Saturday, May 2, 2009

Jane's Walk - Point St. Charles

It was a sunny if blustery day for Jane's Walkers in Point St. Charles today as three local volunteer guides led about 15 people on a walk through the old working class neighbohood. The talk was a little heavy on political skirmishes of the past and a little light on the kind of human-interest stories that bring neighbohoods alive. Still, I'm glad I went. A lively discussion broke out about which is the best Indian restaurant on the main drag, Centre St. Apparently four of them have opened in the last year.
I gleaned a few things during the walk. If you've ever biked the Lachine Canal bike path, you might have noticed the remains of the red brick factory and a blackened smokestack just east of the Charlevoix Bridge. (Left) It is all that remains of a 19th century rope-making factory, the Converse Co.. The factory was a narrow building that lined the canal from the Charlevoix St. to, wait for it, Ropery St. a long city block away. Now I know how Ropery St. got its name. Because the rope was wound around stanchion located at either end of the factory, they needed a long footprint, but not a lot of width.
St. Gabriel's Church on Centre St. in the Point was built by the sizable Irish community in 1895.(Right) It was the second church built on the site, replacing a wooden church built in 1875.
In 1954 the church was heavily damaged by fire, which explains why it has no steeple. By that time, many of the working-class Irish who had filled its pews had moved out of the neighborhood. The bell tower never was rebuilt.
According to our tour guides, the first Europeans settled in what is now Point St. Charles in 1654. It was mostly agricultural land. Today, 43 per cent of the neighborhood's rental stock is social housing.

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