Wandering around Lachine


St. Joseph Street along Lachine’s waterfront

Do you know Lachine? Thanks to the canal, pretty much every Montrealer is familiar with the name. I’m sure most are even aware of the borough. But have you been there? Do you know anything about it except as “that place at the end of the Lachine Canal”?


À Lachine, on fait le stop !

For those who don’t know, I’ll let you in on a secret: Lachine is one of the most fabulously bizarre places in Montreal. That shouldn’t be a surprise because, according to the rules of Montreal weirdness, the more isolated, working-class and far-flung a neighbourhood, the stranger it is. Lachine wins on all three counts. Although it is located on the lakeshore-canal bicycle superhighway, and autoroute 20 passes along its northern border, Lachine is not exactly central. By bus, it’s 35 minutes away from Angrignon metro, the end of the line. Downtown Lachine, a small area bordered by Victoria Street on the north and the St. Lawrence on the south, is removed from pretty much any major transportation corridor.

That is to say, any modern transportation corridor. Lachine’s entire reason for existence is the Lachine Canal, through which every ship heading to and from the Great Lakes used to funnel. Although Lachine has existed as a settlement since the 17th century, when it was a fur trading post, it started to develop as a proper town only after the canal opened in 1835. By the early twentieth century, it was a burgeoning industrial suburb. Of course, by the 1970s, deindustrialization and the closure of the canal dealt a significant blow to Lachine. It’s only now recovering.

I ventured out to Lachine last spring to check out its newly revamped public market, the smallest of Montreal’s big four (the others being Jean-Talon, Atwater and Maisonneuve). To get there, I took the 90 bus west from Atwater. It dropped me off on Provost Street in the newer part of Lachine. Provost is a decidedly unattractive mix of depanneurs and fast-food joints; its one claim to fame might be a Kentucky Fried Chicken that has somehow escaped rebranding: its signs date from at least a few decades back.


Notre-Dame Street, Lachine’s main drag

The real attraction in Lachine is the waterfront downtown area, a 15 minute walk from Provost. There, you’ll find a quaint mix of twentieth-century duplexes, nineteenth-century cottages, the aforementioned public market and Montreal’s most pleasant and relaxing waterfront. What really interests me, though, is Notre-Dame Street, Old Lachine’s main drag. On a bright Saturday afternoon it was eerily quiet; look between the vacant storefronts, however, and you’ll find a few surprises.


“We’ve moved downtown”

The first might be the number of new immigrant businesses. Some of the businesses along Notre-Dame’s ten-block commercial stretch include French bakery run by a Cambodian guy, a Somali couple’s halal butcher, a black anglophone grocery selling Caribbean products and a modest Chinese supermarket. Near 10th Avenue, a Russian man sells old tapes, CDs and records. Best of all is a huge, labyrinthine junk store run by an old couple from Texas. They say they’ve lived in Lachine for 30 years, but their accents are still as thick as if they had been plucked right off the Texan plain.

All along Notre-Dame, makeshift plywood boxes serve as community bulletin boards. They may look silly, but not even the Ville-Marie or Plateau boroughs offer this kind of legal postering space. It’s a shame that, in Lachine, they remain half-empty, with nearly all of the posters advertising yard sales or lost animals. If these things were placed on St. Viateur or the Main, they’d be covered — several layers thick, too — within a week.


Notre-Dame, unfortunately, is not the main street it used to be. Most Lachine residents shop for their essentials at nearby malls and big box stores, of which there is an abundance in adjacent LaSalle and Dorval. Considering how quiet it has been every time I’ve visited, few people from outside the neighbourhood seem to stray onto Notre-Dame.

Instead, they head to the waterfront, and for a good reason: it’s one of Montreal’s most picturesque. It’s also the finish line for many cyclists who bike along the canal from the Old Port. (Although the bike path continues all the way to Ste. Anne de Bellevue, it’s a pretty ambitious ride from downtown.) St. Joseph Boulevard, which runs along the water, is dotted with pleasant cafés and restaurants whose terraces bustle on sunny days.

For me, though, the most rewarding destination after a stroll in Lachine is an unassuming restaurant located in an old cottage on Notre-Dame St. at the corner of 25th Avenue. La Shangri-la bills itself, somewhat dubiously, as a Nepalese, Indian and Italian restaurant. Turns out that it’s run by a Nepalese family that worked in an Italian restaurant in Kathmandu before coming to Montreal. Normally, I would expect something like that in Park Ex or Côte des Neiges. But, well, you know… it’s Lachine. You’ll be surprised.

