Archive for the ‘street walking’ Category

When the town of Villeray was incorporated in 1896 it was mostly farmland.  By 1956 there was one left.

The agent of change in Villeray was the Park and Island Railway Company which operated  some tram lines in competition with the Montreal Street Railway Company.  The P and I had a line running up what is now Lajeunesse Street, pouring newly minted suburbanites into Villeray’s grid.  By the time it became a part of Montreal in 1905 it had a population of 800.  In the next 45 years it would explode.

The P and I was set up in 1885 to  “construire et de faire fonctionner des chemins de fer ou des tramways vers le Mont-Royal et diverses municipalités de l’île de Montréal, à partir de certains endroits de Montréal, afin de permettre aux familles de passer l’été à la campagne et aux chefs de famille de voir à leurs affaires en ville.”  Villeray was a sleepy little village at the time and not yet incorporated itself but in 1896 the P and I began construction on the line that would take the people of Montreal “à la campagne.”  It ran a block east of Berri.

But the Park and Island Railway Company, its fleet mostly destroyed by fire in June of 1896, never really got to it together.  They struggled along until  1911 when they were bought out by the Montreal Street Railway Company who would rip out the line east of Berri and place tracks along St. Denis instead, tracks plied by the (23) tram.  The space formerly taken by tracks east of Berri was converted into Rue Lajeunesse which, I suppose is why it’s so wide today.

By 1949 Villeray was hoppin’.

The increased population meant and increased need for schools, churches, baths and other institutions.  Most of the housing stock left in Villeray today is from this period or slightly earlier.

Julia and I wanted to try out and do a Hand to Mouth on the pupuseria Iris on Jarry so we decided to combine our love of stuffing our gullets with walking and taking pictures.  We started at our home in Parc-Ex and walked through Jarry Park but since we covered Jarry Park in our last Street Walking we’ll just start at the corner of Jarry and St. Laurent.

Right on the corner of Jarry and St. Laurent is Bellamine House.  I don’t really know anything about it except that it is or was some sort of religious structure.

In Montreal and on St. Dominique specifically, it’s always hockey season.

Villeray is flush with great alleys such as this one between St. Dominique and Casgrain.

That is one desolate goat.  As a matter of fact they all look pretty down.  WTF?

The church of St. Vincent Ferrer, serving Jarry Street since 1931.

Great sign?  You bet!  As we would soon see, Villeray is a cool sign goldmine.

You know what I really, really hate?  Those idiotic faux- balconies that grace the facades of so many condo developments today.  Does anyone out there have one of these dumbass looking things and like it?  Do they serve a purpose other than being exceedingly ugsome?

On St. Hubert we ran into this cat in a commercial window.  Mouser?  Perhaps.  Adorable?  Definitely.

And now we enter a lost world, a world painted by hand.  This stretch of St. Hubert between Jarry and Jean Talon is like stepping into a time machine and going back 30 years.  This kind of sign craftsmanship is on the way out, though some people are keeping the tradition alive.  Is there anything much cooler than hand-painted-on-glass storefronts?

Apparently this is also the Peruvian district that will probably be featured in a future Hand to Mouth.

Anyone ever been to Bar Stainless?

Read Full Post »

Julia and I moved to Parc-Extension this month from Point St. Charles and what a difference.  Dense and bustling it couldn’t be much farther removed from The Point’s quiet village-ness.  But, it wasn’t always the exciting urban space that it is today.  By the late 1920’s developers were trying to sell people on the peaceful suburban character Parc-Ex had at the time.

The area above the tracks was sparsely populated especially above Jean Talon (or Hopper Ave.) as can be seen in this 1929 insurance map.

It wasn’t until the 1950’s during the post-war boom period that the area really started to fill out, mostly with Jews moving up from Mile-End or coming straight from Europe.  By the late 1960’s the Jewish population began to be displaced by Greek settlers who by the late 1970’s had come to dominate the cultural landscape.  But as South Asian immigrants began to move in in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, the neighborhood began to lose it’s Greek character and today during a walk down Jean Talon you’ll encounter one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Canada.

During a minor respite from the oppressive heat last week Julia and I took a walk around our new neighborhood up Durocher and then down Jarry, Ball, and St. Roch before finally heading back down Birnam to Jean Talon.

Parc-Ex-ers are apparently into street cleanliness.  You wouldn’t know it from the toilet on the sidewalk, though, just a few feet from that “propre pole.”

Parc-Ex has quite a few one story houses.  The McMansions of a half-century ago.

When we got up to St. Roch we noticed a grade crossing into Jarry Park.

Jarry Park was not always public property.  The Bagg family, which owned much of the land in the area leased it to the city for $1 a year provided the city use it as a public park with the option to buy in the future.  In 1935 the Bagg family  broached the subject of purchasing the land for a suggested price of $750,000.  The city, not being able to afford it opted for another lease.  But on September 11th, 1945 it was announced that the city would finally buy the property from the Bagg family for $509,173.  Jarry Park was here to stay and crossing the tracks into it from the west made for a nice, green change from the hanging laundry, ambulances and police cars and traffic of St. Roch.

We walked north along the edge of the park up to Jarry, hung a left and walked its length to l’Acadie.This is as close as we get to street food here in Montreal and it’s a real shame.  The smell wafting off that meat was amazing.  The city could only be improved by street food vendors and our lack of them upsets me to no end.  Get your heads out of your asses City Hall!

There’s so much left to explore here and this grocery store on Jarry had some great looking sweets as well as fresh produce and a large supply of malt beverages.

Doesn’t that look delicious?  Well, yes, it kind of does but unfortunately they were closed at the time.

A pre-security cameras anti-shoplifting sign in Marche J.P.A.

In the mood for some ice-cream and unable to turn down a $1 cone we stopped in at Bismallah on St. Roch.
Bismallah is also a casse-croute and serve $1.25 hamburgers!

The ice cream was quite good.  I got pistachio and Julia had vanilla.   Fresh meat (!) at a grocery store on St. Roch.

And an ancient beer fridge at Steve’s depanneur also on St. Roch.Finally a decked out apartment building on Birnam.  And home we went to to our Mickey’s vs. Guinness Extra Stout taste test.

Read Full Post »

by matt

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!

here’s a wayfaring map of our route.

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.


they don’t make signs like this anymore, nor do they make “machine a cheques.”  i love signs that are equal in obsolescence to the things they advertise.  

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.

fingers crossed!

Read Full Post »