Groll Street 4

Tiny Groll Street, which runs just three blocks, from Jeanne-Mance to Saint-Urbain, is an anomaly in the neighbourhood streetscape. To such a point that writer Myriam Beaudoin, in her novel Hadassa, calls it the “secret treasure of Mile End”. But why does such a street exist? And where does the name Groll come from?

A portion of Groll Street has become a green lane. Photo: Yves Desjardins (2018).


At first, a small stream flowed there. Groll Street follows the course of part of a waterway that was known by several names: “Mile End Stream”, “Drainage Stream” and even the “Outremont Torrent”. Its source was on Mount Royal, near the Outremont entrance of Mount Royal Cemetery—in fact, a portion of the stream is still visible in the graveyard. The stream rushed down the mountain to a marshy area which was later developed as Outremont Park. From there, it flowed eastward, crossing Mile End then turning sharply southward into the ravines of Logan Park, now called La Fontaine Park.

Source of the Mile End Stream, near the Mount Royal Cemetery entrance. Photo: Yves Desjardins.

If the spring floods were not very problematic when pastures and stone quarries dominated the rural landscape, this changed as the area urbanized, at the end of the 19th century. Residents of St. Lawrence Street complained regularly that their basements were flooded with the spring thaw. In 1891, the mayor of the Côte-Saint-Louis village, adjacent to Mile End, declared: “When the snow melts, the water flows in torrents down the slopes of the mountain in Outremont, near the drainage ditch or horse trough, and invades all the land north of Saint-Jean-Baptiste village.”[1] But the mayor added that the problem was on the verge of being solved, because construction of a canal on Saint-Louis Street (now Laurier Avenue) had just been completed.

However, this is not sufficient to explain the existence of Groll Street. Like many of the other now-vanished waterways of the island of Montreal, the stream was channelled underground in Outremont, and to the east of Saint-Urbain Street as well, without the need for creating a street corresponding to the stream bed. The urbanization of western Mile End during this period explains why it exists. The narrow street was created in spring of 1896 to permit installation of a sewer line. Municipal engineer Joseph-Émile Vanier had determined that the stream bed through here was the best location to construct a collector sewer for the block located between Fairmount, Saint-Viateur, Jeanne-Mance and Saint-Urbain.[2]

And what about the name, Groll? It honours Joseph-Arthur Groll, a butcher. On October 1, 1898, he purchased a lot on St. Urbain Street, adjacent to the north side of the lane. The purchase was probably speculative, because nothing indicates that he occupied the lot—his store and residence were on St. Catherine Street, west of Bleury. The presence of the lane provided him with the opportunity to use the back of his lot to construct a “backyard house”. His neighbours on the south side of the lane would do the same a few years later. The presence of (still existing) houses with addresses explains why the lane became an official municipal street, with its own name.

The recent creation of green lanes on two sections of Groll has enhanced its bucolic character. But the battle for greenery was a long one. For many years this lane was open to automobiles; a child was severely injured there in spring 1984. The accident triggered a major mobilization of the mothers of the neighbourhood, including several founders of the Mile End Citizens Committee. In 1985 they were able to get Groll Street closed to cars. At the same time it was announced that a “project was under study [to] improve the lane’s design.”[3] But it took more than 30 years before a new design was finally implemented!

[Research and writing: Yves Desjardins. English translation: Joshua Wolfe. Revision : Justin Bur.]

Liaison Saint-Louis, 29 May 1985.

[1] « Les inondations de la rue Saint-Denis », La Presse, 12 March 1891. The village of Saint-Jean-Baptiste was located south of Mount Royal Avenue and extended as far as the old Montreal city limits, at the time located near Duluth Avenue. The village had been annexed to Montreal a few years previously, in 1886.

[2] The location was considered preferable for two reasons: 1. The natural slope toward the stream allowed water to drain in this direction from the surrounding land and 2. Significant cost savings were possible by installing the sewer line in the stream bed, because there was no need to make a deep excavation in the very rocky ground, which would have been expensive.

[3] Michel Venne, « Des citoyennes obtiennent des améliorations pour le Mile End », Liaison Saint-Louis, 29 May 1985.

4 thoughts on “Groll Street

  • poupart

    Bravo aux citoyens du Mile-End qui ont fait changer la configuration de la rue Groll. J’ajouterai que ma grand-mère qui habitait Rachel / Delormier me parlait d’un ruisseau qui traversait le terrain qui deviendra le parc Lafontaine se déversait sur la rue Champlain.

    • Justin Bur

      Oui, deux ruisseaux traversaient jadis le parc Lafontaine – celui en provenance de la rue Groll dans l’ouest du parc, où les étangs ont été aménagés plus tard; et un autre (celui de votre grand-mère) dans l’est du parc, passant par un ravin à travers la propriété Logan, comblé par l’armée britannique qui occupait le lieu avant sa transformation en parc. Les deux ruisseaux se rejoignaient plus bas, à l’emplacement actuel de l’édifice de la Sûreté du Québec, rue Parthenais. De là la rivière coulait vers l’ouest le long de l’actuelle autoroute Ville-Marie, faisait demi-tour au square Chaboillez (ancien planétarium), et se jetait dans le fleuve à la pointe à Callière.

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