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The lac Mercier at its Beginnings
According to the first settlers, at the end of the 19th century, lac Mercier was called, le lac Sem (the name of a senior employee of a forestry company, at that time). Curé Samuel Ouimet, the first parish priest in St. Jovite, renamed the lake “lac Mercier”, in honour of Honoré Mercier (1840-1894) Prime Minister of Quebec from 1887-1891, and recognized as one of the great Prime Ministers in the history of Quebec.
It was only in 1968 that the name lac Mercier was officialized by the Provincial Toponymy Committee.
Supported by curé Antoine Labelle (1833-1891) called the “King of the North”, Honoré Mercier worked hard for the development rural Quebec territories, and promoted the interests of colonization and agriculture.
Several particularly difficult winters (1871-1872) and the requirement to transport firewood to Montreal, overcame the resistance of certain politicians who had refused to develop a railroad in the Laurentians. At that time, the train ran to Saint-Jerome, but curé Labelle envisioned further, and wished to colonize new lands more to the north.
He also dreamt of bringing tourists, who wished to escape the city, and who wanted to profit from the beautiful landscapes and numerous resources in the area known as “Cantons du Nord”. The extension of the railway further north, was essential to the realization of that dream.
The vision of the “King of the North” to extend the railway beyond “La Repousse” mountain (Saint-Faustin) became a reality.
Thereafter, the train brought workers and tourists into the Valley of the Diable and Rouge rivers up to the terminus at la Chute aux Iroquois (Labelle) in 1893.
In 1905 at lac Mercier, a new train station permitted the “Train du Nord” to stop in the small village, which gave a new boost to the development of the region.
At this time, the forestry industry was very important. A factory which manufactured chemical products from wood , the Standard Chemical Company, settled in the small village of Lac Mercier, on the current “rue du Couvent”.
The Standard Chemical Company employed many workers, who required lodgings near the factory. Therefore, the company built a hotel and houses for its employees, along the railroad that ran to their installations.
Other hotels were quickly built around Lac Mercier. In 1930, there were no less than five hotels around the lake, which attracted a more numerous and varied clientele.
The Standard Chemical Company remained in operation until 1926.
At that time, the tourist industry began to boom, in the “Pays d’en Haut”, and most of the clientele originated from the bourgeois anglophone and francophone society in Montreal and beyond. Tourism then began to replace the lumber industry, which had begun to decline.
The church at lac Mercier was built in 1929 on a hill at the south end of the lake.
Le train du Nord
Virginie St-Denis, wife of Honoré Mercier, was the owner of several lots in the Mont-Tremblant region, especially along the route of the railway to join the northern parts of Quebec with Montreal. The long-held dream of Curé Labelle was soon to be realized.
In 1897, Virginie sold several lots to the Montreal and Western Railway Company along the shore of lac Sem (lac Mercier), where the railroad follows its route through La Conception and on to Labelle.
The designation “le Train du Nord” was the name given by curé Labelle to “my railway», between Montréal and Mont-Laurier. This appellation remained in use all during the time that this route stayed in operation, especially by those who worked to transport merchandise and passengers. To all, it remained “le train du nord“.
(Texts drawn from « Le train du nord vers Labelle », published by la Société d’Histoire de Chute aux Iroquois)
In March 1937, the Montreal & Western Railway Company divested itself of several parcels of land along the shoreline of lac Mercier. Small chalets were then built between the rail line and the lake, from 1937 until 1968.
These small place of leisure structures, only used during the Summer, witnesses to the past, still retain their charm. (read: “Everyone has their own story“
“Le chemin de fer des Laurentides sert d’abord au ravitaillement des premiers colons et aussi au transport du bois vers Montréal. Il permet l’établissement de lieux de villégiature et de clubs de chasse et pêche. L’engouement pour les sports d’hiver prend son essor vers 1925. Les premiers “trains des neiges” amènent de nombreux skieurs dans les Pays-d’En-Haut. Puisque la route n’est accessible l’hiver qu’à partir de 1937, une infrastructure d’accueil est alors mise en place, grâce au tourisme d’hiver et les deux industries, touristique et ferroviaire se développent parallèlement. ” Text drawn from: « Le train du nord vers Labelle », publié par la Société d’Histoire de Chute aux Iroquois.
To read more: The railway / Antoine Labelle
The history of the Linear Park is summarized in the introduction of Judge Langlois’s decision of November 30, 2004 (prohibiting snowmobiles along linear park). Hereunder are some highlights: …
”The railway between Saint-Jerome and Mont-Laurier was constructed at the beginning of the 19th century, and the rail bed was a property of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
After a long period of boom, railway activities began to decline during the 1970’s: the frequency of merchandise transports began to decrease, and passenger service was abandoned.
During the 1980’s, the Canadian Pacific completely stopped the transport of merchandise, and eventually obtained permission to completely abandon the right of way.
(20) The tracks were removed during the 1990’s.
(21) Towards the end of the 1970’s, the Provincial Government expressed an interest in acquiring the rail right of way, along with several other rail beds that had been abandoned, so that they might be transformed for public use.
(22) The MRC des Laurentides (regional municipality) adopted a resolution on January 12, 1989, indicating their support for the abandonment of rail service between Saint-Jerome and Mont-Laurier and the transformation of the rail bed into a Linear Park”….
Hotels built at the Turn of the Century
“The Roaring Twenties”, were in full swing, and outdoor activities became more and more attractive. At 12 hours by train from Montreal, all of these fun activities were now accessible. Many tourists came to the region simply to enjoy the clean air, or to operate small craft on the lake, or to profit from the activities that occurred in the hotels.
The “Hotel Mont-Tremblant,” whose architecture has remained essentially unchanged since the turn of the century, was the first tourist hotel to be constructed in the region.