More photos after the jump.


Notre-Dame and 10th, the (very slowly beating) heart of downtown Lachine


Lachine’s waterfront bike path


Restaurants line St. Joseph along the waterfront


Typical residential streets near the water


Thousands of new condo units have been built in Lachine, mostly near the water, since 2000


Kids play behind a house on Notre-Dame


Lachine’s marina — photo by Kate McDonnell

27 comments

  1. Loved reading such positive notes and observations about my hometown. Although I no longer live in Lachine, I take great pride in bringing friends there to enjoy the lakeshore and, more specifically, the bike path. And you’re right, those cafes and restaurants along St Joseph are a great find.

    I must admit, besides dining at the “Toto’s” restaurant in one of your photos, I haven’t ventured “downtown” in a long while. It was good to hear that there are some businesses opening and hopefully flourishing.

    For those that have yet to experience Lachine, be sure to bring your bikes or rollerblades, park out by the Dorval border, and start the trail there, heading East. Make sure you do the loop at Rene Levesque park.

  2. Loved your photos and your article. I rent in neighbouring LaSalle, and find Lachine 100% more interesting and attractive than LaSalle will ever be.

  3. What a fantastic article! I lived in those new townhouses on Notre-Dame from 2003 to 2005 and absolutely LOVED it! So close to downtown when you wanted it, living by the canal and lake was fabulous and so peaceful. I am not in Quebec anymore, but if I had to move back, Lachine would be the place for me. Lots of cute guys there too… Cheers…/John

  4. I love the artical! I’m so happy people publih such nice things about my hometown. I’ve always been proud of beeing part of Lachine. It makes me even happyer to hear nice comments like this about Lach-Town! By the way, the pictures are really beautiful.

  5. Great Site. Lachine sure has a great history. The St Joseph / 1st to 10th aves go back to the Fur Trading days. Notre Dame street in the 1950s and 1960s was the place to go shopping and met most of your needs.

    Taverns were located on just about every second corner along Notre Dame Sreet as well.

    Dominion Bridge / Dominion Engineering / Allis Chalmers / Stelco and Wire & Rope iIndustries were main Employors in the 40s , 50s and 60s. Unfortunatly they are all gone today. Le Marquette along the waterfront was the place to be on Sundays, musice was provided by local Bands most afternoons and evenings.

    Thanks again.

  6. What a Wonderful piece on a Great Small City.

    I lived in Lachine, the western area around 45th ave. for 14 years, went to both Grade School and most of High School until my Family moved West, off the Island, to Ile Perrot.

    I have many, many fond memories of Lachine as I met my Life Long best Friend in High School and we still remain Best of Friends 50 something years later.

    Thanks again.

  7. What fond childhood memories of the 1960s your article allowed me to relive! I attended Central Park Elementary School and lived on Notre Dame. I might add although we were descandants of immigrant families, Lachine was not as diverse as it is now. The rich fabric of Canada lies on its resourceful, hardworking, multi diverse communities.

  8. A little known fact is that John Grant High School had the shortest YET the best boys’ basketball players in the 1965-1967 seasons. The players were short but extremely well trained….and we loved having winning teams!

  9. Still remember the thriving shops on Notre Dame St in the 40s and early 50s .Enjoying movies at the Royal Alex and the Empress and watching the number 91 tram rambling to and from Montreal. Lachine was then a busy place with many well paying jobs at the large industrial plants-now all gone. Left over 50 years ago but have fond memories of a wonderful community.

  10. I grew up in Lachine and I have fond memories of it. We lived on 16th Avenue down from St Joseph Hospital near Victoria St where the train passed by…I recall a man with infirmaties, who wheeled his smallish trolly with his hands along the tracks, trying to sell cartons of cigarettes. Often we heard a man swing his cowbell advertising his presence to sell his umbrellas, and Pete’s french fry truck showed up very often selling his fries and hotdogs. We lived right by the tennis court and accessed LaSalle Park through its path, that took us to 10th Avenue and St Antoine on the way to Central Park School. We would shop on Notre Dame at the Super Market, Woolworth’s and United we referred to as the nickle and dime shops…long standing shops such as the bakery at 14th, the fresh produce market at 18th, the shoe repair at 14th whose winter skates were always a good buy and a great number of restaurants along the way. Sunday mornings church bells rang everywhere – so many churches for a relatively small town. I remember the boat races on Sunday afternoons that could be heard from afar. I later attended John Grant High…We were surrounded by factories where women worked.
    My mom has lived 65 of her 79 years in Lachine and will remain. I am out west now and I do miss Lachine for its history, its character and its beauty.

