1ière avenue, part 1: Verdun

Corner of Wellington and 1re Avenue in Verdun.  These street signs are unique to Verdun’s Wellington Street “Downtown” commercial strip.

Due to decades of annexes, mergers, and demergers of former municipalities, the City of Montreal has accumulated a number of duplicate street names, especially in the outer boroughs which were added later on in the city’s existence.  While not entirely unusual for a growing big city, it can create confusion for those unfamiliar with the existence of the duplicate street names for different parts of the city.  One of the most unusual aspects of these duplicate street names is the fact that, over the years, the City of Montreal has acquired nine separate sets of numbered streets.  Some of the sets are small such as in Verdun where the series only goes 6ième avenue while others, such as in Rivière-des-Prairies—Pointe-aux-Trembles, go into the hundreds.

Thus, I have decided to get on my bike, camera in hand, and do a series on these various sets of numbered streets by focusing on the one street that each set is guaranteed to have in common: 1ière avenue.  By only focusing on one street out of each set, this series does not plan to document the numbered streets as a whole, but rather to take a glimpse (whether it be over only a couple blocks to several going through many boroughs) at some of the more overlooked neighbourhoods of Montreal’s inner-ring neighbourhoods and suburbs.  Along the way, topics of past mergers and annexes, street signs, neighbourhood compositions, street configurations, etc. may also be discussed.

With that out of the way, lets get to our first street.  I set out on on my bike on a muggy and periodically rainy August day for Verdun.  The borough of Verdun was once a separate city that was forcefully merged with Montreal in 2002 during the provincial government’s merger debacle.  Verdun was one of many new boroughs that failed to demerge and therefore remained part of Montreal.

1ière (or 1re depending on which street sign you’re looking at) avenue starts pretty much in the centre of Verdun with the series continuing south until only 6ième avenue (where streets with actual names continue).  The street (along with all the other numbered streets) is only four (long) blocks in length starting at Lasalle and passing through Wellington, de Verdun, Bannantyne, and terminating at boul Champlain.  The street is entirely residential except the three centre intersections which are all commercial streets. Here are some photos I took while biking down the street:

Looking east from Wellington toward boul Lasalle.

Blocks in Verdun are sometimes as much as three times the length of the average block elsewhere in the city.  This block between Wellington and rue de Verdun feels very long but is populated on each side by beautiful turn-of-the-century two and three storey ‘plexes typical to this part of the borough.

This is the corner of 1ière Avenue (rather than”1re” on the Wellington signs.  These signs, from the early 2000s featuring the municipal crest, are one of three types in Verdun).  Parc Verdun du Souvenir with the Verdun Metro station is at one corner with the commercial stretch of rue de Verdun at the other corners.

I’ve always wondered why all the street signs on rue de Verdun have a sticker with “rue de” on it.  Can any readers tell me what it’s covering up?

Further west across the street from Parc Verdun, the housing type changes considerably.  Three stories turn to two and there are no more exterior staircases.

The last block between Bannantyne and boul Champlain is entirely different from the rest of the street (and most of Verdun for that matter).  Brick, flat roofed, row-houses make way for vinyl siding clad, detached suburban houses.  Two blocks south and one block north between Bannantyne and Champlain are also like this for some reason.

Next in this series: 1re Avenue, Part 2: Lasalle.

19 comments

  1. I think it’s because if was called “avevue de Verdun” before being called “rue de verdun”. I might be wrong though.

    (I live on 2e avenue, I can almost fear being seen in the photos! hehe, kidding of course!)

  2. Absolutely was always Verdun Avenue! This is a great idea and I look forward to seeing the other streets.

    I just wish you had added a picture of the park and City Hall at 1st and Verdun. Also conspicuously missing is shots of Willibrord Park (pronounced willabroad), where a few generations of Verduners learned, among other things, to skate on ice. The park in front of City Hall in my youthful days was known far and wide simply as The Monument. Quite the era!

  3. Nice article; looking forward to more.

    A small correction. The park in front of city hall, though it’s labelled “Parc Verdun” on Google Maps, is called Parc du Souvenir. At least, this is what the sign next to the metro exit reads.

