A brief history of Notre Dame de Grace
Notre Dame de Grace, colloquially known as NDG, is one of Montreal’s oldest suburbs and its history dates back nearly to the founding of Ville Marie in 1642. For much of its history the area that would become NDG was predominantly agricultural, though this would begin to change when James Monk, Chief Justice of Lower Canada, purchased an estate from the Décarie family in 1795 that would later become known as Monklands. This estate would later be modified and enlarged to serve as an official residence for the Governor General. It was the last Governor General to reside at this estate – Lord Elgin – who approved the Rebellion Losses Bill that subsequently compelled a Tory mob to burn Saint Ann’s Market (then serving as Parliament) in 1849. Residential development was encouraged in the latter half of the 19th century by the development of new institutions, such as a parish church (in 1853) and a private school the following year at the site of the former Monklands Estate (today’s Villa Maria high school). The extension of tramway service from the city centre around the turn of the 20th century marked the beginning of NDG’s transition from a semi-rural agricultural community on the western flank of Mount Royal to a first-ring suburb, with trams skirting along the northern flank of Mount Royal, from Fletcher’s Field on the eastern slope of the mountain, to Snowdon station near the intersection of Decarie and Queen Mary roads. By the 1920s NDG was quickly evolving into a model modern community and a choice destination for the city’s Anglophone middle class. Trams along Sherbrooke, Girouard, Monkland and Upper Lachine connected the growing population to the rest of the city, and many parks, schools and churches were constructed to serve its needs.
Then as now, NDG offered its residents comprehensive social and cultural services, tranquil side streets and excellent access to quality schools and the city’s mass transit system. Significantly, NDG was laid out and largely built in an era before automobiles became widely accessible to Quebec consumers. As such, its walkability continues to be an important component of the neighbourhood’s distinct quality of life.
NDG was annexed into the City of Montreal in 1910 and for the past 106 years has evolved in-step with Montreal; today’s NDG is multicultural, multi-lingual and predominantly middle-class. The community is anchored by two major institutions (the McGill University Health Centre in the east, the Loyola Campus of Concordia University to the west) and has several commercial sectors, of which Sherbrooke Street West is the largest and most important. NDG remains primarily residential with a comparatively high population density (approximately 67,000 residents over nine square kilometres), and is well-served by public transit. Urban renewal efforts have borne fruit, notably in the development of the Monkland Village, improvements to local parks and public spaces and a steady stream of new businesses and residential construction. NDG is an ascendant community with a strong local identity and an equally strong foundation for growth.