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St. Ann's and Griffintown

St. Ann's and Griffintown

In May of this year, Parks Canada will open the Lachine Canal as an historic and playground area. The City of Montreal is also involved and in the St. Ann’s/Griffintown park, where once stood good old St. Ann’s Church, a plaque will be erected in memory of St. Ann’s.
The history of the Irish coming to Montreal in the early 1800s has a close relationship with the Lachine Canal. In the excavating and building of the canal in 1825, Irish workmen were involved in this project. Back then, workmen lived close to their work areas and this is how Griffintown became a popular place to live. As the canal proceeded westward, areas like St. Gabriel Village (Pointe St. Charles) and the Tanneries (St. Henri) etc. also became vibrant residential and industrial areas. The Lachine Canal created jobs and financial assistance for the families living in the areas. In 1840 the Lachine Canal was expanded creating more jobs and industrial opportunities.
In the 1950s and 60s Griffintown was in its decline. The St. Lawrence Seaway ended the use of the Lachine Canal. The extension of University Street and the building of the Bonaventure Expressy all contributed to this decline.. But the end came with the demolition of St.   Ann’s Church in 1970.
In recent times there has been a resurgence in Griffintown, mainly in the construction of high tech buildings and an educational facility on the grounds of a former brewery. Fortunately, we have Leo Leonard and the Griffintown Horse Palace located on Ottawa Street as a reminder of the glory that was once St.   Ann’s/Griffintown. Inevitably, changes have been forthcoming to revitalize the area but ironically Griffintown as an Irish heritage and cultural area is alive in the minds and hearts of those who experienced this once great community.

Don Pidgeon
March 2002

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