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 bringing 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” mountain (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, along 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 begun to decline.
To read more about history of Mont-Tremblant
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.
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.
The Hotel Mont-Tremblant was also known as “Lac Mercier Inn”.
On the current site of the Felix Calve Building (old village of Mont-Tremblant city hall) a hotel was built at the turn of the century and called “Chalet du Lac”. Subsequently, the building belonged for a few years to curé Charles Hector Deslauriers, 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 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.
To read about touristic development in the area
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, “The 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 area. The association remains concerned, because any major development work brings drainage water, which has an impact on the shoreline and quality of lake water.