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Happy New Year 2022

Photo : St. Lawrence Street, at the intersection of Pine Avenue, 1904.

At the end of the 19th century, the Baxter Block (3608-3712), as well as the Larivière hardware store (3715) opposite, were elements of a newly created prestigious commercial strip on St. Lawrence Street between Milton Street and Pine Avenue. Starting in 1888, the Main was gradually widened along the western side, incidentally allowing plenty of space for electric streetcars (1893) running in both directions; the rails can be seen in the photo. The new buildings transformed the streetscape by eliminating the old texture of bourgeois villas, gardens and orchards interspersed with small faubourg houses, of which a few examples are still visible on the east side in the centre of the photo.

The Baxter Block and neighboring Préfontaine Building (at right in the photo) were built on the former back garden of Durham House, the villa of the late entrepreneur Stanley Bagg converted into a private school. To the north had lain the site of the Guilbault Gardens, a popular amusement park closed in 1869. The Baxter Block, a row of terrace houses with a Romanesque Revival stone façade, was designed by architect Théodore Daoust in 1892 for developer James Baxter, also known as a diamond merchant and banker. The Préfontaine Building (1890), immediately to its south, was probably designed by the same architect for a certain Napoléon Préfontaine. It is marked by a façade of Romanesque arches decorated with ceramic tiles and bay windows. Originally, both buildings were crowned with onion domes, turrets and fantastical fleurons, unfortunately no longer existing. Their ground floors were occupied by shops and the upper floors housed offices and workshops.

Opposite (at left of the photo), the hardware company Amiot, Lecourt & Larivière constructed in 1895 another prestigious building designed by architect Joseph Perrault. The ground floor served as a showroom and retail space, while the upper floors were used for administration and warehousing. Through its monumental character and its elegant composition, the building – also in the Romanesque Revival style – gave its owners a forceful presence on St. Lawrence Street. The street’s commercial prestige was confirmed when it received the designation of Boulevard in 1905.

This photo is displayed over the entire surface of the shop window at 3660-3662 Saint-Laurent Boulevard as part of the project « La Main en histoire(s) », a collaboration between the Friends of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and the Société de développement du boulevard Saint-Laurent, 2020-2021.

(Text by Bernard Vallée. Translated by Justin Bur)

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Happy New Year 2021!

The Friends of Saint-Laurent Boulevard wish you a happy new year 2021 and invite you to discover with them the history and the oddities of the Main

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Walking tours

Jane’s Walk 2019

Lumière rouge sur la « Lower Main » : patrimoines en péril ?

Walking tour led by Bernard Vallée, in French

Corner Saint-Laurent & Sainte-Catherine, 1921 – Archives de la Ville de Montréal

Tour offered in French only. Please consult the Jane’s Walks web site for details and to register.

One of the Jane’s Walks 2019, coordinated by the Montréal Urban Ecology Centre
Sunday 5 May 2019, 1:30 to 4 pm
Starting point: 2–22 Building, 2 Sainte-Catherine Street East
Registration required on the Jane’s Walks web site

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Launch event: Little Italy audioguide – AGM 2018

The Friends of Saint-Laurent Boulevard invite you to the launch event for our new audioguide: 10 Moments on the Main – Petite-Italie.
Tuesday 8 May 2018, 5:30 to 6:30 pm
Casa d’Italia – 505 Jean-Talon Street East, Montreal

Our annual general meeting will follow from 7 to 8 pm. We welcome old and new members with an interest in the Main.

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General Meeting – Talk on Jewish Mile End 1934

The next annual general meeting of the Friends of Saint-Laurent Boulevard will be held on Wednesday evening, 15 March 2017, at the Museum of Jewish Montreal. Come hear Yves Desjardins’s talk on the municipal elections of 1934, have a bite to eat and meet other friends of the Main.

Waiting room of the Seigler (Laurier) Clinic, 1933.
Archives de la Ville de Montréal, VM94-Z97

Mile End Jewish history: the election of 1934 in Laurier Ward
Talk by Yves Desjardins

Spring 1934. The Great Depression of the 1930s is at its worst. Camillien Houde is about to take back the mayoralty of Montreal. His supporters and opponents combat fiercely in the city’s districts.

One of them is exceptional: Laurier Ward, i.e., the southern part of today’s Mile End. A “national unity” candidate, Omer Langlois, is running against the incumbent Jewish councillor, Max Seigler. The campaign is impassionned and violent. A recently opened municipal medical clinic (corner of Mont-Royal and Henri-Julien, now occupied by Jeunesses musicales du Canada) is the focal point of the storm.

Yves Desjardins is an urban history researcher and a member of the board of Mile End Memories. His book Histoire du Mile End will be published by Septentrion in May.

This talk was previously presented by Mile End Memories in April 2016.

