Early Days

Dorval was a vacation area in the 17th century, and the land along the shore of Lake St. Louis opposite Dorval Island was called Gentilly. It belonged to the Sulpician order of Montreal. In 1667 the priests built a school to house their Indian converts. The chapel stood on the land where St. Mark’s now stands, and was called La Présentation. The massacre of Lachine in 1689 took its toll of settlers at Gentilly, and it was a while before any had the courage to return to the land, but in 1691 Jean-Baptiste Bouchard, dit Dorval, bought La Présentation and became the Seigneur of Dorval.

Fear of Indians, the harsh climate, poor roads and the threat of floods combined to keep the growth of population low for the next 100 years. It was not until 1831 that an Anglican church was built in Lachine, then a large and prosperous village. In 1872 Lachine was incorporated as a town, and two years later St. Paul’s Church opened in the western end of the parish to accommodate the rapidly increasing population there.

In the closing years of the 19th century, Dorval had become a summer home for Montrealers who could afford to build comfortable and even elaborate homes close to the lakeshore. Informal services were held as early as 1893 in the home of the Hon. A.W. Morris and of Judge Melbourn Tait on Martin Avenue. By 1894 the Reverend Richard Hewton of St. Paul’s, Lachine, was conducting evensong each Sunday afternoon at the home of John Savage, which was later to become the Elmridge Golf clubhouse and is now the Sarto Desnoyers Community Centre. 

Building of the Chapel

A.R. Sims, whose farmlands ran back from the lakeshore to where the railway tracks are today, gave a piece of his property for the building of a chapel. (One wonders if he knew that there had been another chapel on that same spot so long before.) All the Protestant members of the community, including the residents of Dorval Island, joined in giving time and money towards the building of the chapel. The names of Morris, Molson, and Marler were prominent in this project. 

The chapel was built entirely of local fieldstone, with a rustic steeple and curved chancel. It seated about 70 people, and the altar was elevated by several steps, well above the worshipers. The opening service was held at three o'clock on the afternoon of June 26, 1898, attended by 15 people, who sang The Church’s One Foundation.

 

Markland Molson had been the leading spirit in the building of the chapel and had given the bell to call the people to prayer each Sunday during the summer months for the next three years. By then, there were enough people living in Dorval year round to necessitate holding services during the winter months. The heating became a pressing issue for the church wardens of that day. This problem was solved for several years by the use of two wood-burning Quebec heaters. During these years, a congregation of 30 was considered excellent. 

In August of 1907 a strip of land was acquired from Harry Markland Molson and E. Kirk Green for “$1.00 and other valuable considerations.” This ensured the right of access to the chapel from the Lakeshore Road, which was then the only highway from Montreal to the West, for “persons on foot or vehicles drawn by animals.” The following month, with all debts paid, without pew rents or endowments, the chapel was consecrated by the Right Reverend James Carmichael, fourth Bishop of Montreal.

Inside the church hangs a painting of Mr. Molson. He owned a luxurious 75-foot, 40-ton steam yacht called the Alcyone, and a cottage close to the Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club. It seems ironic that one who loved sailing so much should be one of the 1,513 who lost their lives in the sinking of the Titanic on April 14, 1912.

A Community Hall and a New Church

In the early 1950s, the city of Dorval’s population had grown, and a hall was needed for community use. In 1953, a parish hall was constructed and attached to the north side of the chapel.  This was used for Sunday school, Cubs, Scouts, Brownies, Guides and other organizations.  Over the years as the demographics of the community changed, the hall became a day care centre and is now the home of the Centre de la Petite Enfance/Dorval Daycare.  In operation since 1975, it cares for more than 60 children. 

 Construction of the parish hall

Construction of the parish hall

By 1957, there had been an explosion in the population of Dorval. A new church was required. That year a building fund got under way and in 1958, St. Mark’s Church opened its doors.  During construction, the west end of the chapel was removed, permitting it to be attached to the church without destroying any of the architectural beauty of the original building while permitting access to both.  During the design process, great care had been taken for the church to match and blend in with the chapel.  A pipe organ of two manuals and pedal with 13 stops was built and installed by Casavant Frères during 1959 and was donated by John W. McConnell.

 turning the sod for the new church building

turning the sod for the new church building

Merger of St. Andrew’s and St. Mark’s

A declining Anglican population in the late 1960s brought about the amalgamation of two churches, that of St. Andrew’s, farther west in Dorval, and St. Mark’s. Below, the women of the ACW at work.

ACW.jpg

In 1970 the Rev. Paul Busing became rector. He was succeeded in 1976 by the Rev. (now the Venerable ) Gordon Guy.  Upon his retirement in 2002, the Rev. Karen Chalk was appointed and served until 2013.  The Rev. Elizabeth Welch was appointed in December 2014.