BAIE-D’URFÉ’S CITY HALL, a building intimately linked with the town’s creation.
The history of settlement in Baie-D’Urfé dates back to the arrival of the first French colonists in the late 17th century. But little real development occurred until the railway arrived in the latter half of the 19th century.
It was at this time that wealthy families, lured by the ideal of the gentleman farmer, arrived en masse to the region, quickly followed by well-to-do city dwellers looking to build beautiful lakefront country homes.
As a result of this demographic change, Baie-D’Urfé was granted its Town Charter in 1911, and named after its first resident priest.
The first council meeting was held on July 10 of the same year. However, no elections were held. Instead, Mayor Vivian de Vere Dowker and his councillors Moise C. Bezner, Alfred Brunet, Charles E. Gudewill, Norwood M. Lash, Edward Maxwell and Fred J. Shaw, were all acclaimed. During this first meeting, James Morgan, a wealthy resident and one of the town’s founders, announced that he would donate a lakefront property for the construction of a town hall, as well as for the creation of a park and access road for the enjoyment of all residents. Morgan’s donation became official in October 1912, with the gift of a white-frame farmhouse for conversion into a town hall. The Second Empire style farmhouse, built in 1875, had been acquired by Morgan in 1909.
Renowned architect oversees renovations
Renowned architect and town councillor, Edward Maxwell, volunteered to design and supervise the building’s renovations. This was by no means Maxwell’s first project. Among others, he had been the architect of Montreal’s prestigious Birks store, and architect on many sumptuous homes owned by the city’s wealthiest and most influential individuals. To give the town hall a public character, Maxwell added a Palladian style entrance and a large covered porch adorned with decorative elements.
François-Saturnin Lascaris d’Urfé (1641-1701)
Born in Baugé, France in 1641, François- Saturnin Lascaris d’Urfé was the son of Charles-Emmanuel, the Marquis d’Urfé and de Baugé, and of Marguerite d’Allègre. This noble family was related to the illustrious Greek house of Lascaris which had once occupied the throne of Constantinople.
François-Saturnin Lascaris d’Urfé entered the Saint- Sulpice seminary of Paris in 1660, and ordained a priest in 1665.
At his request, he embarked for New France in the fall of 1668. There, he spent four years in a mission among Native people, before being appointed to the mission at Gentilly (Dorval).
However, d’Urfé found himself at odds with Governor Frontenac, and returned to France to plead his case with Colbert, minister of King Louis XIV, and with whom he was linked through family ties. Colbert intervened and entreated the governor to show the priest “some sign of particular consideration.”
Upon returning to New France in 1685, Lascaris d’Urfé was appointed the first resident priest for the parish of Saint-Louis-du-Haut-de-l’Île, whose chapel, it was said, stood on a point called Pointe- à-Caron (now part of the present-day Baie-D’Urfé).
In the fall of 1687, the small parish was attacked by the Iroquois.
The priest narrowly escaped the Native warriors who nevertheless claimed many victims among the French settlers. Shortly after this dramatic event, Lascaris d’Urfé was called back to France on family matters. In 1697, he retired to his castle in Baugé, where he died in 1701.
Mr. Thomas-Roche Lee, Mayor of Baie-D’Urfé in the 1960s, examining the d’Urfé shield engraved under François d’Urfé’s silver cup, housed at the Notre-Dame cathedral in Montreal.
But the name of François- Saturnin Lascaris d’Urfé would not mark on the toponymy of Baie-D’Urfé until long after his brief time on the island of Montreal.
It took until 1902 for some historically-inclined citizens to petition for the village’s Bayview station to be changed to Baie d’Urfé. By the time the town’s incorporation was announced eight years later, the idea had taken root, and the town was officially named Baie-D’Urfé. The town’s coat of arms, drawn in 1961, is largely inspired by that of François-Saturnin Lascaris d’Urfé.