  4. It could also be the whole ‘switch to French street names’ situation that happened around Montreal. Many street names were switched to emphasize that the street is named in French. Silly, if that is the case, Verdun is pretty bilingual in my opinion.

  5. The idea for the series is cool, but why not draw on Spacing resources to supplement your commentary?

    For instance, the maps produced by KC Bolton show that the blocks of 1re Ave. between Wellington and Bannantyne have a lower median after tax income than the blocks that bookend them and fall within the lowest income category ($0-10,000). As well, 5-12% of the people living in the blocks between Lasalle and Wellington and Verdun and Bannantyne are recent immigrants and between Wellington and Verdun this stat rises to 12-20% (2001-6 data). So, lots of new citizens along the street, many of them not earning much money. People familiar with Verdun will know that many of the new arrivals are Chinese, resulting in several new Chinese grocery stores on Wellington and Verdun in this area.

    Plus, you could tie into the Tree Tuesdays theme and comment on the distribution of trees along 1ere Ave. This is shown implicitly in your photos of course, but it is interesting that as the age of the housing decreases, the number of trees increases. Aerial photos show no large trees at all between Lasalle and Wellington and only a few streetside through to Bannatyne, though there are of course many in the park in front of City Hall, including several fine crab apples lining the paths leading to (or from) the metro. Only between Bannatyne and Champlain are there a significant number of large trees. One of the advantages of detached homes is more room for trees. I wonder if the older parts were always treeless or whether the original trees have now died off and not been replaced? Compared to the neighbouring avenues, the Lasalle to Wellington part of 1re Ave. seems especially lacking.

    There are two other things to mention. One is that the block between Bannatyne and Champlain has something else the other blocks don’t: speedbumps. Since there are just as many (in fact, undoubtedly more) children living along the other blocks, one has to assume that the home owners closer to the Aqueduc have more sway (or a greater tendency to voice their concerns) than those living in the plexes.

    Then, while it probably didn’t look like much in August, the Borough is just finishing construction of a new playground at 1re and Bannantyne to replace the aging one directly behind City Hall. The neighbourhood kids have happily claimed it for their own.

    Looking forward to the other instalments.

  6. Just in case, “The Monument” was a nickname. Interesting because the actual monument/cenotaph itself was originally at Regina and Wellington, but moved over when the city hall was built between 1st and Willibrord. “Parc du Souvenir” is one of those generic quasi heritage names given that possibly has never been used by any citizens.

    Interesting demographic rundown. Funny thing about the trees is that there wasn’t that many, say, 40 years ago, but the ones you did have were huge and old. Central Verdun today is almost a rainforest in comparison to the 70’s. On the other hand, my father used to tell me that Verdun streets were “tunneled” by trees in the 30’s and 40’s.

  7. Now these pictures brought back lots of memories to me. I grew up right at the corner of 1st Ave and Wellington, 230 1st Avenue. The English and Scotch Woollens store was directly underneath me, on Wellington. We lived on the third floor. Across the street from our door was a grocery store…Landreville’s. Under our building, going back towards the laneway, at first was a Chinese cleaners, then it became a hairdressers. I looked down that street and saw the homes of so many of my bygone-day friends. Also lots of warm and fuzzy memories came flooding back to me. In later years, I lived for a year at 404 1st Avenue, between Wellington and Verdun Avenue. I can see my old house there, as well as that of my uncle and aunt, who had my grandma living with them.

  8. Thank you for the photos. I lived in Verdun and still have many friends there, your photos brought back instant memories. Verdun is an excellent quarter and I enjoyed living there very much. I must say its safe, bike friendly, has great parks, and some real authentic people. On Rue Verdun music is played through speakers atop of poles and I could never figure out who chose the music, sometimes it was American “gangsta rap”?? I miss biking and greenlining into town more than I can express. Thanks for a great blog.

