Stepping into Mount Royal Chalet’s cavernous foyer is like entering a cathedral. Subdued light and a soaring ceiling create a hushed, hallowed space that manages to feel both rustic and majestic. Its vast interior is mostly empty, guiding your gaze upwards to the elegant chandeliers and ceiling beams, which are inhabited by dozens of oversized wooden squirrels.
Constructed in 1932 as a make-work project during the Great Depression, the Chalet is one of the architectural highlights of Mount Royal Park. It was designed in the French Beaux-Arts style by architect Aristide Beaugrand-Champagne, and is furnished with large paintings illustrating Montreal’s colonial history by artists such as Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Paul-Émile Borduas, and Edwin Holgate.
Crouching unobtrusively in the rafters, the squirrel statues are easy to miss. There are 32 of them, finely carved from wood (a panel notes that they are “possibly by Elzéar Soucy”). They hunch with paws together as if in prayer or genuflection, bestowing a kind of sylvan sanctity on the chalet. Each clutches a nut. It’s easy to imagine them as the sentinels of the park, watching over visitors criss-crossing the lobby below.
The Chalet also features a small café, a souvenir shop, and an information kiosk for visitors. Just outside, the Kondiaronk Belvedere provides a magnificent panoramic view of downtown Montreal and the landscape southeast of the city, including the Saint Lawrence River.