The story in brief: the old village of Longue-Pointe, opulent second homes (like George-Étienne Cartier’s Limoilou estate), the streetcar to Bout-de-l’Île in 1897, the division of Hector Vinet and Pierre Tétreault’s lands (which created Tétreaultville in 1907), Dominion Amusement Park from 1906 to 1937, the factories, the port, the Louis-Hippolyte La Fontaine Bridge-Tunnel. And Saint-Jean-de-Dieu Hospital, with Émile Nelligan inside, not very far.
The story of Montréal’s east end illustrates how rapidly the whole city industrialized. Between the village and the factory, between Longue-Pointe and its destruction to make room for the bridge-tunnel, there is barely a trace. There’s a kind of bareness, as if events unfolded too quickly to leave a mark. Two or three 18th-century homes remain, including one in which American Revolutionary War hero Ethan Allan was locked up, whose troops tried to take Montréal by coming ashore at Longue-Pointe in September 1775. There isn’t much left to tell the tale, apart from a park called “Parc de la Capture-d’Ethan-Allen” at one end of the Bellerive boardwalk. You have to visit Vermont to learn more.
Why live in Tétreaultville, Montréal’s big backyard, a sort of vacant lot that’s paradoxically inhabited? The almost disconcerting ordinariness of the place means it’s mostly people who were born here, or who worked or still work here. There are some decent parts of the neighbourhood, north of Sherbrooke Street near Ville d’Anjou, for example. But even there, the smells of factories and timeworn facades are -never very far, reminding us that we’ll never be Brossard.
Moreover, choosing to live in Tétreaultville means choosing (or being chosen by) the Saint Lawrence. Poet Fernand Ouellette recalled all the drowning victims from his childhood, bobbing to the surface, washing ashore in the springtime, which he’d collect with the family motorboat. The dead from last winter (such as René Derouin’s father and brother), the bare edifices (no flashy churches or buildings like in Maisonneuve), factories making (or no longer making) things we’ll never know—it is and always has been the same no-holds-barred contact with reality that keeps many, despite everything, in Tétreaultville.
As Serge Bouchard wrote, “What happens to us, real east-end Montrealers, is vital; we see the world as it is, as it’s evolving, what it’s becoming. […] Openings, closings, modern history is unfolding right before our eyes, on our backs and carried by our brave shoulders.”