Belmont, first amusement park?

Radio-Canada has a multi-part feature on Belmont Park, calling it the first amusement park in Montreal, but that’s not the case at all. I wrote about this for OpenFile and did some homework on the subject.

Organized amusements in Montreal followed fashionable ideas imported from abroad. We had a Crystal Palace with an industrial exhibit in 1860, emulating London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 and Paris’s Exposition universelle of 1855; we had Guilbault’s pleasure grounds, the Botanic and Zoologic Garden (1831-1869), a privately owned park with gardens and a zoo, an attraction that echoed London’s Vauxhall Gardens and other pleasure gardens of the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the conventional sense of a park with rides, Montreal had Sohmer Park (1889-1919, named after a brand of piano being promoted by one of its founders) and Dominion Park (1906-1937), owned by the Suburban Tramway and Power company and developed as a stimulus to its east‑end tram service – a trolley park entirely typical of its time – before four businessmen launched Belmont Park in 1923. A few years later, Charles-Émile Trudeau, grandfather of our prime minister, became one of the park’s owners. Belmont Park went through ups and downs, staving off the competition of La Ronde for more than a decade before finally closing in 1983. But it wasn’t the first.