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

50 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. I am looking for friends of mine that lived in the west end of lachine called Dixie.We lived on

    50th avenue,and the number of the house was 50.

    Hope to here back from many of our friends that onced lived in this area.

  26. 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!

  27. Ma fille avec sons Marie demure a lachine. Cest si beau. Je visit cette seaming (weekend)

  28. Reading all these comments about Lachine brought back so many memories. I lived in Ville St Pierre but went to school at Resurrection High School. No one has mentioned that school. Naturally all my friends lived in Lachine and I spent every Saturday on the main drag Notre Dame. And then off to the Canoe Club dances every Saturday night. There was a little store called Cool’s across from my school where we all hung out. After the Canoe Club dances we would all go to the Dominion Restaurant of the Excel for hot chicken sandwiches. But the best pizza was always Toto’s. To this day I have never tasted a pizza that good. I left the Montreal area in 1974 because of the Separatist movement but I return at least once a year to visit family. My brother and nephew still reside in Lachine.

  29. 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.

  30. Deb
    I was born in Lachine in 1955
    Just loved these photos TY

  31. I arrived in Lachine, from Ireland in 1953. Lived on 14th, moved to 12th and then to 10th over a period of 14 yrs. Lots of great memories. Petes French fry truck every afternoon on 12th ave above Provost at 3:30PM, to buy a nickel fry as a snack before dinner. I attended good old Resurrection HS, then BWHS. Lots of fun at the Canoe Club dances and the “YMCA” at 40th ave. After school we would meet at CHARLIES at 45th ave. Great hamburgers and a good PIN BALL machine. AS we got older:- Drinking holes were the St Prim, El Paso and Beaulieu’s. Then off to the Dragon House for Chinese. I still go back and visit often. The lakeshore along St. Joseph all the way to Dorval looks great with many Cafe’s. Nice to have a glass of wine on a warm summers day and people watch. I left DEW in 78 and moved to Scarborough, but my heart belongs to Lachine. A great place to grow up. But hated the shad flies in the summer along Notre Dame street. :)
    Thanks for bringing back good memories.

  32. I was born in Lachine General Hospital, the former Dawes home, and raised in Lachine, attended LHS, then finished downtown at Lower Canada and McGill. Worked 30 years at Dominion Engineering, which built everything- power cranes and shovels, steel rolling mills, pulp and paper machinery. During the war we entertained many airmen from the Manning Depot up the street, and went skiing on the golf course north of the tracks. It was a great place to grow up! Two of my sons were born at LGH, but in the new one, which I think has since closed.
    I think I knew Gerry Rowe.

  33. You could not have be brought up in a more fun place than Lachine in the fifties and sixties. My daughter often says to me that it must have been fantastic to grow up in those times. She sure is wishes she had the same opportunity as I did. Charlie’s restaurant is where we all hung out and I still visit Charlie today and he is now 87 years young and frankly looks no older than Indo at 74. We had the canoe club dances and the “Y” dances as well as the Lachine Hotel to have a few beers before we went off to dance. The kids today sure do not have what we enjoyed and not even close.

  34. Remember 10 cent beer we used to drink in the 18 ave tavern as 16 year olds living in Montreal west
    Our Montreal West High football team would take the bus down there often.Some of us puking all the way home.It took a little conditioning
    Movies were only 25 cents in 1955-56
    No drive in movie theaters then in Quebec
    We had to drive our dates to Plattsburg N.Y.
    Don’t remember why, but we always sat in the back seat lol
    Great memories. Miss those french fries
    Haven’t been able to duplicate them anywhere in the world

  35. Are you The Brian Michael Millett who worked for MAI in Montreal? Just wondering if you are the same one that I knew when I worked there.

  36. I lived at 82-7th avenue in lachine…1942-1960…then moved to 32nd avenue till 1963
    Was married at st andrews church on sherbrooke street accross from lachine high school
    and reception at the El PASO HOTEL…next to THE LACHINE CANOE CLUB on st joseph street.
    in the year 1963..
    Then moved to ontario in 1970…

  37. I arrived in Lachine, from Ireland in 1953. Lived on 14th, moved to 12th and then to 10th over a period of 14 yrs. Lots of great memories. Petes French fry truck every afternoon on 12th ave above Provost at 3:30PM, to buy a nickel fry as a snack before dinner. I attended good old Resurrection HS, then BWHS. Lots of fun at the Canoe Club dances and the “YMCA” at 40th ave. After school we would meet at CHARLIES at 45th ave. Great hamburgers and a good PIN BALL machine. AS we got older:- Drinking holes were the St Prim, El Paso and Beaulieu’s. Then off to the Dragon House for Chinese. I still go back and visit often. The lakeshore along St. Joseph all the way to Dorval looks great with many Cafe’s. Nice to have a glass of wine on a warm summers day and people watch. I left DEW in 78 and moved to Scarborough, but my heart belongs to Lachine. A great place to grow up. But hated the shad flies in the summer along Notre Dame street. :)
    Thanks for bringing back good memories.

