Archives de Catégorie: Historique du Quartier (1840-Present)

The Silent Ghosts of Hochelaga Yards

Hochelaga Yards circa 1907, Atlas Pinsonneault

Hochelaga Yards circa 1907, Atlas Pinsonneault

With a crescent moon at my back, I decided that tonight’s dog walk would lead me to nowhere in the very south-east portion of Hochelaga.  The map above and a book I just took out of the library was the motivation for tonight’s dogwalk.  The book is titled “Du chemin du Roy à la rue Notre-Dame” which at first & second glance potentially appears to have some answers for me as to how Sainte-Marie grew eastwards into once-Hochelaga territory (i.e. the land between the Canadian Pacific Railway and Iberville).  The book takes a look at the growth along Notre-Dame St. over the years so it starts with early “Quebec Suburbs” (Faubourg Québec) history and moves out towards Maisonneuve and Mercier.

 I destined my walk towards what the book mentions as the Anglophone portion of Hochelaga (likely prior to the creation of the CPR lines in the 1870s) on a once-named “Marlborough St. » (today Alphonse D. Roy) and walked all the way around “Hochelaga Yards”. I started by heading down to De Rouen passed through the viaduct, down Moreau St. and turned right on Adam St. and found my way to old Marlborough St.  I found nothing but 60 or 70s built industrial company boxes, parked cars and fences but not one piece of history.  It was actually sad.  I continued south to St.Catherine to find myself in the middle of nowhere. Nothing spookey, no dark alleys.  Just well lit industrial nothingness and the crescent moon up high. I headed over the bridge that takes us over the most southern part of the CPR yards, and there I could see pretty much everything… the industrial part of Hochelaga, Longueil condo high-rises, La Ronde, les Tours Frontenac, downtown Montreal, Olympic Stadium and of course Hochelaga Yards itself (there’s a forest now where the Car Shop is placed in the 1907 map).  I headed back home up Bercy St. and just thought about how much has been lost to expropriation.  This is a large part of Montreal that has simply vanished and although I would consider it a wasteland, I was surprised to see how busy it was with night shift trucks and workers going in and out of the lots. I have never walked here at night so I had really no idea.

Time to start reading and touch base soon enough with my findings. Although I’m now wondering why they never named this area Hochelaga Yards as its kind of catchy and less confusing (i.e. is it Centre-Sud, Sainte-Marie or part of Hochelaga?)

Google Map of Hochelaga Yards/walk path

Google Map of Hochelaga Yards/walk path


St-Eusèbe ward research (first hint?)

Just spent an hour going through Google archives to see if I could get back into one of my next historical goals which was to track the history of how early Montreal 19th century neighbourhood history (parishes & « côtes » – see my pre-1840 early Montreal history series for more details) transformed into a more formal municipal ward system.  Additionally, I want to see when the Hochelega ward that started at Iberville officially changed lines to the CP rail tracks which ultimatley made way to the St-Eusèbe ward.  Never really found any books or maps to showcase Montreal wards to see at what period this happened so more research will be necessary.  Google searches provide election details of the St-Eusèbe ward starting in the 30s but I found this link to a 1903 story that is actually about  a St-Jean-Baptiste celebration which talks about how the festival procession leads to Cathedrals in different « divisions » (neighbourhoods?) made up of different « societies » (wards in the making?).  St-Eusèbe and other societies like Hochelaga, Notre-Dame-de-Grace and Villeray are mentioned here.  What I find interesting (and maybe I’m reading way too much between the lines) is that there seems to be a transition hint here from Parish-neighbourhoods to Ward-neighbourhoods.  On one hand, the French-Canadian catholic festival leads to cathedrals but involves more modern 20th century municipal divisions.  Anyhow, maybe this is a hint of the parish-to-ward change or maybe not.  Click here for the link to see for yourself.

Anyhow, definitely would like to pursue this research further when time will allow.  How did we go from parishes to wards?  What books are out there that could help find this information?  I fear this is not a simpler library textbook research.

Sainte-Marie’s North-East History Puzzle

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.

Google News Archives & Parc Mederic-Martin

Well I just discovered, a few days ago, that Google news has archives.  

Elliot dans le Parc Médéric-Martin (en mars 2009)

Well I just discovered, a few days ago, that Google news has archives.  This is an extraordinary help with my research since I really would not have time to go to the library and start going through films of newspapers.  So it was a pleasant surprise to test out the Google news archives with its easy search functionality. 

At the same time today, I just got my first wireless router so rather than spend hours away in the computer room doing research by myself, here I am with my wife on the couch, blogging away while she reads a book.  It’s a nice change that makes research more enjoyable.

