Montreal is a really old city, a fact that we sometimes forget. And durings the city's long history, Montreal has seen many changes, upheavals, and trends. Some last, others don't, while certain features we truly love never end up standing the test of time.
In remembrance of all of the amazing features of Montreal that have unfortunately left the city, we bring you this distilled dose of nostalgia, otherwise known as "12 things we wish never left Montreal."
Parc La Fontaine's Petting Zoo
Known as the “Garden of Wonders/Jardin des merveilles” Parc La Fontaine’s now-defunct zoo opened on July 5th, 1957. Primarily geared towards children, the urban zoo had an average daily attendance of 2,836 visitors, with a monthly average 85,080 per month, at least in the 1960s. Some of the animals on display at the zoo included baby seals, young moose, new-born deer, and sea lions.
Despite the Garden of Wonders popularity in the 60s, however, the zoo would be closed in 1989. But we may see the zoo (or something similar) return to Parc La Fontaine, as ongoing meetings have been held to discuss ways in which the park can create new developments linked to the lasting legacy of the Garden of Wonders.
The Elevator Up Mount Royal
Getting up and down Mount Royal was far easier from 1884 to 1918 thanks to the Mount Royal Funicular Railway, which was basically an elevator that ran up and down the mountain. Pulled by cables using steam power, the funicular cost a precious 5 cents and would take passengers right to the top of Mount Royal. The funicular was found to be structurally unsound in 1918 and was completely dismantled two years later.
Plaza Saint Hubert's Prestige in 1969
It’s hard to deny the glory of Montreal in the late 60s and not feel nostalgic for a time when the city seemed to be in it’s prime. For most of us, the era of Expo 67 and the years afterwards are merely moments of the city’s collective memory, not having been around to see Montreal in all of its former glory. All we have are snippets into the past through pictures, articles, and videos, like the one above for Plaza St-Hubert created in 1969.
Essentially just an advert for the retail strip, what makes the short video so interesting to watch is just how much Plaza St-Hubert has changed since 69. Nowadays, Plaza St-Hubert isn’t the epicenter of fashion and retail in Montreal. Few would use the words “high fashion” or “superb quality” to describe Plaza St-Hubert, but apparently that’s how it was known back in the day. We weren't even alive back then and we miss it.
Tramways Dominating The Streets Of Montreal
In the first half of the 20th century, electric tramways (otherwise known as "streetcars" in other cities) were the most popular form of public transit in Montreal. Introduced in 1892, tramways of every sort (even an "observation tramway" that allowed riders to peer upon the city) could be seen in Montreal by the 20s, and the trend stayed constant well into the 40s.
Eventually, however, once the tramways got a little old and technology advanced, the City of Montreal looked towards a new type of transit vehicle, namely buses. By 1959, the very last tramway in Montreal was retired (there was a parade for the event and everything) thus marking the end of a transit-era.
Nowadays, with gas prices so high and climate change being a very real issue, electric-powered tramways actually look like a more solid public transportation option than buses, and we kind of wish they never left.
No nostalgia-tastic list is quite complete without the Montreal Expos, because the desire to have them back is still very real. Departing from Montreal in 2004 to Washington, D.C., the spirit of the Expos never truly left Montreal. Just look at all those hipsters wearing Expos-style hats as proof. Over the years we've been teased that Montreal may get another MLB team, but until we see concrete proof, it'll remain pipe dream.
Otherwise known as the Blue Bonnets Raceway, the Hippodrome de Montréal (as it was renamed in 1995) was a wildly popular race track and casino that was in operation for a full 137 years. Eventually, however, the Hippodrome lost its prestige, ending all horse races in 2008 (only the gambling machines were kept in use), then filing for bankruptcy and closing in 2009.
While we're not exactly itching for a horse racetrack-return in Montreal, we can say that the Hippodrome is definitely missed by many. If only the city could actually do something useful with the now-derelict space...
Le Rotor At La Ronde
Admittedly, there are tons of rides and rollercoasters we wish had never left La Ronde, but Le rotor holds a special place in our hearts. There's something simply magical about being spun around at high speeds.
Speaking of La Ronde, we also miss when the park was open 'til 2am during Expo 67. Sure, we weren't at the park then, but that still doesn't mean we can't long for a late-night closing time for La Ronde like they had in 67.
Mount Royal's Ski Park
Today, we use Mount Royal’s deep incline to toboggan, but in the mid-20th century, it was a fully-equipped alpine ski slope. Two 2.5 mile ski slopes were found at the park, with mechanical lifts available for all skiers. There was even a ski shop built in 1938 to accommodate all visitors’ skiing needs.
Bens De Luxe Delicatessen
Screw Schwartz's, because Bens was where it was at for smoked meat, or any other deli delight. Gracing Montrealers (and many celebrities) with enticing edibles until the very late night, Bens (and no, there isn't an apostrophe) was a Montreal institution for close to 100 years. But all good things must come to an end, and after some serious internal issues (including a major dip in quality), Bens closed its doors on December 15, 2006.
Also, a moment of remembrance to all of these other Montreal restaurants we've seen close over the years.
Okay, honestly, I personally have no desire to see 1234 ever return to Montreal's nightlife scene, but that's because I'm bitter and tend to loathe pretty much any club directed towards heteros. That being said, there are plenty more people who loved 1234, and admittedly, it was a pretty big deal back in its heyday. It was also rumoured to be haunted by a ghost, which is kind of cool.
Arcades, Arcades, Everywhere.
Walk down Saint Catherine street back in the 90s and all you would really see were arcades (and strip clubs, but that's not quite the point) lining the sidewalks. A nerd like me misses this golden age for arcades in Montreal, as nowadays you're hard-pressed to find any at all, save for that one spot on Peel street and a spattering of bars. Good thing we're finally getting a legit arcade bar this April.
The Stanley Cup
Seriously, it's been 23 years since the city won a cup. We can only wish the Habs get there sh*t together for next year.