The above image show the site within its industrial context. The site is unique for many reasons that have made it a topic of discussion within various discourses. The history of the site and its surroundings is filled with major events and structures that have transformed it over time.
I identified 6 major events/’emblems’ that altered the context of the site through some form of erasure.
1. The Molson Brewery (1786) – 1201 rue de la visitation
The Molson Brewery was opened back in 1786 in the Faubourg Quebec by an English man named John Molson. The brewery was rebuilt and expanded several times along the port. The Molson’s were involved in banking, construction, rail transport and shipping. The family prides themselves in their ‘first rule of conduct’ which is to ‘innovate constantly’. Across the street, a monument commemorates the ‘Accommodation’ the first steamship launched on the St. Lawrence by the Molson family (1815).
2. Pied-du-Courant Prison (1836) – 2125 place des patriotes
A historical timeline given here by Yvon Mass:
The old Pied-du-Courant, literally meaning, ‘the foot of the current’, jail sat at the ‘front’ of the Sainte-Marie current, which used to create resistance for ships entering the port. The Prison was built between 1830 and 1836 by Geoge Blaiklock as a long neo-classical cut-stone building flanked by a gate. It is the oldest public building standing in Montreal. In 1894 a house for the prison warden was added at the front corner of Avenue de Lorimier. The Prison was marked by the events of 1837-38, the Patriots revolt in what was then Lower Canada. A total of 1355 patriots were imprisoned there during the rebellion. Above this wall that runs along Notre-Dame street, a wooden scaffold had been set up. Twelve of the 99 patriots who had been condemned to death were publicly hanged here. “Long live freedom, long live independence!”, shouted Chevalier de Lorimier on february 15th, 1839, date of the last wave of repression, at this place exactly. In 1912, the last prisoners left Pied-du-Courant. The building is now occupied by the SAQ (Société des Alcools du Québec, or Québec Alcohol Society) offices.
An interesting account given by Chevalier de Lorimier from the prison on February 14th, 1839 can be read here.
3. La Station de Pompage Craig (1887) – rue notre-dame est & avenue de Lormier
The La Station de Pompage Craig, located beneath the Jacques-Cartier Bridge and acts of a particular case of architectural restoration. The Station was used to prevent the floods which were repeated each year at the beginning of spring. It was built following an important flood caused by the rising of water of the St. Lawrence River in 1886. With the successive changes of the morphology of urban fabric, the Craig Pumping Station became an anomaly in its context. The building which seems now an isolated fragment that was built in very different context. This historical flood had invaded all the downtown area of this time and had caused many damage. Since its construction in 1887, the buildings of the industrial type which surrounded it were destroyed little by little.
While it was declared a historical structure for preservation the building is abandoned aside from its occupation by Champ Libre for the 5th INTERNATIONAL MANIFESTATION OF VIDEO AND ELECTRONIC ARTS OF MONTREAL (MIVAM)
4. The Jacques Cartier Bridge (1925)
The Pont Jacques Cartier, broke ground in 1925 and was inaugurated in 1930. Prior to that Pont Victoria (1860) and the ferry were the only means to reach the South Shore. City councillors could not agree on a plan that would avoid demolishing many buildings. It was finally decided that the bridge should curve on the way in to Montreal. Today the bridge is crossed by vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.
5. The Maison de Radio Canada (1973) – 1400 Rene Levesque Boulevard Est
Maison de Radio Canada, built between 1970 and 1973 by Scandinavian architect Tore Bjornstad. The building accommodates the province’s French language and local English language programming of the CBC, national radio and television network. When it was built the traditional urban fabric of the neighbourhood was completely erased. Nearly 5, 000 people (678 families) had to be relocated. Even 20 years before Radio-Canada was built the width of the Boulevard Rene-Levesque (formerly Dorchester Street) had been tripled, separating the south neighbourhood from the north.
The CBC building alone demolished 11 blocks of housing. Consequently all the local businesses and amenities, especially along Ste. Catherine St., shut down.
Apart from the deindustrialization of the area, which left many empty factories and parking lots in its wake, Gauthier blames the district’s erosion on the construction of the Ville-Marie expressway in the 1960s and the development of the CBC and Molson complexes in the ’70s.
6. Modernisation de la Rue Notre-Dame (present)
The old Modernisation de la Rue Notre-Dame, has been met by a coalition of residents and organizations is trying to stop a controversial six-year, $750-million project to renovate a nine-kilometre stretch of Notre Dame East. The group maintains that the reconstruction does not support a sustainable and modern community. “We want a real modernization, giving a higher priority to public transportation,” said Carl Bégin, a cofounder of la Coalition pour humaniser la rue Notre Dame and a resident of the district of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. The Coalition has targeted the project’s plans to expand Notre Dame into an eight-lane highway – an “urban boulevard,” according to developers. It is arguing that the plan will increase car use, separate the neighbourhoods from access to the Port of Montreal and St. Lawrence River, and prohibit cyclists and pedestrians from crossing the neighbourhood.
While the pubic has been open to public discussion, consultation, and design submissions it still remains highly debated. The general goals of the project as given by the city of Montreal can be read here.