Early Development


On April 7, 1914, the Town's founding mayor, Mayor James Ballie, convened the first council meeting at the Board of Trade Building, on St. Alexander Street. At that meeting, a $5,000 note was drawn up to pay for the incorporation costs of the Town. The contents of the meeting focused mainly on the building of infrastructures and basic amenities. According to the Cities and Towns Act, the Town could not develop until it was able to provide its residents with all essential service. The Town's first priority was to provide running water. On September 8, 1914, the Town of Hampstead entered into an agreement with the Montreal Water and Power Company. The first by-law adopted by Council ratified the agreement, and called for the issuing of a $250,000 bond to cover the cost of setting up water services. Unfortunately, the Town did not actually have access to running water until 1921. The reason for this was that the City of Montreal refused to grant the Montreal Water and Power Co. the right of way needed to build a water line from Notre-Dame-de-Grace to Hampstead. Thus, the contract was eventually annulled.

In fact, the City of Montreal made it very difficult for the Town to get off to a successful start. After signing an agreement with Town officials that would allow Hampstead to connect its sewer system to the trunk system of the City of Côte St. Luc, the City of Montreal poured concrete down the pipes connecting the two systems. The objective was to block Hampstead's use of the trunk system. The effect was severe flooding in many of Hampstead's new homes. Eventually, the Town was forced to build an alternative link that did not pass through Montreal jurisdiction. There were even two annexation attempts made by the City of Montreal- first in 1916 and again in 1924- to no avail. Throughout, the Town managed to persevere, retaining its independence as not only a bona fide municipality, but as a shining example of well-run independent town.

During World War I, the Town experienced a very slow rate of development. The Council called for additional financing for the municipal works sector and general operations. It was only around the 1920s that the growth rate took an upswing. The first building was built in 1916, and is the present site of Hampstead's town hall. The mansion, on the corner of Queen Mary Road and Stratford Road, was originally a wedding gift from Mayor Baillie to his son. However, by 1920, there were only eight buildings erected in the Town. In fact, for a few years the Town did not even have its own building by-laws, depending instead on those of the City of Westmount. By-law 16, passed in 1923, created very strict building standards. In order to ensure that these standards were met, the Town appointed a building inspector. In 1926, Council passed an amendment to the building by-law, establishing an Architectural Advisory Board. The board's mandate is to ensure that the distinct character of the Town is maintained. It has proved to be an effective tool, with a spotless record. Even in times of slow growth, it remained one of the keys to Hampstead's development as a high-class residential community.

The problem with the Town's building by-laws was that they only allowed for detached or semi-detached structures. This precluded the construction of schools, churches, a fire station and even a town hall. Knowing that successful land development would require such activities , the Council was forced to relax some of the restrictions regulating construction. By February 1927, many of the restrictions in by-law 16 were eased in order to allow the Town to offer prospective residents many of the expected amenities.

In 1925, before the building restrictions were even amended, the Town built a one-storey school building on Merton Road. By 1928, the building was renovated to add a second storey. In 1937 a three-storey wing was added. And finally, in 1946, the Town made further improvements on the building that has served, until this day, as its only school.

The Town's fire station was built in the 1920's. At that point, Hampstead also began offering rudimentary policing services. By 1934, the Town had two police constables patrolling either on foot or by bicycle; their presence ensured safety and a low crime rate.

As for religious institutions, the Town's needs were fairly limited. At the time, the majority of Hampstead residents were mostly protestants. Town officials allowed for the construction of the Queen Mary United Church, in 1931 to serve their needs. Soon after, St. Malachy's Church was built, on MacDonald Road, to accommodate the Town's Catholic population. As the demographics of the Town shifted over the years, the Town always adapted to suite the needs of its residents. Eventually the St. Mathew's Anglican Church, the First Baptist Church, the Reconstructionist Synagogue and finally the Adath Israel Congregation were added to Hampstead's list of religious institutions. Such changes reflected the massive changes in population experienced by the Town over the second half of the century.

Aside from changes in the Town's religious composition, the Town of Hampstead began experiencing major population growth toward the late 1920's. This opened a period of unprecedented expansion. Development reached an all-time high, and the Town developed the reputation as an exclusive suburban settlement.