Radio-Canada Project: A Yearning for Modernity and a Scourge for the Neighbourhood

  • Location: 1400 René-Lévesque Boulevard East
The CBC area, shortly after demolitions,
circa 1964. City of Montreal Archives.

In the 1960s, the massive construction project for the Maison de la Société Radio-Canada (Radio-Canada offices) was part of the plan to modernize the city and its downtown neighbourhoods. The initiative, however, resulted in the demolition of many residential buildings and the loss of thousands of residents, who made up part of the area known as the Faubourg à m’lasse (Molasses Faubourg). Despite the resulting damage, the tower is now an important visual landmark in the neighbourhood.

The Accommodation: First Steamboat on the St. Lawrence River

  • First trip to Quebec City: 1809
Illustration of the steamboat Accommodation, from a 1939 publication. Now you’re with Molson’s, Écomusée du fier monde

As the first steamboat to sail the St. Lawrence River, the Accommodation symbolizes a major revolution in marine transportation in Canada. Built by John Molson, the Accommodation offered both public and commercial shuttle service between Montreal and Quebec City as early as 1809.

Red Weekend: A Tragic Event

  • Location: Various Centre-Sud locations
Smoking ruins on Amherst Street, 1974. Claude Waters Collection, Écomusée du fier monde
Smoking ruins on Amherst Street, 1974.
Claude Waters Collection,
Écomusée du fier monde

In the fall of 1974, Montreal firefighters went on an illegal strike during which many fires were set on purpose. The Centre-Sud was particularly hard hit and nearly 180 families were left homeless. The largest blaze ravaged the quadrilateral formed by Amherst (now Atateken), Sherbrooke, Wolfe and Square Amherst Streets. While the inferno was a major event in the history of the neighbourhood, it was also a catalyst for citizen mutual aid and solidarity.

Faubourg à m’lasse: A Local Sobriquet

  • Location: Area boundaries unclear
Imperial Molasses molasses tanks on Notre-Dame Street at the corner of Iberville Street, circa 1970. Écomusée du fier monde.
Imperial Molasses molasses tanks on Notre-Dame Street at the corner of Iberville Street, circa 1970. Écomusée du fier monde.

The expression Faubourg à m’lasse (Molasses Faubourg) is a popular term that designates a Centre-Sud area whose boundaries are unclear. The origins of this expression are uncertain. While it is true that working-class families enjoyed this food, the most likely explanation surely has to do with the smell of molasses that prevailed in the neighbourhood. These smells came from the port facilities that received barrels of molasses until 1955. The product was then transferred into large metal tanks. For many, the Faubourg à m’lasse was the area that was expropriated when Radio-Canada arrived.

Ouimetoscope: The First Permanent Movie Theater in America

  • Location: 1200 Sainte-Catherine Street East
Ouimetoscope promotional paper fan, circa 1907. Écomusée du fier monde.
Ouimetoscope promotional paper fan, circa 1907. Écomusée du fier monde.

Created in 1906, the Ouimetoscope became the first permanent movie theater in America. Its founder, Léo-Ernest Ouimet (1877-1972), went down in history as a pioneer of the Seventh Art. It was an instant hit and by 1908, Montreal boasted several other cinemas that offered its citizens this new form of entertainment