Anybody here know anything about St Anne de Belleview on the West Island?
I don't even know how to spell it.
If it's West of, say, Lasalle it's off my map. But there's a part of that loverly community known as Gardenvale whose progenitor I nominate for the list of underrated Montrealers.
JJ Harpell was an Irish anglo from Montreal who got some forward-thinking ideas when kicking around Europa. He returned in 1910 raving of the utopian concept of the garden city, which was an urban plan for growing suburbia at the time.
Garden cities were meant to be self-sufficient and well-organized communities which would be pleasant to live in. My Master's level Mtl history teacher Walter Van Nus hinted that I should do a paper on gardencityology. I sought glory elsewhere but learned enough to know that Gardenvale in St. Anne's was built with fond thoughts of Gardencityness.
JJ opened the Garden City Press, aka, Harpell Press, which printed and published and edited stuff. The West Island had railway service and cheap land so Harpell was one among the pioneers to bring action to the area. He purchased 10 acres and popped in housing surrounded with gardens and other rustic charms. After a few years of disorganization the whole thing started to truly hum.
J. J. Harpell made sure his workers got some higher book learnin' and sent them to evening school.
Oh, and he was friends with Mackenzie King's finance minister Fielding, who told him that the big financial power in Canada belongs to the banks and the insurance companies.
So JJ published a book attacking the insurance industry and got into buckets of hot water. He was busted for libel in 1932, but the world heard his plea.
One of his workers, Louis Even, was inspired by Harpell to unite social credit, or credit unions with religion. Even's legacy remains to this day in the Michael Journal. You've probably seen the car with the writing all over it. They're still puttering about.
Harpell sold his company to his workers in 1945 under condition that it remain a workers' co-op. In August 1984 it had 183 workers, 97 percent of whom were part owners. It was raking in $10 mill a year.
I have at a spooky book by a Montrealer put out by Harpell in the early 70s which inspired this whole line of inquiry. I'll get into it a bit later. Harpell/Garden City put out tons of books.
I'm less-than-sure what happened next. JJ Harpell seems to have suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth, as if swallowed up by aliens. The buildings were turned into condos which still bear the Harpell name, as does a community center out there. It's an unjustifiably faint legacy.
There's a Harpell Printing in Ottawa I found on the net, but the number is out of service. There's a couple of West island historians who might be able to tell me more about Harpell but so far I haven't been able to get them on the buzzard.
De toute facon, there really should be something more significant named after Harpell than what he's got now.