The Canadian Pacific Railway Company’s fame stems, in part, from the construction of prestigious grand hotels between 1888 and 1930 designed to attract affluent tourists to spectacular sites served by the railroad. Inspired by the castles of France’s Loire Valley, they became icons of the Canadian landscape, including Château Frontenac in old Québec, Toronto’s Royal York and the Banff Springs Hotel in the Rocky Mountains. Less well-known is the fact that Mile End once had a hotel, much more modest in scale, which was known for many decades as the C.P.R. Hotel – although it was never part of that company.
While the structure exists no longer, the hotel sat on a site at the northeast corner of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and Bernard Street for over a century, a few steps from the Mile End train station located a bit farther east on Bernard. The station, opened in 1876, created a new hub of activity in what had been a completely rural area. Previously, travellers and neighbourhood residents patronized hotels located at the other Mile End intersection, further south, where Saint-Laurent meets Mont-Royal Ave. The history of the C.P.R. Hotel is closely related to that of its founding family, the Hogues.1. Two interviews with family members, spaced about 50 years apart in time, provide information.
The first article was published in Le Petit Journal, on May 8, 1938. Journalist-historian Robert Prévost, writing a series on the Pieds-Noirs (the nickname for the workers employed in Mile End’s numerous quarries), was able to track down Télesphore Hogue, the hotel’s first owner, when he was 94 years old and living in Sainte-Anne de Bellevue. In his introduction, Prévost described the memory of the nonagenarian as “amazing”. Here is a translation of an excerpt from the interview:
— Weren’t you once a hotelkeeper?
— Yes, I built the C.P.R. hotel, located at the corner of Bernard and Saint-Laurent streets, in 1878. In those days, there were no sewers, no sidewalks and of course no street lamps. My business was in a rather empty spot. To the north, I had no neighbours up as far as the land where the Institut des Sourds-Muets is located,2 where an Irishman lived at the time.
— And to the south?
— Not so peaceful as on the north side, I had no neighbours to the south until Laurier Street. But there was a shack around Saint-Viateur Street, where a guard manned the gate leading out of the city. The gate was managed by the Turnpike Trust, which charged an outbound toll that varied according to the type of vehicle.
Long afterwards, new owner Maurice Dame is listed in the 1968-69 directory as “Pres. CPR Restaurant”. Lovell’s directory, never completely error-free, pushed the link between this establishment and the railroad even further: from 1970 to 1977, the owner’s occupation became simply “Pres. C.P.R.”!