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Meadowbrook and its streams

August 24, 2011

Meadowbrook and its streams:

At one time the Little Saint Pierre River System was a much stronger, more forceful and vibrant watercourse in the Meadowbrook area as it carved out hills and valleys on its way to the St. Lawrence River.  People would raft, fish and swim in its waters.  There was a natural pool of water late into the 1950s in back of the western side of the Cote Saint Luc Shopping Centre.  Previously, horse stables, (the Red Barn), had occupied the area into the early1950s.  The commercial centre together with Steinberg’s Supermarket was built in 1956.  (See: Steinberg’s, Cote St-Luc Shopping Center, Montreal 1956

The policy of the City of Montreal and surrounding island suburbs was to cap and bury the streams.  By the late 1800s many of Montreal’s water courses were turned into open sewers and carried disease.   Leveling of  subdivided land also allowed for more construction to take place.  In 1938, Cote Saint Luc sought $100,000 in damages from the City of Montreal as a result of a Montreal built drainage sewer.  The pluvial collector had been built between 1914-1915 and spilled a mix of raw sewage and run-off into the Little St. Pierre River System and the Cote St. Luc Watershed.  The streams’ water quality was severely diminished thereby depreciating property values.  (See, The Montreal Gazette – Oct 12, 1938, P.10/,1506897&dq=cote+saint+luc&hl=en)  By 1961, most of the streams in Cote Saint Luc were buried as well.

The following link leads you to a map which includes 4 of the five Little St. Pierre River courses that flowed through Cote Saint Luc.

 Streams Map/1959 Ville de Montréal/City of Montreal Planning Dept. Les ruisseaux et fossés

The map was published in 1959 just before the capping of most of the inner suburban streams.   Small daylighted segments of the NDG stream which runs from Patricia, Ave./Chester Ave. and a smaller tributary which is a little bit south of the Meadowbrook Clubhouse still exist to this day.  They are still very much polluted.  The smaller tributary once connected to the watercourse that ran a little bit south of Wavell Ave. along the St. Luc Branch railway line near the Cote Saint Luc Shopping Centre.

“1916” is indicated on the horizontal faces of a few concrete culverts along
Canadian Pacific Railway’s St. Luc Branch Subdivision line which was double tracked that year.  This was one year or so before the creation of  CPR’s Recreation Club now called Meadowbrook.

For some distance, the NDG-Chester branch runs parallel and converges with CSL’s Southern Branch of the Little St. Pierre R., (Merton Rd. & Baily Rd. & Westover Rd.), and heads towards Toe Blake Park, underneath its pump house and onto the golf course.  It is noteworthy that the Chester Ave. area was  formerly part of Cote Saint Luc.  Cote Saint Luc once encompassed parts of northern NDG and Hampstead.

In the 1970s and 1980s the City of Montreal operated a snow melting facility at the corner of Robert Burns St. and Westover Rd. near the former Continental Nursery and the Hydro Quebec Power Lines.  It was linked to the NDG Chester Branch of the Little Saint Pierre R.

A little to the west, streets with the names of Cranbrook and Sunnybrooke remind us of the NDG and Southern Branch streams that wended their way to Toe Blake Park , onto Meadowbrook,  Sortin Yard and the St Jacques Escarpment where they merged with the St. Pierre River Collector.

An underground storm water retention basin was constructed in Gilbert Layton Park, (Cote Saint Luc Rd., Coronation Ave. and Chester Ave.), in the late 1970s, (1978-1979), to mitigate flash flooding in the northwestern sector of NDG.  The park was named after the late NDP and Official Federal Opposition Leader Jack Layton’s grandfather.  Gilbert Layton was a Member of the Quebec Legislative Assembly from 1936-1939 for the Union Nationale Party.  He resigned because of Quebec’s stance against conscription during World War II.

The flash flood of July 14, 1987 overwhelmed the basin and sent water flowing into NDG and Cote Saint Luc basements and blocked all three railway underpasses in Cote Saint Luc.  Meadowbrook was flooded as well.  A smaller 2005 flood also overwhelmed Cote Saint Luc’s pumping stations located at the Cavendish, Cote Saint Luc Rd. and Westminster Underpasses.  Subsequently,  Cote Saint Luc upgraded its pumping facilities.

The Northern Branch flowed through what is now the former Blue Bonnets lands, Cote Saint Luc City Hall/Eleanor London Côte Saint-Luc Public Library complex and Cavendish Mall.  It headed towards the former Wagar High School playing fields along Mackle Rd. and then followed a path past of what is currently Yitzak Rabin Park, (Westminster Ave.).  It then swerved towards Guelph Rd.  Before heading onto Meadowbrook, a treatment plant at what is now the Cote Saint Luc Tennis Club, (8215 Guelph Road/between Wentworth and Blossom), improved its water quality.

It then  flowed underneath the CPR main which was then called the Winchester Subdivision onto the railway’s Sortin Yard.  The railway line was later renamed  the Vaudreuil Subdivision.  This line  serves  Montreal West Station to the east  and the West Island or Lakeshore to the west.  Once the watercourse was capped, its dried out culvert was referred to as the “Love Tunnel” in local Montreal West/Western CSL lore.  Young couples would make out there.

In 1958, as the steam locomotive era was drawing to a close,  two CPR  locomotive tenders were recycled as cisterns for irrigation purposes.

Not shown on the map is the fifth stream which ran parallel to Mackle Rd. through  the St. Luc Railway Yard and into a small pond or lagoon which still exists in the wooded area of Meadowbrook.  It is bounded by the Automobile Compound in St. Luc Yard , Blossom Ave. and Mackle Rd. in CSL.  The Automobile Compound was once a part of a greater Meadowbrook, (Wentworth/CPR Recreation Club).

For further information please consult:

Andrew Emond’s UNDERMONTREAL blog at

Andrew has also posted an extensive and well written series of articles that were written by The Gazette‘s Marian Scott and published on Saturday, April 18, 2009:  Our island’s lost rivers, P.B1; ‘Drainer’ explores the world of water under our feet, P.B3;  Water, water everywhere, P.B3: This CSI tracks a polluted creek, P.B4


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