…The Story Continues
Where It All Started… (reminder)
Our story begins about 150 years ago, as colonists settled along the Rivière du Nord valley and arrived at Lac des Sables in the early 1850s.
The Weskarini (Algonquin) people once used the region as their traditional hunting and fishing grounds. The first colonists who followed were farmers and lumberjacks. A hamlet was soon born near the lake. It was originally served by a mission, until a Catholic chapel was built and the Parish of Sainte-Agathe was founded in 1861.
A mill, erected where the lake discharges into the Rivière du Nord (North River), ground wheat into flour for the townspeople. Sawmills were also built at various locations, heralding the beginnings of the forestry industry in the region. The modest village consisted of a number of craftsmen’s workshops and small businesses on Principale and Saint-Vincent streets. In 1892, the arrival of the railroad had a major impact on the development of Sainte-Agathe.
…The Story Continues
Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts soon experienced rapid growth and many visitors delighted in the natural scenery and the cleanliness of the air—something that was sadly lacking in the big city. Octavien Rolland, a Montreal bookseller, was the first to build a seasonal residence on Lac des Sables. Many others followed suit, among them lawyer and politician Raymond Préfontaine along with industrialists and financiers from Montreal. Their luxurious villas multiplied around the shores of the lake, and hotels sprang up to accommodate short-term holidayers.
During the same period, religious institutions established a convent school and a college for girls and boys, respectively, from the village and the surrounding area. In 1905, the Catholic authorities undertook the construction of a vast stone church to replace the former one, grown too small for the congregation. With more and more English-speaking people settling in the town, Holy Trinity Anglican Church was built on Préfontaine Street in 1899. Thanks in part to upper-class tourism, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts flourished in an era of prosperity.
Because of the fresh air, the town became famous for the treatment of respiratory illnesses. Sanatoria were built and some private homes added cure porches to accommodate convalescing patients. After World War II and the development and widespread use of a vaccine against tuberculosis, the importance of these health-care establishments waned.
As skiing grew in popularity in the 1920s, Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts’ tourism offering diversified, and the area became a winter-sports destination par excellence. The winter carnival, ski and dogsled racing, along with boat races and waterskiing ensured a steady supply of visitors all year long.
Later, the highway was built and new tourist destinations elsewhere in the Laurentians drained a portion of the clientele from around Lac des Sables. Heirs to more than 150 years of history, the citizens of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts and vacationers alike are now rediscovering the charms of their built and natural environments.