Montgomery Place – A Canadian Heritage Neighbourhood
1946 – “…to have a good command the army, you need to understand human nature. In humans lies a huge emotional energy …that warms the heart and stirs the imagination…” words from Second World War Field Marshall Bernard L. Montgomery. In 1946 a veterans’ community began on Saskatoon’s southwestern edge called Montgomery Place – a namesake of this British leader. The community grew under the auspices of the Veterans Land Act (VLA).
2014 – Fast forward almost 70 years, in the spring of 2014, the Montgomery Place Community Association (MPCA) turned its “emotional energy” to an application for Canadian heritage designation that would reflect the unique Second World War roots of the Montgomery neighbourhood. Of all the VLA settlements established across Canada at the end of the Second World War, Montgomery Place has the distinction of remaining the most extant. While it’s true that many homeowners have made renovations to their homes, and a few have subdivided their properties, and new streets were added to the south and west perimeters – in essence, Montgomery Place is true to its original conception. Due to our physical isolation from the City of Saskatoon, we have not been swallowed up into other neighbourhoods. Industry, rail lines and roadways on three sides have kept us separated from other Saskatoon residential areas.
On July 29, 2014 Kate MacFarlane, Historian with the Cultural Sciences branch of Parks Canada, came from Ottawa to visit Montgomery Place. MPCA President Barb Biddle toured Ms. MacFarlane around the community, noting in particular the veterans’ cairn and monument at the corner of Caen Street and Rockingham Avenue and the community Remembrance Service that is held there every November 11. A group of past and present MPCA executive met to discuss the history of the neighbourhood and our community today. Parks Canada was interested in the integrity of the community and the fact that the community parameters have remained unbroken.
In December the Historic Sites and Monuments Board considered the national significance of Montgomery Place and recommended its designation.
2015 – In May 2015 the Historic Sites and Monuments Board asked the MPCA to obtain a letter of support from the City of Saskatoon for the Montgomery Place application. Then on June 10, 2015 MPCA President Barb Biddle toured members of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board around the Montgomery community. Later in June, 2015 the City of Saskatoon resolved to support the Montgomery Place application.
2016 – In June 2016 the Montgomery Place Community Association (MPCA) received word – Montgomery Place has been made a National Historic Site, a place “of profound importance to Canada.” Each national historic site tells its own unique story, part of the greater story of Canada, contributing a sense of time, identity and place to our understanding of Canada as a whole. http://www.pc.gc.ca
The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, gave the transformative decision to MPCA President Barb Biddle in a letter dated June 6, 2016.
Excerpts from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada minutes from 2014 include: “The Board recommended Montgomery Place for designation because:
. it is an excellent and intact illustration of the Veterans Land Act communities established following the Second World War. The VLA was a key element to the Veterans’ Charter, which provided a wide range of benefits to most veterans, ex-servicemen, women and the disabled;
. it retains many key elements of its original design including layout, lot size, set back, street names, green spaces and recognizable housing plans which contribute to the “sense of history” required in an historic district;
. it is a tight-knit community which is very aware of its origins and makes every effort to honour the original inhabitants and their wartime sacrifices. With its street and place names, signage, memorials and Remembrance Day services, it has emerged, over time, as a place of remembrance.”
The submission to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada stated: Montgomery Place is an excellent and intact illustration of the Veterans Land Act communities established following the Second World War. The VLA was a key element of the so-called Veterans’ Charter, “an umbrella term used to refer to an innovative group of legislated acts promulgated by the Government of Canada during and following the Second World War, which provided benefits to most veterans, ex-servicemen and women and the disabled.” Within the overall framework of the program, Montgomery Place is somewhat unusual in its size, lot size and in having been built directly by the VLA. It is a tight-knit community which is very aware of its origins and makes every effort to honour the original inhabitants and their wartime sacrifices. Though not the original intent, Montgomery Place has emerged, over time, as a place of remembrance. Its streets and place names honour the leaders, battles and equipment of the Second World War; the community has erected two memorials and the annual Remembrance Day ceremonies have come to attract large crowds. Montgomery Place, as a community, is visually distinct from neighbouring Saskatoon. It retains many key elements of its original design including layout, lot size, set back, street names, green spaces and recognizable housing plans which contribute to the “sense of history” required in an historic district.
Further, it claimed: Many features of the original Montgomery Place of the mid-1940s and early 1950s are still legible in the landscape. It retains its original, rectangular layout, softened by Garden City-like interventions such as gently curving streets and a central green space – Montgomery Park. The roads are narrow in the older sections, there are almost no sidewalks in the subdivision, and ditches are common. The original houses in Montgomery Place were modest, two or three bedroom single-family dwellings set well back from the street front and at a comfortable distance from neighbouring houses. For the most part, these setbacks have been maintained. As with all housing developments, many of the houses in Montgomery Place were modified over time, but the subdivision has seen relatively little infilling or tear-down activity and no commercial development. Montgomery Place thus retains an unusually high number of its original half-acre lots, as well as its over-all fell as a semi-rural subdivision at the edge of both city and country. The current park-like feel to the well-treed community was intended from the very beginning and came to fruition over time.
2017 – A plaque will be erected in Montgomery Park sometime in the near future to acknowledge the special heritage designation assigned to Montgomery Place, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.