Louise Bouvier and Antoine Vogler. Vélopousse boarding points are located
at the In Vivo station in Olympic Park, maisionneuve Market and
Discover Hochelaga-Maisonneuve by Vélopousse!
Like in Paris, New York, Saigon and New Delhi, pedicabs ply the streets of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, so their passengers can discover all the richness and beauty of this historic neighbourhood.
My friend Louise, a native of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, and I board “La Bolduc” at the In Vivo station in Olympic Park. All nine Vélopousse pedicabs are named after someone from Hochelaga-Maisonneuve who made it big, like La Bolduc (known as the Queen of Canadian Folksingers during the 1930s), Charles (Viau, founder of Viau Biscuits Corp. and creator of the popular Whippet cookie), and Oscar (Dufresne, cofounder with his brother of the city of Maisonneuve and owner of the Château Dufresne).
Cycling tour guide Antoine Vogler, both our driver and our guide
through the streets of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.
Our cycling tour guide, Antoine Vogler, starts peddling the heavy three-wheeled trishaw, another name for pedicab, and we’re off! Our young guide recounts the birth of the city of Maisonneuve. It was so beautiful, prosperous… and French Canadian. He goes on to tell us about the railway, the backbone running through the entire neighbourhood. This prompts a reaction from Louise. “I grew up here, a little further east. We lived on Aylwin, ‘below the tracks’ as we said back then,” she explains, excited, proud and moved at revisiting the streets of her childhood.
The train serviced the numerous factories that employed hundreds of people. “Hochelaga-Maisonneuve was the Canadian capital of footwear,” Anthony tells us. “Exactly! My uncle had a shoe repair shop,” exclaims Louise.
Maisonneuve Market turned 100 this year.
We stop in front of the original Maisonneuve Market, which turned 100 this year, where people of a certain age are starting to gather for an evening of line dancing, a very popular weekly activity. The weather is perfect for the foot- stomping fun to come.
We also see Place Simon-Valois, where neighbours come to sit and chat for a while. We go through the alley of poetry, where residents plant clippings of poems as well as plants in their gardens. We go by the Maison de la Culture, a former fire station built by the grandfather of astrophysicist Hubert Reeves. We also go by the Chic Resto-pop, a social economy venture. At every stop, Antoine tells us something about what characterizes Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, e.g., how social housing is defended and how a community restaurant works.
The alley of poetry.
In its heyday, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve was even more densely populated, with lots of children in every apartment. Louise explains, “Every neighbourhood was like a village around its church, with its own band. Sometimes the band honoured a local resident by coming to play in front of his home. We were proud when it was someone on our street!”
Here we are in front of Théâtre Denise-Pelletier, formerly Théâtre Granada. Louise recalls, “We used to watch movies here on Saturday morning – three movies for 33 cents!”
The Port in the neighbourhood
The stop at Morgan Park is the occasion for our tour cycling guide to explain how the Port of Montreal’s eastward expansion attracted companies, action and jobs. At the foot of Pie IX Blvd., three major platforms are still there: the Laurier, Tarte and Sutherland piers. The latter is home to the Lantic sugar refinery, the first plant in the district and a client of the Port of Montreal for over 125 years.
The familiar silhouette of the Letourneux barracks on Notre-Dame, near
Lantic sugar refinery.
Back then, this was the site of the largest dry dock in the British Dominion, the Canadian Vickers Ltd. shipyard. Right beside it, we admire the unique architectural gem of American modernism in Montreal, the Letourneau Barracks.
That’s it! The tour is over, but we’ll be back.