  11. I grew up in Lachine and went to Central Park School and then to John Grant for a short time. I remember Notre Dame St. being alive with people,cruising up and down Notre Dame,( girls galore). the dances at the canoe club, the Anro café ,18th ave tavern. oh, for the good old days.

  12. I was born and raised in Lachine. I loved seeing toto’s pizza sign. My brother and I had our first pizza from there and no other can compare? Went to Summerlea elementary then Lachine high. I still consider it home even though I moved in 73. I have many friends still living there. I miss it soooo much.

  13. My father was born in Lachine in 1917 and group through 1930s. His father had a kosher butcher shop and my grandmother ran a boarding house both in Lachine. What is the best way to find out where they lived and where the shop was located? We don’t have much else to go on,…

  14. I lived in Lachine from 1956 until the racist/ethnic cleansing ‘light” policies of the Province of Quebec forced me to leave permanently in 1979..It was a fun place then but since it is quite clear that we are longer welcome there I would never move back and rarely go back for even a day visit….

  15. please what is the phone number for allis chalmers in Lachine Quebec…

  16. I had a boyfriend that worked at allis chalmers name is Harold legeaul I wish I could locate him so much please reply if anyone has heard from him or knows him!

  17. that is Harold legeaul that worked at allis chalmers in Lachine Quebec thank you to all and I sure hope I find him still love him so much

  18. Went to Central Park School back in the 1950s my father was in the airforce and worked in Dorval and we lived on the base in Lachine which is gone now. But I really have some good memories and knew a lot of nice kids at school. Been back to Lachine once still beautiful.

  19. The above site published in 2007? I am now discovering it in 2014. In my twilight years.I had many happy working experiences at Canadian Allis-Chalmers 1964-67.. Harry Boardman (and his secretary Shirley Bibeau) in the Structural department; wonderful people. So many of the crew that worked out of that department travelled all over Canada to erect huge kilns were good natured fascinating characters. I would be grateful to receive some information from people I was fortunate to have met while there. Tony Borys Vancouver, BC

  20. Was enjoying your photos when I came across the building at the corner of 10th and Notre Dame. I’m pretty sure the dentist, Dr. Kent had his office there. If Cattiny’s shoe shop is/was across the street, that’s the place! We lived in Pointe Claire, but had friends in Lachine which was our shopping centre. I still remember the chickens in the crates and the vegetable displays at the market.
    Thanks!

  21. I live in Lachine and yes it boast of beautiful waterfront it is one of the most dog unfriendly places in Montreal. Wonderful new condos but no place to bring your dog. Too sad,some of us have worked hard on changing that but the progress is slow and disappointing. We finally get a beautiful dog park that hosts numbers of dogs then the city comes and make it a membership park.
    KFC is no longer there it is a Subway

  22. I remember going to the Lachine Hotel in the sixties on a Friday evening. Four of us would order ten draught beer each at ten cents a glass. Then it would be off to either the high school dance or the Canoe Club. Luckily, my liver survived those ” good ol days” .

  23. I had a great time growing up in Lachine 45 th ave. Fishing with my grandfather in the morning on the lake and water skiing in the hot and humid Montreal afternoons . Snowshoeing with my dog in the bush above the tracks in soft powdery snow sometimes 2 to 3 feet deep.I remember the yellow chip truck downtown lachine that had the best fries. Good times good friends

  24. to the one saying Lachine is not dog friendly; that is not true; it is an animal friendly place.
    unfortunately, there are idiots that don’t take good care of their dogs and because of that it punishes everyone. i live presently at st Louis and sixth; you would be amazed at how many walk their dogs and i don’t see them with a small bag to pick up the dog,«s doodoo. imagine the park!!!

  25. Great photos! I recognized all the locations from my boyhood years growing up in Lachine out on 55th Avenue. When my family moved to Lachine in 1958, the CNR main line still ran through the heart of the city along what is now Victoria in Lachine, and Bouchard Blvd west to dorval. Great memories!

  26. Looks like those great stories about Lachine are dying out, too bad. Guess there are only a few of us left who grew up and worked in that area in the 1940’s/50’s and 60’s.

    Sure enjoyed it while it lasted.

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