The hotel was built in 1902 to accomodate the workers of the village industry, the Standard Chemical.
In addition to providing lodgings for the workers of the chemical company, the hotel was adjacent to the train station at Lac Mercier, and the area buzzed with activity just before the arrival of the weekly train.
The villagers would gather in large numbers, because it was at this time that the mail arrived, delivered on the train and then stamped at the post office, across the street.
A major fire destroyed the hotel. It is not until 1918 that the hotel was rebuilt. Then in 1937, the hotel began to attrack tourists coming to the area to ski at the Mont-Tremblant.
The Hotel Mont-Tremblant was also known as “Lac Mercier Inn”.
Chalet du Lac
On the current site of the Felix Calve Building (old village of Mont-Tremblant city hall) a hotel was built at the turn of the century and called “Chalet du Lac”.
Subsequently, the building belonged for a few years to parish priest, Charles Hector Deslauriers, before it was destroyed by fire in the early 1950’s.
Manoir Lac Mercier
From the audio source: “Les Mercier, premiers villégiateurs“, is drawn the information that it was the heirs of Honoré Mercier who remained owners of several lots on the eastern shore of the lake and built a very nice villa, where the family spent several months each year.
The villa later became “Manoir Lac Mercier”.
The Manoir Lac Mercier, on chemin Plouffe, owned and operated for many years by Jeanne Désormeaux and Joseph “Pit” Pépin, was quite popular right into the 60’s when it was destroyed by fire.
The name “chemin Plouffe” gets it’s origin from the Plouffe family, who had several properties on the road, including the Manoir Lac Mercier hotel.
This pioneer, Edouard Plouffe , was also a hotel-keeper in Saint-Jerome, called L’hotel Plouffe.
His daughter, Gablrelle Plouffe-Monette, lived on chemin Plouffe until her death in 1996.
Hotel Pointe du Rocher
The “Hotel Pointe du Rocher”, whose original construction began with a family house in 1926, was previously named “Le Belvedere” by its owner Mr. Syracuse.
In 1936, Hector Calve acquired the property and transformed it into a hotel called “l’Hôtel Pointe du Rocher”. It became a favourite destination for numerous tourists into the 1970’s.
The property is now a private residence.
Shady Nook Inn” and the “Hotel Windermere
On the west shore of the lake, there were two other hotels, the “Shady Nook Inn” and the “Hotel Windermere”.
“Rue Harrison”, on whom stood the two hotels, was named in honour of Kenneth Harrison, a founder of the “Club de ski Mont-Tremblant” in 1935.
Kenneth Harrison was also the manager of the “Shady Nook Inn” in 1935-1940.
In 1952, the “Camp Kinneret-Biluim” acquired the site, along with the “Shady Nook Inn” building, which was used for several years before being replaced with new construction in 1972.
The Progress of Developments around the lake
It was not until 1940, that the small village of lac Mercier became the municipality of Mont-Tremblant.
To read about touristic development in the area
The north end of the lake remained undeveloped until the early 1970’s. Several small cottages along the railway track were only occupied during the summer season.
The “Chemin des Boisés” was developed in 1975. Nicole Morin and Joël Yanow were the pioners in the development of that part of the lake.
During the past thirty years, several real estate developments appeared on the mountains surrounding lac Mercier: “The Domaine du Lac Mercier” on the north shore, the “Cap Tremblant” on the south shore, on the mountain overlooking the village, “L’ Orée des Lacs” on the east side, and finally the “Domaine Privilège” on the west side.
Since the late 80’s, there have been many new housing developments in the watershed. The residents of the lake remain concerned, because any major development work brings drainage water, which has an impact on the shoreline and quality of lake water.
The spokesperson, l’Association des résidents du lac Mercier, intervene in order to protect the lake and control the development threatening the environment:
- In 1989, the Association commissioned an environmental impact study by the firm EAT, in relation to a housing development “Développement Molson-Larivière” on the east side of the lake, now known as l’Orée-des-Lacs. Subsequently, the Association des résidents du lac Mercier made:
- Interventions aimed at the protection of mountain summits in the watershed of Lac Mercier, several of which were threatened by new housing projects (Orée des lacs, Cap Tremblant)
- Interventions aimed at protecting the streams emptying into Lac Mercier
- Publication of a Memorandum (March 2003) delivered to the City bearing on the harmonization of municipal urbanism regulations.
- Representation made to the City when the urban perimeter of the village was to be enlarged to accommodate increased density and the creation of a commercial zone at Cap Tremblant, on the south end of the lake (2003-2004)
- Requests for limitation of the density in housing developments in the watershed of Lac Mercier (2005)
- Interventions to limit the intensive clear-cutting in the second phase of the housing development “Domaine Privilège” (2004) which is now the on the west side of the lake
- Collaboration with Environment Mont-Tremblant, in the memorandum presented to the Ministry of the Environment relating to the “Projet de Plan de développement durable du Québec” (2005)
- Participation in consultations for future developments (2008)
- Report to CRE Laurentides in the development of a charter of natural landscapes and constructed areas in the Laurentians (2004-2005)
- Requested the city to not authorize further commercial development around the lake (2008)
The Associationt remains vigilant in relation to the new housing developments around the lake.
Development in the watershed
Several housing projects have gradually altered the appearance of the watershed of lac Mercier.
Conscious of the environmental impact of these major projects on the shoreline and the water quality, the residents remains vigilant in order to minimize any negative impact. They are advising the municipal councillors so that the lifestyle character of the village sector is not lost in a maelstrom of urbanisation.
Construction in the lake’s protected zone:
The City of Mont-Tremblant has recently modified the regulations relating to minor variances, so that all construction in the protected zone of the lake is prohibited. Going forward, no permits will be granted for minor variances or new construction, within the protected zone.
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