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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Imagining NDG: snapshots of a community on the brink of big change

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The winds of change are converging upon the west-end neighbourhood of NDG.  Winds, gales, practically hurricanes. Between the plans for the MUHC superhospital on the old Glen yards, highway construction, new additions to Concordia’s Loyola campus, the Benny Farm complex which has grown to incorporate a sports complex, library, CLSC and more, and the proliferation of condos popping up in NDG, it seems that the demographics and character of the neighbourhood are about to undergo a makeover.

Tim Schwab, a documentary filmmaker who teachers Communications at Concordia university who has lived in NDG since 1996, set out to document the neighbourhood in a creative way. With a grant from the Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture, Schwab created Imagining NDG, a web project that one can wander through much like the neighbourhood it depicts.

The “NDG Then” section of the website gathers archival images showing the evolution of NDG from farmland to streetcar suburb, while “NDG Now” presents interviews with residents and community organizers on some of the present day issues, from superhospital traffic to Walkley street’s perennial bad reputation (this section would benefit from listing the interviewees directly on the page). A third section contains short documentary films about the dormant Empress Theatre, the local graffiti scene, and the unforgettable Hillbilly night at the Wheel Club.

Another short film shows present-day Sherbrooke streets in grainy black-and-white. With it’s calm-before-the-storm premise, Imagining NDG seems instantly nostalgic for the places and communities that it captures.

Schwab says that the project aims to create a snapshot of urban change over time. “We found out how difficult that is to do,” he says, pointing out that some of the information was already dated by the time they launched the site, as dossiers like the superhospital rush forward.

“The next phase will be less formal,” Schwab says. He hopes to create a platform where community members will contribute their own memories, impressions and hopes for the neighbourhood. Anyone interested in contributing photos, oral histories, blog posts, or other media is welcome to get in touch.


One comment

  1. Another NDG Story.

    Back in the fifties, just before TV took over forever, in the summer, we used to travel to Trenholme Park on Sherbrooke to watch movies projected onto an open-air screen at the south end of the park against the CPR tracks from Westmount to Montreal West.

    ( This about a decade before Western/de Maisonneuve was constructed from Decarie to West Broadway/Coffee. )

    Anyway, to safely cross Sherbrooke, which was a busy road even then, the City constructed a concrete underpass similar to the one at Melrose crossing beneath de M and the CPR.

    ( I worked at 5757 Upper Lachine ( once Western ) where that new instant high-density warren was recently constructed and would walk down from the 105. Another Westhaven Village in the making? )

    To cross Sherbrooke to the Park we would use the subway, streetcars would thunder over creating a great din, and kids would yell.

    Here is a film clip of what I think is the south entrace to the Tremholme Park subway, amongst others.

    Many of the subways shown have the Montreal-style concrete railing with vertical holes so prevalent years ago.

    Out over St. Jacques, just east of Decarie, at the present site of the New Super Hospital, the CPR once had a curved concrete overpass projecting out over the north sidewalk to support a turning loop for the passenger trains which were moved between the Glen/Westmount Yard and old Windsor Station.

    In the late fifties a locomotive derailed, punched thru the railing and knocked a portion of it down onto St. Jacques, leaving a considerable hole, or, so the story went at the time.

    In the early sixties, the City painted most of these concrete works a pale green, which was not an improvement.

    Thank You.

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