Colin Gravenor

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Colin Gravenor (May 30, 1910 – August 25, 1993) was a Canadian real-estate developer and public-relations pioneer. He was born May 30, 1910, in Bridgwater, England, and moved with his parents and a brother and sister to Winnipeg, Canada, later to be abandoned by his father, Percival, and raised by his mother.

Gravenor moved to Montreal in the late 1920s and following World War II he led Montreal's Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League, which - among other activities - sponsored European refugees fleeing the Nazi regime to resettle in Canada, making him one of the relatively few non-Jews to participate in such an initiative.

Gravenor also worked as a public relations agent and newspaper writer for the scandal sheet Midnight[1] in Montreal until 1956 when he bought Nun's Island,[2] a largely uninhabited island adjacent to the thriving metropolis of Montreal, which was at that time Canada's economic hub. Gravenor paid representatives of an order of the Catholic Church, which then owned the sprawling island in the St. Lawrence River, $5,000 in cash for the initial transaction, with many steeper payments to come, including another $100,000 due within 90 days. The near-penniless Gravenor then started lobbying the federal government to build a bridge to the island. A few weeks later, as Gravenor was about to forfeit the property because he was unable to make his next payment, he benefitted from a serendipitous 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. Gravenor's fortunes changed overnight, and he was able to sell his interest in the land for approximately $2 million—a very large sum in the 1950s. He subsequently operated a lucrative parking lot across the street from the Forum, home of the Montreal Canadiens hockey club, in downtown Montreal. He also participated in many maverick campaigns and was an outspoken crusader against the marketing of cow's milk, which he believed to be deleterious to human health. He died at his home at 1430 Chomedey St., Montreal, on August 25, 1993.

He is the father of Montreal journalists JD Gravenor and Kristian Gravenor.


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