Lost Neighbourhoods

A documentary exhibition at the CHM

June 15, 2011 to March 25, 2012 Extended through September 1, 2013

Lost Neighbourhoods

The part that was the hardest for me was seeing the buildings torn down. [...] Theres nothing left of your childhood. You can no longer say, I was born here. I grew up here. Theres just a parking lot and a tower.

Jeanelle Bouffard, former resident of Faubourg m'lasse.

A city is not a fixed object. It is a body in perpetual movement and perpetual change. This unassailable logic applied in the disappearance of entire neighbourhoods in Montreal between 1950 and 1975, a period of urban modernization in much of the world. The official reasons for demolition were the unhealthy conditions prevailing in the existing dwellings and the needs created by major projects such as the 1967 Worlds Fair and the 1976 Summer Olympic Games. Montreal was at a turning point in its history!

My reward was helping to make a city we already loved into a city we loved even more.

Jean Drapeau's resignation speech, in Benot Gignac, Le Maire qui rvait sa ville, Montral, ditions La Presse, p.246.

The City undertook the daunting task of creating an inventory of the dwellings slated for destruction, leaving a photographic archive of life in that era to posterity. Wishing to bring these lost neighbourhoods back to life, the Centre dhistoire de Montral team carried out the task of collecting memories from the former inhabitants of the Red Light district, the Faubourg mlasse, and Goose Village, as well as those of experts working for the City and actors in the demolition process.

As soon as they enter the exhibit, visitors come up against the unpleasant evidence that entire neighbourhoods were bulldozed. When it happened, living communities turned into no-mans-lands.

Continuing through the exhibit, visitors discover that the reason for this mayhem was the determination to solve urban problems by clearing slums and modernizing Montreal to take on the challenges of the post-war 20th century. Urban planners, architects, and engineers active either in a bygone era or today explain the perceived need for urban megaprojects which offered a promise of renewal and the hope of a Radiant City whose inhabitants could lead better lives.

Lost Neighbourhoods, Red Light, Habitations Jeanne-Mance

In the next section, visitors can peruse the inventory taken by City of Montreal employees: the thousands of residences condemned for demolition that were systematically numbered and photographed. Montrealers of today, witnesses of those times, reveal what their former neighbourhoods were like. The Red Light district, the Faubourg mlasse, and Goose Village are recreated in a space that plunges visitors into life milieus that have been lost forever.

It's just like a death. Part of you, part of your history died that day when they choose to put Expo 67. So you go to that process of grieving the same way as you would do a death. because that's something tha's loss. The memories are still there [...] but the place is not there, people are gone.

Frances Ortuso, former resident of Goose Village.

The exhibit ends in a space where visitors are questioned on their roles as citizens: their ability to mobilize, to reflect, and to visualize the city of the future.

Urban planning affects you, involves you and should interest you more. [] Whatever happens with urban planning affects everyone. Being a citizen means paying attention to urban planning, architectural and landscaping issues.

Grard Beaudet, Urban planning professor, Universit de Montral.

Lost Neighbourhoods, Radio-Canada, Faubourg  m'lasse

Media tours, interviews with the exhibitions conceptors, and visual and audio-visual material are available on demand.

Media information:

Andr Gauvreau

This project is made possible through financial support from the city and the Ministre de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition Fminine as part of the Montral Cultural Development Agreement 2008-2011.