So I started googling “St-Eusèbe” (the name I originally found around this neighbourhood when I started this blog) and found out there was indeed a ward with this name back in the 30s.  Looks like it stretched from De Lorimier to Wurtèle St. at one point in time.  It probably also headed a bit north above Sherbrooke St.  As I kept googling, I found early info on Parc Mederic-Martin which is my local park where I participate in the local residents’ committee which is working towards revitalizing the space (and more specifically, the north section which has been untouched since 1960). 

By piecing a few Montreal Gazette articles and my pamphlet book (On se retrouve au parc), here is what I was able to piece together in under an hour:  The park land (between Ontario to the south, Hochelaga to the north, Gascon to the east and Du Havre to the west) itself was an exchange in February 1933 between the city and the Canadian National Realties.  The value of this exchange was approx. $95K.  In 1937, the park was given a children’s wading pool, a playground and the ground was leveled but the space still looked more like an empty lot than anything else.  The park was named after Montreal Mayor Médéric Martin in 1953.  During the same decade, citizens got together to pressure the government to invest in the park.  In 1958, a major investment $150,000 worth of investment was proposed at City Council (I am unsure if it was fully approved or not) which helped pay the way to the park we see today on the North end (a French-style garden park that was made for relaxation).  Work finally began in the 1960s which included a fountain (that has been removed) helped design what we see today but sadly it appears that there hasn’t been much maintenance since that time.  Anyhow, I definitely have more research to do but it was nice to find this right at my finger tips!

Sources: On se retrouve au parc (Eric Giroux), Montreal Gazette (Feb.14, 1933; July 24, 1958; Sept.16, 1960; July 31, 1971)

My visit at l’Écomusée du fier monde

When I write, I try to spend a lot of time on my blog, give it some thought, get research involved, edit, do my best to translate in French and then with all these steps, it takes months to do it or the ideas merely remain in my head.  So sometimes, it’s good to just go back to the tried and true and write a small piece about my explorations themselves…

Ecomusee du fier monde (photo from their website)

Friday and Saturday, my wife seemed to have a nasty flu so we decided to keep our distance and I took on full-time father-duties.  My wife needed all the time to heal and rest and meanwhile we wanted to do our best to make sure our daughter Sabine did not catch this bug (she’s already had two colds in the past month).  So on Saturday, I got Sabine and Elliot (our dog) outside of the house for a usual neighbourhood walk.  Nothing out of the ordinary (we looped around into Hochelaga, stopped at the bread factory on De Rouen, walked underneath the train tracks again to get back into Sainte Marie and walked to Fullum St. and then came back home.  The dog was happy and Sabine was enjoying being outside.

At around 2pm, I had the last minute idea to take advantage of this time with Sabine to go to L’Écomusée du fier monde (a museum about the Centre-Sud neighbourhood and its industrial history) since I’ve wanted to do this for quite some time.  At first, I thought, “I’ll bring my camera and a pen and paper and then I realized, keeping it simple was the way to go this time (I can always go back if I want to after all).  Elliot didn’t really like this idea though because he had to be left behind at home with his sick maternal-master.

We got at the museam around 3pm and stepped into what was once the Saint-Jacques neighbourhood bath house.  The interior design is stunning 20s art-deco (at least that’s what the guy said because I am no expert).  It had a real modern look that made me wonder if they had redesigned it but no, it was the original design.  I let the information just absorb itself naturally like I would at any other museum without really trying to memorize every detail.  It’s a $6 visit ($4 with Access Montreal card) so I will go back in the future.  I did learn that there was even more expropriation in the area than I had originally thought including on the land where now stands Place Dupuis and l’Université de Québec à Montréal.  Plus near the end I saw this really fun photo from 1975 that showed a box-car race for kids rushing down Fullum St.  I wonder if our overly cautious society could handle such a simple youthful boxcar race today.  Probably not; too much risk for the organizers to be scorned in the papers and the city to get sued somehow.  Lawyers would be on-site with a camera ready to stake their claim.  Ok maybe not, but it was a nice photo of a simple activity that I just don’t think would reproduce itself today. 

All this time, I had a very patient and happy little girl in my arms.  Sabine was trying to crawl around in the space a bit, echoed sounds in the hall and she ran into another 9-month old baby whom she got to play with for a few minutes (she didn’t appreciate me walking away though).  It was a calm day and she was well rested so I was very lucky to have a happy and alert baby.

