THE JOURNALS OF ALAN RHODES
part II 1971-1977
Fate of landmark hinges on liquor license
Pointe Claire's Maples Inn has been part of the West Island's history since the 19th century.
By Marjorie Sim
Special to the Gazette
October 20, 1983
West Island residents who remember the area as it was 50 years ago are awaiting the fate of The Maples Inn with great interest and not a little trepidation.
New owner Brian Newman says - and few would disagree - that if its liquor permit is not renewed, there is little chance of the Maples surviving. In fact, its likeliest fate in the event is demolition, possibly to make way for another highrise building.
The Maples is a landmark, one of the oldest buildings on the Lakeshore - as locals have always referred to that part of the West Island that faces Lake St. Louis.
When it was built in the late 19th century, The Maples Inn was a popular destination in Montreal's countryside, located on the quiet shores of the lake where the Bord du Lac (Lakeshore Drive) meandered through a haven of trees, alive with colour at this time of the year.
But, for many years, the hotel was almost inaccessible to Montrealers during the winter months.
The Maples became popular at a time of lazy summer Sundays, when summer boarding houses were popular along the Lakeshore. In Pointe Claire, not far from the Maples, were the summer houses of the many Montreal residents.
People would leave the city in May and return in September after boarding up windows and doors until the next spring.
Like The Maples, most of these houses still stand, and became permanent residences only a few decades ago after the long years of weekend retreating and Sunday drives.
Most of those weekends retreats were at The Maples, Originally only a three-storey frame summer boarding house built in the late 19th century by a Mr. Alland, The Maples restricted entry to "distinguished gentlemen" by 1902.
The gentlemen's club had a lounge/bar downstairs and card rooms upstairs where "500", the popular game of the era, was played.
Between 1910 and 1920, the population of Montreal doubled and so did the popularity of The Maples, as ballroom dancing became the club's main attraction and women were finally granted entrance.
A.J. Verity, a professional hotel operator, bought The Maples and made it a hotel in 1914. By the summer of 1925, he was advertising it as "The Most Popular Summer Resort on Lake St. Louis".
Imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald's fashionable East Egg, and one can picture the type of crowd which gathered at The Maples Hotel on those sultry summer afternoons in the 1920's
In preparation for the colours of autumn, Verity announced the new fall rates and declared The Maples the Lakeshore's "Premier Hotel - comfort and cleanliness guaranteed, English home cooking, good food, and plenty of it. Steam heat, hot and cold running water in all rooms".
For these reasons, the ads crowed, there was no longer a need to move back to the city.
Not more than a couple of months later, advertisements in The Lakeshore Press-Record (later the Lakeshore News and now the New & Chronicle) revealed a plan for a new winter resort to be located at the Lakeside Hotel, as the Maples was also called locally.
The Winter Sports & Social Club opened in early January, 1926, and membership entitled one to "dancing, cards (with prizes), toboggan slide, ski course, skating rink and badminton courts." The toboggan slide eventually had four chutes, with natural dropouts on to Lake St. Louis.
Season rate for family membership cost only $15 for two adults and all children under 16 years of age. For children over 16, the price was $8 per season.
To celebrate the opening of the Winter Sports & Social Club, the management of The Maples Hotel, as it was now called, gave a "Grand Free Dance," in its "Rustic Log Dance Pavilion" featuring a well-known band of the time, the Bluebird Dance Orchestra. The dance pavilion had birchbark walls and lantern light and was build in early December of 1925.
There, following a successful open, an orchestra played every Saturday night. Admission was "Gents, 75 cents, Ladies 50 cents, or $1 per couple." The hall was also used for weddings and other receptions.
Next came the movie shows. The Maples announced moving pictures in late January, 1926, when competition with other area clubs, The Condover Club, The Valois Country Club, The Strathmore Country Club and the Club Nautique Royal was tough.
The Maples only charged 35 cents for adults and 20 cents for children.
When driving along the Lakeshore Rd., for many summers to follow, motorists would see people playing tennis on The Maples' courts as well as miniature golf on its course, men and women in exotic bathing wear swam in the lake from the sandy beach across the road.
The management of The Maples had sand barged across the river from Chateauguay for several summers but eventually stopped this.
Miniature golf originated in Tennessee but in the fall of 1930 management of The Maples brought the game to Canada and the hotel had the first course in the country.
With The Great Depression, The Maples began to experience its dimmest days. However in 1948 Willie Comstant, who had bought the hotel and was its proprietor until just a few years ago, helped The Maples get back on its feet. Patrons were still able to wine, dine and dance, often to Charlie Legault's Big Band from Lachine.
Those days are long ago over with the era of rock and roll, and The Maples Inn now caters to a younger crowd. But new owner Brian Newman is trying to restore the old image.
Driving along the Lakeshore Rd. on any beautiful summer day brings back to older Lakeshore residents memories of the "good old days" at The Maples Hotel. Today, few except windsurfers care for a dunk in polluted Lake St. Louis, although its shores, including the sandy beach in front of The Maples, are still popular picnic spots.
The pub at the right side of The Maples building has changed little but the opposite side is now equipped with a new bar and carpeted floors.
Under the new owner, admittance to this hall is restricted to patrons over the age of 21, with the occasional exceptions. Newman hopes in the future it will be used, for retirement parties, dinner theatre and wedding receptions.
In fact, the Maples Inn burnt down under suspicious circumstances on February 8, 1985. The neighbours had champaign ready.
Condos now stand on the spot...if the residents listen carefully late at night, they can still faintly hear "Smoke on the Water"...
The Maples Inn - January 1976
Interior c. 1956 and 1976
Best known image of a full night at the Mapes