The lac Mercier at its Beginnings
According to the first settlers, at the end of the 19th century, lac Mercier was called “lac Sem” (the name of a senior employee of a forestry company, at that time). curé Samuel Ouimet, the first 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.
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 attracting 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”, a mountain at 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 “P’tit 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, near 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 started to decline.
The church at lac Mercier was built in 1929 on a hill at the south end of the lake.
Hotels built at the turn of the century
Lac Mercier began to attract holidayers, enchanted by the beauty of the surroundings, the pure air, the hunting, fishing and other numerous activities. “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 for the workers of the chemical company settled in the village, the Standard Chemical Plant.
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.
Photos : Maurice Duclos
After a major fire in the village, the hotel was rebuilt in 1918. It is only around 1937 that the establishment became popular with skiers from Mont-Tremblant.
On the current site of the Félix Calvé building (City hall of the pre-merger old village of Mont-Tremblant) a hotel was built at the turn of the century and called “Chalet du Lac”.
Subsequently, the structure belonged for a few years to curé Charles Hector Deslauriers,(parish priest) before it was destroyed by fire in the early 1950’s.
The “Manoir du Lac Mercier”, on chemin Plouffe, owned and operated for many years by Jeanne and Joseph “Pitt” Pépin, was quite popular right into the 60’s when it was also destroyed by fire.
The name “chemin Plouffe”, draws its origin from the Plouffe family, which were the operators of the Manoir du Lac Mercier in the beginning.
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 hotel and renamed it “Hotel Pointe du Rocher”.
The establishment was very popular with many tourists right into the mid 70’s, and is now a private residence.
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, and he was also the manager of the “Shady Nook Inn”.
In 1952, the “Camp Kinneret-Biluim” acquired the site, along with the Inn building, which was used for several years before being replaced with new construction in 1972.
Near there, the “Hotel Windermere”, owned by Armand Bastien during the 1940’s, attracted visitors for over 20 years.
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.
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. 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”….
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 residents must remain vigilant with regards the new constructions and 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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