founded in 1671 by zacharie du puy, verdun is one of canada’s oldest cities. it’s generally not thought of as a destination spot but verdun has some great stuff going for it. a burgeoning food scene, cheap rents and proximity to the river make it a great place to live as well as visit.
verdun has been an historically english neighborhood although there’s a good mixture of languages and cultures today with french predominating. it’s also known for it’s disproportionate contribution to foreign wars as we’ll see later on. today we took a walk from our home in pointe st. charles into the heart of verdun down verdun and wellington streets to eat at lotus bleu, an excellent hand-pulled noodle place which we’ll review in our “hand to mouth” series. for scenes of verdun, keep reading!
we set out from our home in point st. charles on an overcast morning. across the street from our apartment and taking up two full blocks is the point st. charles recreation centre. they’ve given an entire blank wall over to the graffiti artists. i’m not sure how long its been there but it looks pretty recent. these two blocks look to have been pretty much uninhabited, at least according to the 1950’s insurance maps i’ve looked at. this complex is a bland brick and aluminum affair and the graffiti wall goes a long way to making it more interesting.
so, onto verdun. we took a route (as you can see from the wayfaring map) straight down grand trunk onto d’argenson, under the tracks and highway and onto lasalle boulevard. before the highway was put through we would have been able to take a bridge across a stream called tail race on verdun ave. itself. tail race was eventually filled in and now the connection to verdun ave. is a little more complicated since you have to take a right on henri-duhamel to get to it. the stretch of lasalle boul. between where it takes that little turn and mullins used to be verdun ave. the bridge over tail race was pretty much exactly where the highway is now as you can see from this 1932 insurance map.
there was also a massive cotton mill complex just south of lasalle, an area that today is home to a suburban-style cul-de-sac development.
not too far down verdun ave. on the corner of hickson we run into venerable verdun-ian insitution pierrette patates where they make a pretty decent poutine. it’s also apparently open 24 hours but i’ve never been in the neighborhood beyond maybe 7:00 p.m.. is it really open ’round the clock?
on a little further we found these two old houses across the street from each other. i had a hunch that they were wood-frames and after consulting that ’32 insurance map it turns out that i’m right. 3948 verdun ave. is indeed a very old wood-frame dwelling. new york banned wood-frames in 1866 but i haven’t been able to find out when montreal followed suit, if ever.
the map that shows the north side of verdun shows that that house is also a wood-frame dwelling.
and just across the street is this precarious looking hodgepodge of an extension made of wood and glass. julia and i both love mismatched architectural oddities.
near the verdun metro station is a monument to verdun’s war dead. originally a first world war monument it’s been revised a couple of times to include second world war and korean war casualties. on the south side of the street is the great war memorial hall. erected in the aftermath of armistice it’s been the location of many a salute to the fallen as well as annual royal canadian legion meetings.
having eaten lunch and stuffed to our gills with soup and dumplings from lotus bleu (see our review here) we trekked a little further down verdun street before splitting up. julia had to head to class but i was going to finish up the trip by walking home on wellington. but first, some signs:
your one-stop-shop for all things meat, including meat that has been aged for 14 days and house-made sausages. i haven’t partaken but next time i’m in the area i’m definitely going to pick up some old, tubed meat.
nice to know the people of verdun are loved. not sure what “an apple a day…”‘s got to do with it, though.
after we split up i headed down to wellington where i found these harbingers of gentrification.
the place in the middle is the highly regarded tea house cha noir. i’ve never been but i’ve heard it’s good. the place on the right is the also supposedly very good copette+cie, a fromagerie. nice to know that i can do my tea and cheese shopping on the same block without having to brave the throngs at atwater market.
not too far away, though, is the verdun we’ve all grown to love.
cheap, crappy pizza and smokes. “you can cram your fancy ‘fromages’ and ’tisanes’,” they seem to say by their body language alone. i wonder if these cheese, tea, up-scale restos will catch on, verdun could easily become another plateau. i can’t see that happening, though. verdun, like point st. charles is, i think, somewhat resistant to gentrification though it has it’s toe holds here, too. i don’t think it’ll catch on either here or in verdun. maybe the ghosts of the working class will continue to keep the scene-sters at bay.