Nuns Island

Nuns Island

Originally called Île Saint-Paul in honor of the founder of Montreal, Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, the 3.74-square-kilometre (1.44 sq mi) island is part of the Hochelaga Archipelago.

The island was initially acquired in 1634 by Jean de Lauzon, future governor of New France. The nuns of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame acquired part of it in 1706, and in 1769 acquired the other part of the island becoming the sole owners of the island for the next 250 years.

One day in 1956, Colin Gravenor, a writer for the shock tabloid Midnight, decided to purchase the island whose soil was considered unsuitable for construction. He offered 1.3 million-dollar, with a down-payment of $10,000 and his offer was accepted by the nuns. When he showed up at the notary with only $5,000, the nuns’ notary signed away the land anyway, assuming that the island would revert back to the nuns for nonpayment of the next major payment.

The notary simply forgot to expect the unexpected.

Nuns Island

Gravenor started a letter-writing campaign in which he assumed dozens of names, all of whom urged the government officials to build a bridge to the South Shore spanning Nun’s Island. As week after week past and Gravenor was about to forfeit the property because he was unable to make the second payment ($100,000), his fortunes changed overnight with the announcement by Canadian prime minister, Louis St-Laurent, of the construction of the Champlain Bridge, which would permit road access to the island for the first time. After the announcement, Gravenor was able to sell his interest in the land for approximately $2 million to Judah Leib Gewurz and Joseph Remer, the two owners of Quebec Home & Mortgage Corporation (QHMC). Some sixty years after the nuns sold the island for a song, a new bridge is beeing built and the Gewurzs are busier than ever building million dollars condos on the island which by now had become a much desirable area.

It’s cool to live in Montreal.

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