlooking the lake; an enduring symbol of the town, the windmill still stands today and is one of the oldest remaining traces of the French colonial presence in the area. The village is home to several other historic buildings, among them the Antoine Felsque House (1850) at 15 Ste. Anne St., which survived a fire at the turn of the century that destroyed half the town.
Other highlights of the trail include Le Petit Fort at 19530 Gouin Blvd. in Pierrefonds. Constructed in 1750, the stone house reputedly served as an armed outpost for the Montreal garrison; gun loopholes can be found in the basement walls.
In Ste. Anne de Bellevue, one of several points of interest is the Simon Fraser House at 153 Ste. Anne St. Erected in 1798, the residence was purchased by the Canadian explorer in 1810. Poet Tomas Moore wrote the Canadian Boat Song while staying there. Grove House at 26 Lakeshore Rd. in Beaconsfield was built in 1810. The property was later transformed into a vineyard and is today a part of the Beaconsfield Yacht Club.
Discover more about the many features of the Heritage Trail by visiting the organization’s website at www.sdspoi.ca, or pick up a map at 207 Place Frontenac in Pointe Claire. For further information call 514-694-0260.