This peaceful, tranquil setting is so far away from the violence of war, we forget it was part of a new innovative approach to healing wounded veterans after the Second World War.
In 1945-1946, the Department of Veterans Affairs needed a new health and occupational centre as well as a tuberculosis hospital. It was decided to build this facility on the property of the bankrupt Senneville Golf and Country Club on the shores of Lac des Deux Montagnes - one of the most beautiful areas on the Island of Montreal.
Incorporated after World War I, the Senneville Golf and Country Club operated an eighteen-hole golf course. The Quebec Open Golf Tournament was played here in 1932 and again in 1939, just before the outbreak of World War II.
The Federal Government acquired the land from the former Golf Club on January 4, 1945 for $67,500. The acquired land included territory north of Autoroute 40 now zoned as a conservation area, sections of Autoroute 40, the McGill Woods, and what is now Senneville-sur-le-parc with its adjacent industrial park, and the current Senneville Park which was the Golf Club’s eighteenth fairway.
It was later discovered that a sub-division of Lot 21 had not been included in the 1945 sale – the waterfront park. The Federal Government acquired this area as part of a land deal with the Provisional Administrator of the Senneville club on August 7, 1956. It should also be noted that when Autoroute 40 was built in the 1960s, the eighteen-hole golf course ceased to be and it was converted to a nine-hole course for the veterans.
The Senneville Lodge facility was built in six months in 1946 and could house up to 275 ambulatory patients. As a teenager, our former mayor, Ovila Crevier, worked on the construction project. Very good materials and design elements were utilized. The whole complex was made up of about ten buildings one of which was a power station as well as the eighteen-hole golf course.
Patients, particularly those with TB, benefited from the fresh air, sunshine and pleasant surroundings - all of which were thought to be conducive to healing. It was the intention of the facility to promote a more flexible atmosphere with more independence for the veterans rather than the strict military discipline found in wards in some military hospitals. In 1958, a Residents Committee was formed to welcome newcomers.
The administration building was at the heart of Senneville Lodge. It housed administrative offices, a medical clinic, a gym, a bowling alley, a pool table, a central canteen, and meeting halls.
The residents of Senneville Lodge were integrated into the Senneville community. Fifty years ago, one of the veterans, Stan, helped me stucco the extension we built after moving here. The veterans also used the beach. There were green changing cabins on the waterfront park and men from the Lodge and Ste. Anne’s Hospital would come down to swim and picnic. A long time Senneville resident remembers her grandfather operating a restaurant in the 50s and 60s. The restaurant sold ice cream, soft drinks, sandwiches, hot dogs and hamburgers which were all available to the veterans. She remembers the water was deep enough to swim and there was a diving raft off the beach.
Senneville Lodge was in operation from 1946 to 1989 when it closed its doors. Veterans who called Senneville Lodge home were then transferred to Ste. Anne’s Hospital.
The question was: How would the 60-acre site be developed?
The first step was to adopt a zoning by-law that designated the veterans’ property as 43 acres golf and 17 acres as institutional with the possibility for seniors’ housing.
In the late 1990s, some Senneville citizens and councillors were increasingly concerned that older neighbours, who had contributed so much to Senneville, could no longer cope with large homes and gardens. In order to keep these people in Senneville, there was a need to develop appropriate housing. Some of these seniors were veterans or the spouses of veterans. In addition, West Island veterans expressed an interest in seniors’ housing on the Senneville Lodge property.
Under the leadership of Clifford Lincoln, ACSSA – “Regroupement des anciens combattants des légionnaires et des communautés de Senneville et de Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue et des autres arrondissements de l’Ile” (a mouthful) – was formed. The members of ACSSA included citizen volunteers and veterans. ACSSA, in collaboration with Groupe CDH, developed detailed site plans, architectural drawings, and financial models for a seniors’ housing project – all of which were included in a 2002 Brief to Veterans’ affairs.
On January 8, 2003, ACSSA held a press conference at the Legion in Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue where over 100 people enthusiastically approved the innovative senior housing designs.
Rumours had circulated for a number of years that the veterans’ land in Senneville would be transferred from Veterans Affairs to Canada Lands Company (CLC). The Liaison Association of War Veterans was very opposed to the transfer and organized a petition signed by 88 veterans that was included in the 2002 ACSSA Brief.
On March 31, 2008 the transfer of the land to CLC occurred. The mandate of CLC was to try and sell excess Federal Government property for at least market value. ACSSA did not have such resources, hence it was not able to proceed with its proposed project. Neither was the Village of Senneville successful in purchasing the property in 2014.
During all the discussions ACSSA had with representatives of the Federal Government, it was always understood that a memorial to the veterans would be placed on the property. We are grateful to Farzad Shodjai for donating the waterfront park to the Village of Senneville. It seems very appropriate that this peaceful area, enjoyed by the veterans so long ago, is to be dedicated to them today and named Parc du Souvenir.