Quartier Villeray

Getting to know Villeray

September 1, 2019 Tags: , , , ,

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Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension is hands-down Montreal’s most multiethnic borough and its second most populous, with over 142,000 residents. It’s a family kind of place known for its green streets, good restaurants, and neighborhood shops. It wasn’t always that way, though. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

A quarry, a name

Like many of Montreal’s neighborhoods, Villeray used to be farmland. The first wave of people started to roll in with the opening of the Canada Pacific Railway in 1878 and the arrival of the Montréal Street Railway trolley in 1892. Quarries opened there at the turn of the century that supplied construction companies with the gray limestone used in many Montreal buildings, drawing blue‑collar workers to the neighborhood and giving it its name, after the Villeray Quarry Company that stood on the site of today’s Villeray Park.

A few decades later, in the 1960s, the Metropolitan Highway (Highway 40) went in along Villeray’s northwestern edge, bringing new industries to the area and creating jobs. These were boom times, with an influx of people heightened by the wave of immigrants arriving from Europe.

Did you know? Villeray-Saint-Michel-Parc Extension has the most plexes of any Montreal borough: 8,437, to be exact! Neighboring Ahuntsic and Rosemont have 6,858 and 6,608, respectively. By comparison, there are only 2,706 plexes on the Plateau and a mere 448 in Outremont!

Jarry Park

In 1920, Raoul Jarry—a municipal councilor and member of the City of Montreal’s executive committee—launched a campaign to promote green spaces in Villeray. Poor hygiene and rough living conditions were prevalent in the area at the time, contributing to the spread of disease, and Jarry thought he could combat their effects by giving people greater access to green spaces. He also believed that sports were good for the personal development of youth. So he campaigned to get the City of Montreal to buy the land that was to become Jarry Park. Today it is one of the biggest in the borough and hosts the Rogers Cup tennis tournament in its IGA stadium.

Did you know? Jarry Park was renamed Jean-Paul II in 1985 in honor of the pope’s visit to the park in 1984. Jean-Paul II held an open-air mass there that was attended by 300,000 people. But the name was controversial and was eventually dropped in favor of the original name, Jarry Park, in 1988.

Discovering Villeray, one alley at a time

No trip to Villeray is complete without a stroll through its green alleys. We highly recommend the one between Rue Saint-Dominique and Avenue Casgrain, where you’ll find a pretty blue and yellow mural, as well as “Hidden Face of the Street Alley” between Rue Drolet and Avenue Henri-Julien, greened and maintained by the residents on either side.

After all that walking, you’ll want a bite to eat! Villeray darlings include Le Pain dans les Voiles bakery, Tapeo restaurant, Etoh brewery, café Oui mais Non, and bar Huis clos.

With its many parks, flowering alleys, charming tree-lined streets, and friendly neighborhood vibe, Villeray has definitely earned its stripes as a peaceful place with a great quality of life, the kind of neighborhood where you can settle down and enjoy watching the kids grow up.

So when are you moving in?

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