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Founded in 1807, The Royal Montreal Curling Club is the oldest active athletic club in North America.
It was during the reign of King George III, when Montreal was a town of perhaps 12,000, that 20 merchants and a chaplain who liked to curl together on the ice of the St. Lawrence River, decided to form a curling club. The group met on January 22, 1807, in Gillis Tavern, where The Montreal Curling Club was born, the oldest established sports club still active in North America. It must have been cold on the ice, and matches were generally followed by good food and drink, a tradition which continues to this day.
During the next half-century several other clubs were formed and inter-club competition became fierce. Curling outdoors in Montreal winters, however, made scheduling such events dependent upon the whims of the weather, not to mention the ice companies who destroyed playing surfaces by cutting huge quantities of ice to be stored for summer use. By 1838 curlers were starting to rent warehouse space to curl under cover.
In 1860 The Montreal Curling Club moved to an indoor rink on Drummond Street, near the present site of the Mount Stephen Club. Twenty-eight years later, a lot on St. Catherine Street, between St. Mathieu and St. Marc, was purchased for construction of a new curling shed. Opened in 1889, it has remained our rink ever since. The following year we sold the portion of the land fronting on St. Catherine Street and acquired a lot on the other side of the shed, then 56 St. Luke Street (now 1850 Boulevard de Maisonneuve West), to build a club house. Designed by Hyde & Nobbs, it was opened on Christmas Eve 1892, and expanded to its present size in 1912.
The curling shed was built in the style of the famous Victoria Arena (where the Montreal Maroons later played hockey), on a frame of laminated wood in arched girders, permitting a large free space without pillars. It is the only known example of this type of structure still in existence. Artificial ice was added in 1928. The Guaranteed Pure Milk Company next door to the Club had a refrigeration plant and its owner was also a member. Pipes were laid from their plant to provide the brine. In 1931 we installed our own ice plant, upgraded in 2004 to the present facility.
A Royal Warrant issued on February 23, 1924, granted the Club the right to add the word "Royal" to its name. Henceforward it would be known as The Royal Montreal Curling Club.
From the beginning, curlers in Lower Canada used irons, weighing 60 to 80 lbs. Each member brought his own curling irons to the curling rink. During the 100th anniversary festivities in 1907, a special area had to be set aside for the participants' irons and the granite stones used in Upper Canada (Ontario). In Québec it was not until the 1930s that the conversion to granites really got underway. True to its traditions, The Royal Montreal Curling Club held out, refusing to change until 1943 when it purchased its first set of 42 lb. granites, the standard curling stone now in universal use.
The Guaranteed Pure Milk Company is long gone, replaced by a parking lot. Over the last 30 years, many curling clubs in Montreal and Westmount have closed their doors: Heather in 1975, followed in 1982 by Montreal Caledonia and Greystone, then St George and in 2001 Thistle. We remain the only curling club close to the downtown area still in operation, a heritage monument and, as Guy Hemmings put it, truly a shrine to curling in Canada.