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Gauchetière/Saint-Urbain/Viger/Côté block

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Published on : February 23 2022

Last modified on : February 23 2022

Several buildings on this block, bordered by Saint-Urbain, de la Gauchetière West, Côté and Viger streets, have been acquired by Investments 1000 St-Urbain Ltd, a company managed by Brandon Shiller and Jeremy Kornbluth. We are concerned about this recent acquisition, as it poses a risk that the conversion of these buildings will profoundly and irreparably transform this historic and touristic area, known today as Chinatown, which was in the 19th and 20th centuries the “Près-de-ville” suburb and later the suburb of Saint-Laurent.

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Ancienne église Free Presbyterian, rue Côté

Source: Élyse Lévesque, 2021

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Association chinoise de Montréal (112, de la Gauchetière Ouest)

Source: Élyse Lévesque, 2021

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Ancienne école chinoise (106, de la Gauchetière Ouest)

Source: Élyse Lévesque, 2021

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Ancienne British and Canadian School

Source: Élyse Lévesque, 2021

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Ancien temple maçonnique chinois (116-118A, de la Gauchetière Ouest)

Source: Élyse Lévesque, 2021

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Vue du Quartier chinois, 1978

Source: Daniel Heikalo, photographe

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The building located at 106 de la Gauchetière West is a former Chinese school. It is architecturally homogeneous with the adjacent buildings, built around 1865, in addition to a wooden extension at the rear of the building. The restaurant that occupied the first floor has closed permanently and the commercial space is therefore currently vacant.

 

Built around 1865, the house at 112 de la Gauchetière West would have served as a synagogue at the beginning of the 20th century, and then became the Chinese hospital of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception from 1920 to 1962. The Spanish flu epidemic hit the neighborhood hard and the Sisters opened an emergency hospital for Chinese residents who were discriminated against in other hospitals in the city. Today, the building houses the Chinese Association of Montreal and an artist’s studio.

 

The former Chinese Masonic Temple (116-118A de la Gauchetière West) is a typical house built probably around 1865. The front facade is made of cut limestone (Montreal grey stone), while the rear facade is made of squared stones and bricks on the third floor. The house was originally a two-storey house with a gable roof and three mansards; it is now a three-storey house. The major work of replacing the roof, adding another storey and rebuilding the stone façade was carried out between 1894 and 1912. The stone corbels testifying to this change are still visible at the front and rear of the building. An old porte cochere leading to the courtyard connects the building to that of the Montreal Chinese Association next door.

The backyard has been completely walled in and untouched for many decades; simple gardening work has uncovered several 19th century artifacts, confirming its designation as an area of high potential archaeological interest under the borough’s urban planning by-law. Currently, the first floor commercial space is vacant, as is the first floor apartment.

 

The British and Canadian School building (120 de la Gauchetière West / 1009 Côté) has been greatly altered since 1826, the year it was designed. The architect James O’Donnell is said to have designed the building and the master mason John Redpath to have built it. O’Donnell had another major work in progress at the same time: the Notre-Dame Basilica, which began in 1824. John Redpath, then 30 years old, would later have two other major projects, the Lachine Canal and the Rideau Canal, before founding the Redpath sugar refinery and serving on the Montreal City Council from 1840 to 1843. O’Donnell’s design was a two-storey school with a pavilion roof topped by an octagonal dome. The non-confessional, free, mixed-gender school could accommodate 275 children, most of whom were working-class. In 1866, the school passed into the hands of the Protestant School Board. Changes were made in 1874: the building was enlarged, a second floor was added, a false mansard roof was added and the windows were modified. Currently, Wing’s Noodles is still in business in this building.

 

The Free Presbyterian Church was built in 1848. A portion of this building is now part of the building visible at 985-991 Côté Street. It is now used as a warehouse and factory producing Wing’s Noodles and fortune cookies and the Chinese Family Service Association of Greater Montreal used to have its offices there. It seems that the building was designed by the architect John Ostell. At the time, the building had a false mansard roof with a bell tower and three doors in the front.

In 1884, the cigar manufacturer Samuel David took possession of the building to establish the Tobacco Co. of Canada Ltd. and made several modifications to the building, including the addition of three floors and two towers on the front. Another floor was added in 1945. Today, the stone and brick building has six floors and a flat roof. The building has had several owners until the Lee family recently sold. Their business, Wing’s Noodles, has entered into a rental lease with the new buyer to continue to occupy the premises and maintain their operations. Finally, the Ville-Marie borough chapter of the Montreal Master Plan identifies the building as an industrial building of heritage interest outside of sectors of exceptional value.

 

These buildings, and most of the block of which they are a part, are included in the protection area of the Église de la Mission-Catholique-Chinoise-du-Saint-Esprit. This church, built in 1834 and 1835 by the Secessionist Church of Scotland, was classified by the Ministère des Affaires culturelles on March 16, 1977 and a protection area was delimited and confirmed on January 19, 1978. According to the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec website, the protection area, although “not intended to protect the buildings located in the vicinity of the classified building, […] makes it possible to control certain interventions carried out in the vicinity of the classified building, such as construction. It promotes the preservation of the heritage value of the classified building by ensuring the maintenance of an environment compatible with that value.”

On May 26, 2021, the Government of Quebec, through the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications, and the City of Montreal announced the formation of a “working committee on the heritage protection of Montreal’s Chinatown. […] The committee’s mission will be to find the best ways to preserve the identity of this part of the city. Over the next few months, it will make recommendations on a comprehensive strategy to protect and enhance the neighborhood.”

On June 18, 2021, the City of Montréal presented its 2021-2026 Action Plan for the Development of Chinatown, produced with the participation of the Centre d’écologie urbaine de Montréal. According to the City, this document is the “[f]ull result of a rigorous consultation and consultation process [and] aims to revitalize, protect and perpetuate this emblematic neighbourhood through the deployment of action strategies organized over time, the identification of collaborators, as well as the definition of achievement indicators.” This plan contains 25 action strategies, which “stem from a structuring overall vision, which is broken down into four major strategic orientations”, namely quality of life, housing as well as public spaces; commercial vitality; identity, influence and heritage; and neighborhood cooperation.

Finally, at the end of January 2022, “[n]otices of intent were signed […] by the Minister of Culture and Communications, Nathalie Roy, to grant national status to the institutional core of the area and to two of its most emblematic buildings, the British and Canadian School and the former S. Davis and Sons factory.As a result, the site and these two buildings should soon be considered heritage under the Cultural Heritage Act. The executive committee of the City of Montreal has also adopted […] a resolution essentially aiming to modify the urban plan in order to preserve the characteristics of Chinatown and to better protect its buildings” according to the article by Jérôme Labbé of Radio-Canada.

  • Municipality or borough

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    Ville-Marie borough

  • Issues

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    Mechanisms for protection

    Urban Development

    Interior spaces

  • Owner(s)

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    Private: company

  • Threat(s)

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    Vacant

    Lack of knowledge

    Demand for land, speculation

    Inappropriate/incompatible use

    Demolition

  • Conception

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    John Ostell, architect (former Free Presbyterian church); James O’Donnell, architect; John Redpath, master mason (British and Canadian School)

  • Manager(s)

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    Owner (Investments 1000 St-Urbain Ltd; Brandon Shiller and Jeremy Kornbluth)

  • Categorie(s)

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    Commercial

    Institutional

    Residential

  • Construction year

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    Around 1865

  • Recognition status

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    Located in the protection area of the Mission-Catholique-Chinoise-du-Saint-Esprit; Industrial building of heritage interest outside sectors of exceptional value (former Free Presbyterian church)

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