  38. Hi lived in lachine 7th ave in. Between st Joseph and St. Louis went to resurrection high school in the summer walked home fr school along the rail way tracks wither we would ice scate in the park on the water front in the summer go to Lasalle park on 10th ave to swim they had a big wooden hill for tobogganing lots of stores on Norte dame street then in 1960 moved to 45th in the apps but we always ended back down lachine on Norte dame then there was Beauliue club canoe club for weekly dances then to Dominion Rest to eat have some wonderful memories still miss the good old times met my true love there
    V

  39. Anyone from Lachine have an old photo of Mont Ste. Anne’s bilingual boarding School? I am helping an elderly lady write her memoirs and I need a photo of that school she went to for her last two years of high school.

  40. I was born in Lachine in 1942 and lived there until 1964 when I married and moved away. My family had very strong roots in Lachine. I was 4th generation, in our family, to be a member of St. Andrews United Church, St Joseph Street, between 15th & 16th. I went to George Esplin School for kindergarten and grade 1. We moved to 37th and in grade 2, I went to LHS on 36th. I moved to the new Summerlea School on 48th, grades 3 – 6. Back to LHS on 36th for grades 7-9 and then the new LHS for 10 & 11. We now live in Collingwood, On but I take every opportunity to visit Lachine. I have so many wonderful memories! I love being a member of “Lachine Then & Now” on Facebook because I have reacquainted with several old friends. I love to hear about “my home town Lachine” because it was a great place to live.

  41. I was born in 1956 into one of the new houses on Acadia road just around the corner from St. Andrews presbyterian church and lachine high. In the winter we’d bump hook the 90 buses as they passed on Sherbrooke street skidding along the hard packed road on our boots. I remember the ‘woods’ north over the tracks, the trains along Victoria St and walking the tracks to Dorval shopping centre to watch a movie. BEN’s on lakeshore road where the metropolitan bus stopped. You could get a paper bag of penny candy which was all displayed in loaf tins in the showcase of the dimly lit interior. Shoestring liquorice hanging out the bag has you left with a black ball in your mouth. Dixie Parks and playgrounds had a bicycle parade every summer and Dixie pool was the place to be. Great times

  42. Grew up in LaSalle and attended John Grant for high school. The pictures bring back a lot of memories. We traveled to school by bus and loved it when the lift bridge at 6th Avenue was up and we would be late for school

  43. I lived on the RCAF base at the end of Provost St. from 1954 to 1959 when the base was shut down. I went to Central Park Public from 1955 to 1959. I can only remember my kindergarten teachers’ names: Miss Aspinall and Mrs. Baker; and my 3rd-grade teacher was Miss Boyd. A few of my classmates were Danny Evans, Leonard Fry, Gurdeep Singh, Gerard Wolf and Carolyn Yaxley. Those years were probably the best of my childhood.

  44. Family lived lower Lachine. I hung around till late 70s working the 1st & Provost big factory, before spreading wings…. still think of the one I left there…

  45. Laurie Rubin – If you’re still interested, you can search for your relatives in the online Lovell’s Montreal Street Guide by their surnames and business names, by year and/or street names. Attaching an English link to it here. Enter your info into the very top line. Hope this helps you. — http://more.stevemorse.org/montreal_en.html

  46. Judy Hunt
    Went to Central Park in the 50s, dad in Air Force, at Dorval, loved Lachine, LaSalle Park,
    Howard’s, Frames, Sampsons, McQueens, Yeomans some names I remember. Was there for Hurricane Hazel then on to Trenton.
    Got to watch them build the St Lawrence Seaway at on Sundays with my dad.

  47. 51st ave Lachine is where I grew up I still know many people who lived on 51st all scattered around the world. Grand father Aunts & Uncles lived on 51st I left when 25 years old. I remember it as a great sports town. My favorite place being Lachine Racing Canoe Club. along with my 2 brothers.
    Pete Chubby’s Chip Truck, El Paso Cafe. Sam Tabaks Sarary Sports for skate sharpening.
    Camping on Dixie Island. Tried not to date girls that lived further than Dorval Ave, Was a long cold walk in the winter. Heading to Lasalle hoping swing bridge was closed.at 6th ave. Provincial bus from downtown telling driver to wake me up before stop at Ben Valois store got to know driver and he stopped at 51st for me. Dixie Park another favorite growing up. Was a great child hood!

  48. Lived in Lachine from 1953 to 1972. Experienced a magical childhood on the lakeshore, Summerlea Elementary, Lachine High, caddying at Summerlea Golf Course, The Old Mill, Charlies Snack bar, Toto’s Pizzeria, The Lachine Racing Canoe Club, Lachine Lakers, Lachine Hotel, El Passo, endless parties on 44th avenue and incredible friends. Thank you for the article.

  49. Hello! such wonderful memories of Lachine .

    Lived on Broadway Ave. , corner of 41st Ave., during the 50’s/60’s/early 70’s. having settled in Europe since then.

    How fortunate I feel to have known those times.
    Bye now.

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