The school to which the Plateau-Mont-Royal owes its name

Contrary to popular belief, the name of École Le Plateau, renowned for its musical program, does not come from its location in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough. It would even be the opposite!

The Catholic Commercial Academy was founded in June 1872, where Place des Arts and the Maison symphonique are today. The institution occupies a large country-style building, at the end of a tree-lined alley, on a vast lot that stretches from Sainte-Catherine Street to Ontario Street.

For us in the old Plateau, writes Lucien Lapointe, a former student of the Academy, nothing will ever beat these stone walls laden with years and memories, the climbing vines that soften them and underline them in places, the old France chimneys , the roof adorned with wrought iron, the tower with its clock and its retreat favorable to our mischievousness.

The building is built on an artificial embankment about six meters high. It’s that plateau which will soon give its name to the Academy, just like to a small street in this sector of the city.

Founded by the Commission des écoles catholiques de Montréal, the Academy’s mandate is to train future merchants and engineers. The Commission somewhat short-circuits the will of Laval University in Montreal, explains Hélène-Andrée Bizier, historian and essayist. The University was against the disciplines that had to do with business, with the handling of money. She didn’t value it, she opposed it, even.

Several figures in the history of Quebec, including Henri Bourrassa, Raoul Dandurand and Fernand Séguin, attended this prestigious institution.

The Academy moves to La Fontaine Park

After six decades on Sainte-Catherine Street, the school moved to the heart of La Fontaine Park, Calixa-Lavallée Street, in 1932.

Académie Le Plateau was located on a small artificial promontory, hence its name.

Photo: Public domain

We don’t move for lack of space, we move for the prestige of French-Canadian educationsays Hélène-Andrée Bizier. We move to bring together the big schools on Sherbrooke Street. Club Saint-Denis goes up [aussi] on rue Sherbrooke, at the edge of square Saint-Louis where all the professors of the University live.

It was finally on the mountain that the University of Montreal would settle in the 1940s.

The institution provides in particular basic academic notions to an adult clientele made up of workers, hence the inscription Higher primary school, which can still be read on the facade, explains Ms. Bizier.

The school’s concert hall, where concerts, lectures and speeches are presented, attracts hundreds of spectators from all over the city. Jean Drapeau acted there as an usher during his studies.

There was a whole armada of ushersrecalls Gabriel Deschambault, who attended École Le Plateau at the secondary level in the 1950s and 1960s. It was a small job in lost time which brought in a little money and I remember that the young people wanted to be ushers.

From the Plateau Academy to the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough

The Académie Le Plateau, when it was located at the current location of Place des Arts.

Photo: Public domain

The presence of the Plateau school and auditorium in the heart of La Fontaine Park is the origin of the name given to the district, according to historian Hélène-Andrée Bizier.

We frequented this place by going there by bus or on foot. And on the bus, people were saying that we had reached the Plateau. The driver said Plateau!, she says. It is a name that has spread in the Plateau Mont-Royal district. The historian specifies that the name Plateau was not usual to designate the district before the 1940s.

This is one of the hypotheses that could explain the origin of the name of the district. According to Gabriel Deschambault, who is a member of the Société d’histoire du Plateau-Mont-Royal, the exact origin of this appellation remains a mystery.

As for the name of the school, its origin seems to have been forgotten over the decades. We were totally unaware that the name of École Le Plateau came from a school that was at the bottom of the hillsays René Binette, who attended École Le Plateau for his secondary education in the 1970s.

For us, it was the Plateau school, and all the young people in our neighborhood, which was the Plateau, went to the École Le Plateau.

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