Moving back to Montreal meant moving back to Saint Henri, one of my favourites hoods in town. I am not sure what made me like here so much: the proximity with Canal Lachine, the underdog vibes, the cultural vibrancy or the punk, bearded, coffee lovers we see around in the streets. Perhaps all of it.
Saint Henri was once upon a time a promising land, it was used both by first nation people and woodsman as a way to bypass the rapids. With colonization and the arrival of religious groups the area became part of the Grey Nuns and the Priests of Saint Sulpice property, and under the french regime Saint Henri was a major stopover on the fur trade road. The development of tanneries brought many people from south west Quebec hoping for better jobs and life quality, and then came the rail road and house development began.
At the beginning to the 20th century the industry was striving but work conditions were terrible specially for women and children who would work extreme long hours for meagre pay. Due to a huge debit because of its fast industrialization Saint Henri was annexed to Montreal in 1905,land speculation and population explosion resulted in poor housing conditions and pollution. Members of the middle class had houses built for themselves, mainly surrounding the two squares, while the workers occupied lodgings in two- or three-story brick buildings.
Back to the future, the gentrification didn’t take long to notice the advantages of living or having business in Saint Henri and you don’t need do walk too much to see the changes on the landscape happening at fast pace: new coffee shops, fancy (and pretty good) restaurants, new condos and diversity all happening right now. Saint Henri is changing so fast, you can still find decrepit depanneurs dividing same walls with expensive clothing stores. Or those sketchy massage houses neighbouring fancy restaurants.
But besides all that, there is diversity in my hood, there is old and young, poor and not too poor, anglo and franco, sharing this fantastic space that is Saint Henri. If you never visited you should!
I enjoy walking on Notre Dame Street observing the changes happening, and stop for a coffee here and there on the process. I guess one can say that each neighbourhood in Montreal has its identity and strong personality. You can never grow tired of this city. Well at least I can’t.