I just picked up a book from the library today called “Pignon sur Rue – Les Quartiers de Montréal” and once again I am reminded of why this blog exists. I have a hard time grasping the roots of the specific area I live in (between Iberville and the CP train tracks). It really is a no-man’s land historically speaking. Sure, I’ve been able to finally uncover that in modern times the neighbourhood is now called Sainte-Marie and we now belong, in a municipal way at least, with our neighbours west of Iberville but our roots are still with the Hochelaga neighbourhood which historically started at Iberville. It makes me realise that there is still more to uncover.
The problem I have is that the historical books I have found so far simply disappoint me. I read about the great stories of Le Faubourg de Québec/Sainte-Marie but they end at Iberville St. I read about how Hochelaga and Maisonneuve got their start but when it comes to my area, historians seem to literally draw a line. The Canadian-Pacific railway line was built and “it cut the neighourhood in two” and then they go on to talk about everything east of this man-made barrier.
This area affiliated itself with the St-Eusèbe church a long time ago as is evidenced by the old (now missing) plaque at the Bain Mathieu and the few maps that still mention the parish locate it in my area, not quite close enough to the church itself. What about the Polish community? Where is there written history? Is there a book about Montreal polish immigrants? Yesterday when I sat down for lunch at the church’s bazaar, a nice friendly lady sat down with me and told me the Polish who came here were extremely poor but came together to build this church brick by brick. Now the community has mostly left for Rosemont, West Island, Laval and Ontario. Yet they come back every Sunday where they park their cars along Mederic-Martin park. What about the new Vietnamese community? This is a more recent story but one that isn’t told as far as I know.
Anyhow, this is why my blog drives me and why it has blurry lines. I have to talk about both Centre-Sud and Hochelaga and I have to somehow connect the dots because there seems to be a history of forgotten stories. I hear things here and there but it’s hard to document things when I don’t see the bigger picture. Anyhow, I will continue to let this blog be as broad as it can be (it’s already specific enough) but there is something that interests me of my own micro-neighbourhood around Mederic-Martin park. What is its exact history? It’s not the Old Hochelaga village, it’s not about the Faubourg à M’lasse that was torn down due to the CBC building’s construction and it’s not the great gardens that the town of Maisonneuve was trying to build itself. It’s a little known area geographically created mostly due to the creation of the CP rail lines. Yet this neighbourhood is now where politicians and urban planners are trying to establish the new centre (le Coeur en fait) of Sainte-Marie around what they call the Pôle Frontenac (where Frontenac Metro, Centre Jean-Claude Malépart and la Maison de la Culture Frontenac are located). Times change, lines change, names change but somewhere there is a missing story.