Yin and yang
One has to journey back into the Montreal’s fascinating industrial past to understand the enormous disparity between certain neighbourhoods on the island.
By the mid-1800s, Montreal had established itself as Canada’s most important industrial centre. Out of this great prosperity emerged a community of affluent businessmen whose financial wealth enabled them to acquire the most beautiful sites on which to build their homes.
The English-speaking elite chose the city of Westmount. While often referred to as a neighbourhood, Westmount is in fact a municipality in its own right. Located on the western slope of Mount Royal, it offers its residents an incomparable view of Montreal along with beautiful natural parks. The most spacious and expensive properties in Montreal can be found in Westmount, where the median price of a single-family home is $1,550,000. This year, one was put on the market for a cool $26,500,000.
The affluent French-speaking bourgeoisie, for its part, settled on the northwestern flank of Mount Royal, on what is part of the borough of Outremont. Single-family homes in that locality are also majestic and command an average asking price of$1,377,000. The area’s Victorian houses are particularly splendid.
Poorer labourers, on the other hand, chose lodgings close to where they worked, as was the case in the Hochelaga district, an area of significant industrial activity. The Angus Shops, for example, located in the neighbouring district of Rosemont, employed up to 12,000 people during the Second World War. Some 600 people were still working there when the company ceased operations in 1992. But in the 1970s, factories began to close, leaving a legacy of unemployed workers and huge empty buildings.
This explains why the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Parc-Extension neighbourhoods have become the poorest in Montreal, a fact that is glaringly apparent in certain sectors. But these are tending to disappear as a result of the wave of gentrification that has been sweeping across the Hochelaga district in recent years.