Finally, I bought some pamphlets including one about Sainte-Marie’s parks as well as a book about Centre-Sud’s factories and their histories.  They weren’t too expensive so I was a happy man.  I was happy to find a bit of history on Parc Medéric-Martin since I am member of the park’s committee.   There was nice read in there that residents came together in the 50s to pressure the government to make something beautiful with the Mederic-Martin park space.  Work began in the 60s and well, the space hasn’t really been touched much since as one can probably tell from a walk through the north-end of the park.  Reading this info made me feel good that about 50 years later, residents are coming together again to revitalize the park and bring it back to life.  Anyhow, definitely good research material for future blogs and a great day overall.

St-Eusèbe slowly disappearing?

Stolen Plaque

Stolen Plaque

Well, I just found out the sad news today that someone has stolen the two original bronze plaques at Bain Mathieu which had the inscription “Quartier St-Eusèbe” on it.  If you remember some of my old posts, you will know that this blog started with a need to find the name of our neighbourhood.  Since St-Eusèbe was written on my Montreal map and because I had found this plaque, I was determined to find the “heart” of this unknown neighbourhood.  No one referred the neighbourhood by « St-Eusèbe » so I was determined to find its history and see if it still existed.  Unfortunately nothing came up in my research and so it’s quite unfortunate that yet another piece of this old ward has now vanished.  Please click here for the full story.

Also, I received a letter-at-large in the mail today from the St-Eusèbe Parish (La Paroisse St-Eusèbe-de-Verceil) which notes that it risks being transformed or demolished as the parish no longer has the financial means to keep it running.  I have to say that I have passed by on a few Sundays and there wasn’t much attendance (unlike the Polish church on Hochelaga).  It’s a shame but I can’t say I am doing much about it myself as I am like many francophones: I have my catholic roots but I have since moved on.  Anyhow, if you are reading this and this parish was once part of your community, the church is looking for donations (suggested $25 per person / $55 per family) which at the very least will help the parish itself (not the building) keep going on.  Donations can be sent in the name of the church to 2151 rue Fullum, Montréal, QC, H2K 3P1. 

I feel that I have to speed up my research on St-Eusèbe before more is lost and forgotten.

Polish Church Bazaar this Weekend

Elliot leads the way

Elliot leads the way

Elliot saw something interesting this morning as he was looking towards the Polish-Catholic Church on Hochelega.   We walked a little closer and Elliot lead me to the church doors.  It was too early for it to be open but we did notice a sign outside for this weekend’s Bazaar.  I told Elliot that we don’t speak Polish but that the bazaar would be a great occasion for us to check out the church and to meet the Polish community… yes, this really happened.



Bazaar this weekend

Back down to reality for a moment.  This Polish-Catholic church had a similar Bazaar back in the Fall and since it was in our neck of the woods, we were thrilled to just be able to walk a few minutes to check it out.  What we found though was a nice surprise as the Polish community spoke equally in English.  My wife is an anglophone from BC and I am technically Quebecois… but I lived in Ontario for way too many years , so it was nice to feel comfortable in our most common tongue for a moment within our new neighbourhood.  We are now glad to see that the Bazaar is back again this weekend (Corner of Gascon & Hochelaga, April 4 & 5, 2009.  Metro: Frontenac or Préfontaine / + 5 min. walk).

Since the last time we visited the Church at the Bazaar, I have been curious about the Polish community in our neighbourhood as there is definitely a lot binding it all together… a church, a sausage shop (on De Rouen), Wawel bakery (on Ontario) + a community centre nearby but I couldn’t seem to get much info about this community beyond that (and again, nothing in the library despite the fact that every other Montreal community seems to have  one).

Although it may seem from my writings that I am the outgoing type, it still takes me a bit of a mental push to talk to my neighbours and I was lucky enough to get some info from the Sausage shop + a fellow dog-walker who happens to be Polish (side-note: Montrealers, if you want to meet your neighbours, get a dog!).  I was not able to get any numbers on the community population but I was told that the community was more prominent during another era 40 to 50 years ago.  I am told that most of the community have gone to the suburbs of Montreal or Ontario. Rosemont actually has the largest population but there must be something significant about this area as the Church is the most well attended of all 4 Montreal Polish churches.  The amount of services this church holds every Sunday is probably evidence enough:  8:30, 10:00, 11:30, 16:00

Polish-Catholic Church

Polish-Catholic Church

So if you’re looking for a little fun this weekend at a Bazaar, and wouldn’t mind even attending a service, to  meet this community I welcome you all to the Sainte-Marie / Hochelaga? / Centre-Sud neighbourhood to get a taste of this area and what I have been talking about for the past few months.  If I am feeling « outgoing » this weekend, I just might see if I can ask more questions to get more info on this community.


Elliot at the Church

p.s. Can anyone help? I am looking for a specific map in Montreal to finish my last « Early Montreal History Series » blog.  Anyone know of a great site that would have multiple Montreal historical maps over time to view and use?