Saturday, July 5, 2008

Summertime in the Old Port

Although we love the quiet of winter here in Old Montreal (and being able to get into restaurants without planning ahead to make reservations) there is a joy of life and wonderful spirit in Old Montreal in the summer...and especially in the Old Port. Yesterday afternoon we went for a walk along the water, down to the Lachine Canal and the locks (Ecluses), up around Place d'Youville and along parts of Rue st. Paul and Rue Notre Dame. Happy people were out in droves enjoying horse drawn carriage rides (caleches), long walks, bike rides, pedal trolleys, and enjoying drinks in sidewalk cafes. The temperature was perfect...mid 70s no humidity, clear, with a breeze.

The Lachine Canal is one of the most important canal and lock systems in Canadian history. First constructed (and widened and deepened several time) in 1825 it provided a bypass around the Rapids on the ST. Lawrence that restricted access up and down the St. Lawrence River. With the construction of the Canal, shipping greatly increased to the Great Lakes, making Montreal a very significant port. Manufacturing and mills also increased in Montreal and along the Lachine. At its zenith in the many as 15000 ships a year would pass through the locks. With the completion of the St. Lawrence Seaway (which can handle the much larger "lakers" ships) in the 1950s, the Canal fell into disuse and was closed to shipping in 1970. The Park Service took over ownership and in the late 90s began the restoration of the locks and canals and today the canal is open to pleasure craft and kayaks/canoes. A bike path has been constructed along its 14.5 kilometer lenghth.

The Daniel McAllister is an old historic tug permanently moored in the sheltered Basin #1 of the Lachine Canal . Its quite picturesque in its dereliction and decay and yet sad that its preservation isn't resulting in its restoration. It is the largest and oldest historic tug in Canada. And the second oldest ocean-going tug to be preserved in the world. It was built and operated by the McAllister Towing Company one of the largest and most succesful marine towing services in Canada and the US Eastern Seaboard.
Also in the area of Lock 1 and Basin 1 is the rusting hulk of Grain Elevator #5. In the late 19th century, the Port of MontrĂ©al was growing in importance. With the beginning of transcontinental freight rail, the transcontinental shipment of goods, especially grain, grew significantly. With port activity increasing, grain processors and flour mills opened near the port. The Grand Trunk Railway built the older portion of grain elevator n° 5. Concrete extensions were built to meet the changing demands of the trade: MontrĂ©al had become the world's top grain-trade port.
Although out of service since 1995, this temple to commerce remains noteworthy for its unique combination of construction styles. (info from

Eating and having drinks alfresco in a fun and popular thing to do in Old Montreal in the summer. Restaurants throw tables and chairs out on the sidewalk, bars pop up at the Lachine locks and on rooftops. At the Place d'Armes square, famous for the Basilica of Notre Dame and the historic Bank of Montreal buiding there is a seasonal rooftop bar on the Hotel Place d'Armes that overlooks the historic square below.

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