What is this the shape of?
And, for you smarty pants who already know, a tougher follow-up: why is it shaped like this?
UPDATE: This is, of course, a map of the town of Côte Saint-Luc. Those things on the right are exclaves, little pockets of Côte Saint-Luc land sandwiched between Hampstead and Montreal. They’re tiny, but their history is one of controversy, bad blood, political power struggles and, of course, money.
As the 19th Century turned to the 20th, Montreal didn’t extend nearly as far as it does now. Most of the island (especially its centre areas far from the shorelines) was uninhabited and undeveloped. A good chunk of that to the northwest of the city formed the town of Côte Saint-Luc in 1903.
A decade later, some urban planners fashioned their idea of an idyllic suburban community, a “garden city” called Hampstead. That town was carved out of Côte Saint-Luc, comprising most of the town east of Randall Ave. with the exception of a few parts: two small undeveloped areas near what is now the Hippodrome, and a strip that comprised Dufferin St. and one side of MacDonald Ave., between Dupuis and Aumont. The former, according to an article in the Montreal Daily Mail of 1914, belonged to the Montreal Jockey Club. The latter had already been developed and had owners who apparently weren’t keen on joining the new town. Still, all these exclaves were to “eventually” form part of Hampstead.
The strip on the southeast side of Hampstead was eventually cut to just the west side of MacDonald Ave.
Over the following decades, there were various attempts to solve this apparent geographical problem. In the early 1950s, Montreal proposed annexing the MacDonald Ave. portion. They brought it up again in the 60s. Each time there was fierce opposition both by Côte Saint-Luc (which wanted to keep the land and its tax revenue) and Hampstead (which wanted to annex the land for itself).
The issue isn’t just aesthetics – there are practical problems with having tiny exclaves bordering two other cities. Whose responsibility is it to provide water to these areas? Who handles snow clearing?
The political quirk was even blamed for delaying response to a fire on MacDonald Ave. in 1961. Fire trucks were sent from Côte Saint-Luc, but a law prevented neighbouring municipalities from responding to fires unless asked. Côte Saint-Luc did ask for Montreal’s help, according to the article in the Gazette, but residents still raised the issue. (It’s a moot point today, as fire protection is coordinated on an island-wide basis.)
It also provided an interesting benefit for Côte Saint-Luc: the areas could be zoned for high-density residential construction – high-rise apartment buildings and condominiums – without affecting the views or traffic of the rest of the city. Nick Auf der Maur was among the ones to notice this.
It was in the early 1980s that a three-way battle for land created a serious rift between Côte Saint-Luc, Hampstead and Montreal. Development had begun on a condominium project on the land north of Hampstead (at Côte Saint-Luc city hall, this area is literally referred to as “north of Hampstead”), comprising what is now David Lewis and Tommy Douglas Sts., as well as Decarie Square. Hampstead complained that the development would increase traffic in their “garden city.” Montreal, meanwhile, complained that the development would tax the city’s water system (a high-density development attached to a water network designed for a low-density area). It even went so far as to refuse to supply water.
In November 1981, Hampstead Mayor Irving Adessky proposed that his city annex the land. The proposal came at the demand of the developers, who apparently thought it would be easier to join neighbouring Hampstead (and get access to its water supply) than remain part of far-away Côte Saint-Luc. But Montreal had already proposed annexing this area of land, as well as the strip of MacDonald Ave. They took their respective cases to the Quebec government.
What followed was a harsh war of words, particularly between Côte Saint-Luc and Hampstead, that many in both towns still remember.
Eventually, an agreement was reached between Côte Saint-Luc and Montreal concerning the Blue Bonnets part: Montreal would build a road connecting Jean-Talon St. (at Decarie Blvd.) and Kildare Rd. through that area. In return, Montreal would give Côte Saint-Luc $10 million. The deal was approved by the National Assembly in 1982, with construction to begin in 1986.
But the construction never happened, because it would have been too expensive ($25 million, by Montreal’s estimate). In 1992, Côte Saint-Luc mayor Bernard Lang went to a Montreal city council meeting and demanded mayor Jean Doré respect the contract. Côte Saint-Luc took Montreal to court to force the issue.
In 1994, another deal: Montreal would hand the land back to Côte Saint-Luc (though it would keep a small part east of Decarie Blvd., as well as the part above the tracks). The deal went through and marked the borders as they are now (not counting that whole merger thing).
Development on the northern exclave, which began in the late 1980s, continued, with homes being built on David Lewis St. and Bernard Mergler Crescent starting in 1998. That part is now fully developed, with high-rise condos on the eastern tip and expensive-looking single-family homes filling most of the rest. Roads connecting it to Hampstead are limited – one is only one-way, the other goes by the town dump.
Battles with Montreal and Quebec have since made friends of Hampstead and Côte Saint-Luc. And, until some politician comes up with a new crazy scheme to mix it all up again, Côte Saint-Luc’s exclaves are here to stay.
Note: This particular quiz has been in the can for months now – the pictures were taken when I visited the town to pick up a sign in October. While I was there I asked staff at city hall about the exclaves, and while they were aware of the ’80s battle with Hampstead, they couldn’t say why they existed in the first place. It’s only with the recent opening of the Gazette’s newspaper archive on Google that I’ve been able to piece together a clearer picture of the history of these two bits of land.