The Lachine Canal

The Lachine Canal (Canal de Lachine in French) is a canal passing through the southwestern part of the Island of Montreal,QuebecCanada, running 14.5 kilometres from the Old Port of Montreal to Lake Saint-Louis, through the boroughs of Lachine,Lasalle and Sud-Ouest.

The canal gets its name from the French word for China (La Chine). The European explorers dreamt of finding a route from New France to the Western Sea and there on to China[2] and hence auspiciously the region where the canal was built was named Lachine.

Lachine Canal 1920

The impact of the Lachine Canal on Montreal during the mid to late 19th century can be seen through the emergence of new working-class neighbourhoods such as Griffintown, St Henri, Pointe St Charles.[8] Furthermore, the population of Montreal grew by over four times between the middle of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.[9]

One of the main reasons behind the growth of the Lachine Canal region was the access to hydraulic power which was provided through the deepening of canal in the 1840s.[10] Throughout the mid to late 19th century, industries all along the banks of canal experienced consistent growth through the access to this energy source. However, by the end of the 19th century, factories began to utilize steam powered factories as opposed to hydraulic power.[11] Although this switch did not initially affect the Lachine canal region in a negative manner, factories were no longer dependent on the canal as an energy source. Industries now had the option of building further and further away from the canal itself, which was also helped by the development of a railway system throughout Montreal’s industrial region.[12]

The canal continued to operate successfully until around 1950, but now, surrounded by the industrial developments which it helped to create, it could not be expanded further to cope with the continuing increase in vessel size. The canal became obsolete in the second half of the 20th century, being replaced by the St. Lawrence Seaway, which opened in 1959. The canal was finally closed to shipping in 1970. The opening of the Seaway and the decline of shipping on the canal led to the devastation of the neighbourhoods that lined the canal in Montreal’s Le Sud-Ouest borough due to shifting patterns of industrial development and shipping.

The Lachine Canal Manufacturing Complex

At its zenith from 1880 to 1940, the industrial and manufacturing area adjacent to the canal was once the largest in Canada in terms of both the number of firms and diversity of its output. At one time, over 20% of the workforce of the Island of Montreal was employed in its factories. Given its historic importance, the “Lachine Canal Manufacturing Complex” was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1996, in addition to the designation already enjoyed by the canal itself.[15][16]

Gentrification

Over the last two decades, the canal has seen a large increase in residential and commercial development. In what was originally a very heavy industrial neighbourhood, Pointe-Saint-Charles and Saint-Henri have become very up and coming districts. House values have skyrocketed and many real estate developers have turned the century old industrial factories and warehouses, like that of Dominion Textiles(5524 Saint-Patrick, now Complexe Dompark) &  Simmons Bedding Company (4710 St-Ambroise, now  Complexe Canal Lachine) into prestigious loft buildings. Complexe Dompark recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and now houses more than 90 multimedia, fashion, publishing, and service industry-based companies in custom designed lofts. The area around the Atwater Market has become one of Montreal’s most desirable residential areas for condo owners. Much of this is thanks to the continued effort to clean up the Canal.

The old Redpath Sugar refinery at St-Patrick and Montmorency is now partially Lofts Redpath, converted after being abandoned since 1980.

Article Source: Wikipedia | Edited By: John Naccarato

Other Links:

Lachine Canal National Historic Site: The Cradle of Industrialization

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