  • Wednesday 15 March 2017, from 5:30 pm
  • Talk at 6 pm – followed by the annual general meeting of the Friends of Saint-Laurent Boulevard
  • Museum of Jewish Montreal, 4040 Saint-Laurent Blvd., Montréal (corner of Duluth Av. – 55 bus)
  • Free, no reservation required
  • Presentation in French, discussion in English and in French
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Walking tours

La Grande Promenade de la Main 2016

Sunday 5 June – a full-day exploration of Montreal’s main street, from the Old Port to Jean-Talon Market, with Bernard Vallée, Catherine Browne, and Justin Bur

  • Sunday 5 June, from 9:30 am to 5 pm
  • Starting point: Saint-Laurent Boulevard at the corner of rue de la Commune, in the Old Port
  • Arrival point: Jean-Talon Market
  • In French
  • There will be a break for lunch
  • Cost: $20 (meal not included)
  • Reservations recommended – write to resa@amisboulevardstlaurent.com

In collaboration with MontrealExplorations

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Walking tours

Jane’s Walk: The Main, from Montreal to Mile End

Walking tour led by Justin Bur as part of Jane’s Walks 2016

Alexander Henderson, Mile End Road in Winter, ca. 1880 / Library and Archives Canada

Between the former city limits of Montreal and the church of Mile End, Saint-Laurent has always been the main road. The road was also the axis along which urbanization began, creating the villages of Saint-Jean-Baptiste and Saint-Louis-du-Mile End. Renamed Saint-Laurent Boulevard in 1905, the street remains an important axis of Montreal’s renowned diversity and creativity. This two-hour walk will point out traces of the past and the dynamism of the present, commenting on the architecture, history, cultures, and heritage of a short segment of a great street. Please note that the tour will be given in French, though English questions and discussion are welcome.

  • Registration required on the Jane’s Walk web site
  • Meeting date and time: Sunday 8 May 2016, 3 pm
  • Starting point: Schubert Bath, 3950 Saint-Laurent Boulevard
  • Ending point: Saint-Enfant-Jésus Church, 5035 Saint-Dominique Street, at 5 pm
  • Transit route: 55 bus
  • Accessibility (strollers, wheelchairs, etc.) : yes
  • Language: French

Other Jane’s Walks of interest:

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Visit of Saint-Enfant-Jésus Church – AGM

photo Justin Bur, 2015

Saint-Enfant-Jésus was the first Catholic parish along Saint-Laurent Boulevard, outside the old city. The church was inaugurated on Christmas Day, 1858 – in the fields on the side of a country road. It later became the institutional centre of the village of Saint-Louis-du-Mile-End, at the end of the 19th century. Over the course of decades, the parish was subdivided to create many new parishes in Outremont, on the Plateau, and in Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie. The church obtained its current appearance at the turn of the 20th century with the addition of a new façade and an enlargement by the architect Joseph Venne.

Kevin Cohalan of the Société d’histoire du Plateau-Mont-Royal will guide us around the church and speak about the return of the great angel statues which surmount the façade, created by sculptor Olindo Gratton. The angels were restored to their places in June 2015, after almost 40 years spent elsewhere. After the church visit, a short illustrated presentation by Justin Bur, president of the Friends of Saint-Laurent Boulevard, will discuss the church in the context of the development of the boulevard.

The presentation will be followed by the annual general meeting of the Friends of Saint-Laurent Boulevard.

  • Thursday 10 December, at 5 pm
  • followed by the AGM from 6 pm
  • Saint-Enfant-Jésus Church, 5039 Saint-Dominique Street
  • Free, no reservation required
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Walking tours

La Grande Promenade de la Main 2015

Sunday 17 May – a full-day exploration of Montreal’s main street, from the Old Port to Jean-Talon Market, with Bernard Vallée, Catherine Browne, Susan Bronson, and Justin Bur

  • Sunday 17 May, from 9:30 am to 5 pm
  • Starting point: Saint-Laurent Boulevard at the corner of rue de la Commune, in the Old Port
  • Arrival point: Jean-Talon Market
  • There will be a break for lunch
  • Cost: $20 (meal not included)
  • Reservations recommended – write to resa@amisboulevardstlaurent.com

In collaboration with MontrealExplorations

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Walking tours

Jane’s Walk: 10 Moments in Little Italy

The walking tour season has finally arrived! As usual, it starts with the 7th edition of Jane’s Walks coordinated by the Montreal Urban Ecology Centre. There’s a vast choice, more than 80 walks offered free of charge on 1, 2 and 3 May 2015 by citizens, city councillors or community groups. This annual event is organized in memory of author and urban activist Jane Jacobs.

Join us on Sunday morning, 3 May, to explore 10 Moments on the Main and environs in Little Italy.

Part of Jane’s Walks, a walking tour led by Bernard Vallée (in French)
In collaboration with MontréalExplorations

10 Moments in Little Italy

Reflection of Notre-Dame-de-la-Défense church in the window of the famous Italian pastry-shop opposite. Bernard Vallée, 2014.

This neighbourhood was created at the beginning of the 2oth century, on the edge of Montreal’s urban territory. It housed a working-class population attracted by the industrial zone around the Canadian Pacific Railway, traversed by a tram line that served the nearby Irish lacrosse stadium. Among the initial French-Canadian population, newly-arrived Italian families moved in to benefit from reasonably priced land and the possibility of gardening on unbuilt patches of land. Soon an Italian parish, patriotic associations and local shops would imprint Italian colours and flavours on the area. Today, most of the citizens of Italian origin have left the neighbourhood. The 10 moments of the walking tour will give a taste of today’s Little Italy and let you discover a rich heritage of institutional, religious and cultural buildings.

Details on the Jane’s Walk web site. Note that the tour will be offered in French only, though questions and comments may be made in English or French.