The Mystery of Swiss Lane

Swiss Lane

Swiss Lane

Even after seven years of walking its streets, I’m still finding new things in Mile End, the neighbourhood I called home before I left Montreal. Back for a visit last month, I got around mostly by bike, which took me down streets on which I wouldn’t normally walk, like the quiet stretch of Casgrain in the old garment district. That’s where I spotted a laneway with an unusual name: Swiss Lane, according to the street sign, though “lane” has been patched over with white tape and the alley’s official name is now “ruelle Swiss.”

I can’t find any clues as to the origins of Swiss Lane’s name. The city’s otherwise comprehensive Répertoire historique des toponymes montréalais contains no reference to anything Swiss or Suisse. The only mention I can find in the Lovell’s Directory indicates that Swiss Lane was “not built upon.” (Its entry in the 1935 directory is found right under Swastika Avenue, which was apparently a lane off Ste. Famille Street.) So what’s the story behind Swiss Lane?

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Sunday November 29 2009at 05:11 am , filed under Canada, History and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

5 Responses to “The Mystery of Swiss Lane”

  • Kate M. says:

    It isn’t listed either in Les rues de Montréal (1995) which I thought included everything that merited an official street sign (it has Cérat, for example, although no explanation for the name). But I have a ghost memory of having heard an explanation for Swiss Lane at some point, so I’ll see what I can find out.

  • I’m more interested in the history behind Swastika Avenue!

  • Des says:

    Swastikas were long renowned as a symbol of good luck and fortune (from sanskrit roots), until they were co-opted in a pretty loud and definitive way in the 1930s/40s. Prior to then though, swastikas had a good run, whether they’ll ever be rehabilitated seems like a long shot.

  • Le mystère est complet! Je suis allé visiter ce lieu dernièrement. C’est un bien curieux coin mais il devait en être tout autrement lorsqu’on a construit cette habitation à logements attachés située au coin Sud-Ouest de l’avenue Casgrain et Swiss Lane,(1920-1930). À cette époque l’environnement du Mile End était encore assez champêtre et je crois bien qu’il devait y avoir encore quelques fermes sur des terres ici et là.
    Chemin de fer et industries, manufactures, viaduc etc.. ont modelé le paysage urbain ici.
    Merci pour ce spot “Mystère”. Cela m’a permi de découvrir à nouveau l’avenue Casgrain.

  • R Mancini says:

    Just stumbled across this post!

    Good ‘ol Swiss lane! When we lived on St-Dominique street we used to play hockey in this lane and in the little parking lot at the corner of St-Dominique and Swiss…sweet memories, well, except for when the ball would roll into the yard facing the parking lot which was guarded by an angry little dog…!