One of the best things about wandering around town is finding all sorts of architectural and infrastructural oddities like unusual street signs and bizarre decorative elements. Montreal is rife with these sorts of things. Over at Coolopolis, J.D. Gravenor recently pointed out a cryptic inscription on the cornice of a western NDG apartment building: “Mona’s Isle.” Turns out it’s a reference to an 1844 poem about the Isle of Man.
My stomping ground is a bit further east, in Mile End, but there’s no shortage of interesting urban details around here. On the west side of Park Avenue just below Mount Royal, for instance, there’s a metal sidewalk stamp, in the shape of a maple leaf, that bears the date 1953 and the inscription, “Charles Duranceau Ltée, Entrepreneurs.” Compared to Toronto or Vancouver, where every sidewalk is stamped with the date of its construction and the name of the contractors that built it, sidewalk stamps are rare in Montreal. The fact that this one is so elaborate — and more than half a century old — makes it all the more special.
Just a few blocks away, Bancroft School on St. Urbain Street incorporates some unusual mosaics into its south façade. All of them feature school-age children; one of them is dressed in what appears to be a dunce cap. Is this supposed to be a message to the kids playing outside at recess?