  9. What fond memories! As a small child, I lived on First Ave. between Lasalle and Wellington. I remember the chinese laundry on 1st. just off Wellington, Facing Landrville’s grocery store, (the floors were covered with sawdust). Does anyone remember the penny candy store called Piercy’s, on the same block? Also, the jewellery store on Wellington called Durocher? There was also a great fish and chip store on one of the nearby avenues; perhaps on Willibrod?

  10. The music coming from the speakers on Wellington St. is annoying. Walking everyday to work and having to listen to music bombarded from those speakers is a stress. Wish they would go away.

  11. Ever since French became the principle language in all of Quebec, it affected all areas of all cites. As the years go on
    In Verdun, where i’ve been living pretty much all of my life and where i still live, we see no English wording, it’s all been changed to French wording. Many, if not all, of the avenues have been renamed to “rue de”.
    I live on1st Ave and these numbered avenues 1 through 6 still are called Ave but the English 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th have all been changed to French versions of 1st, 2nd etc.

    Many main Avenues like Verdun Ave, Church Ave have been changed to “rue de”. Church has been translated right into French as rue de l’eglise.

    And yes the music on Wellington St, is annoying sometimes, i find.
    I wouldn’t want to live on that street as the music is pumped from the lamp posts by megaphone-type of speakers all day until about 9 or 10 maybe 11 pm I never really paid attention to how late it plays for.

    I am 50 and i remember the candy store on 1st Ave right in the middle of the block. It was between La Salle blvd and Wellington St. on 1st Ave.
    And there was another one on the same block called, Baron’s.
    Where Baron’s was, now stands new condos.

    Robert

  12. Oh yea, as a child my family lived at 215 !st Ave

  13. Copy and past the following link into your browser to see Verdun’s original coat of arms. There is a description of the coat of arms which explains the symbolism involved. The two towers each representing the city’s two peoples, the French and the English, have be wiped off of the new, modern coat of arms as if to say that they don’t want there to be two peoples anymore. Verdun is bilingual, yes, but it is also a Bloc Quebecois riding of the city.

    http://ville.montreal.qc.ca/portal/page?_pageid=2480,2898524&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

    Times are a changing.

  14. I grew up in Verdun on 1st Avenue, between Lasalle Boulevard and Wellington Street back in the forties and fifties. Thank you for the walk down memory lane. Although beer could be purchased from the family run corner grocery store there was no taverns in town. You either crossed the bridge to Cote St-Paul or went under and on the other side of the railroad tracks into Pointe-St-Charles for a tavern – these were conveniently located. No doubt there were blindpigs within the city. The change from two and three story residential housing to small single detached houses heading towards Cote-St-Paul, I was told, came from the expected number of troops returning from WWII and their need for housing. I am Canadien, and as far as I can remember, the residential lines split with the perception that half the city leading to 6th Ave was considered French speaking, and from there on to the Ville de LaSalle was English speaking – although either language could be found throughout. This linguistic “barrier” was more prevalent in the early 1900s and has since disappeared but the tales persisted. Rue de l’ Eglise and the Church of Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs (Cor. Wellington/de l”Eglise) as always been known as such by francophones. I was baptised and confirmed in the faith in this church. My English speaking cousins called it Church Street. A rose by any other name is still a rose! When I visit family, I make it a point to stroll down Wellington – however, the street does not seem as wide as I remember it!

  15. The one comment I read is correct, back in the day it was called Avenue Verdun ..

  16. Another interesting feature is that boulevard Desmarchais between boulevard Champlain and rue Bannantyne has been called 7e avenue for a certain period of time, before being renamed to boulevard Desmarchais.

    Other elements : the “Avenue Verdun” to “rue de Verdun” name change is the good explanation. For a strange reason, most streets in Verdun were called “avenue”. All of that was changed (normalized?) around the end of the 1990s .

  17. Interesting to find this article. About 55 years ago I tried to trace my Mum’s sister and found the address to be 105 First Avenue, Verdun PQ. I was about ten years old then!
    Now 65 and my Mother no longer with us, I wonder if the address was correct and if any relatives still exist there? Their family name was/is Ferguson. Thought I’d put this here, you never know who might stumble upon this as I did.
    Enjoyed the article, thank you.

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