I love taking long walks in the City of Montreal. I love the old small streets paved with cubic rocks; I love the way people have of enjoying their lives here. Sometimes I carry my camera just for “freezing” the city life, the peace of the streets and the attitude of the inhabitants. Other times, I like to move from a place to another and put effort to picture the tall shiny buildings and effervescent everyday life.
But there was a part of this city which remains unknown to new generations. Most often having a perimeter closed with high fences and the vegetation relentlessly invading – the old buildings slowly die, drowned into oblivion. And comes a day when bulldozers and excavators are brought into the spot and these architectural relics are left in a shapeless mass of rubble and dust.
For me, as a photographer, these abandoned buildings have a special charm. And a mystery too. I consider them fascinating, frightening and magnificent – all at the same time. Every time I start a photographic adventure around a place like this I feel like I’m stepping through a time gate. It seems that every time I press the shutter release, a fragment of the city’s past is tripped to fall into the final oblivion.
For this reason, I decided to start the “Lost Memories” project. Full of excitement, I began creating a map of Montreal where I marked each of these abandoned places. I spent dozens of hours connected to the Internet, searching Google or Bing; I visited a bunch of forums related to urban explorations and put countless questions to the people that still remember some of the old architectural configuration of the city. This all started in November last year and lasted until May 2016.
Then, the messenger bag on my shoulder and the camera in my hand, I began to discover the buildings I was told were still erected or I have read about. I have visited so far three of these abandoned places; but I decided by midsummer 2017 to capture as many of those that were left unexplored as possible.
The Old Squeaky Crane
The first relic that I visited was the rusted crane in Lasalle. Also called “the Coke Crane,” it is situated on the right bank of the Lachine Channel. Being 25 meters high building and definitely dominating the area, it is made almost exclusively of concrete beams and pillars; with one exception – at the first floor there’s a room with concrete floor that supports the engines.
This crane was previously used to unload coal from the boats that were arriving on the Lachine Channel. Built in 1930, this is all that is left of the LaSalle Gas and Coke Company; the whole steel structure is unused and has been rusting since 1977/1978.
In 2002, the “Coke Crane” was designated a monument of the National Historic Site of Canada.
During its times this crane was operated by a team of workers that unloaded the coal delivered by the boats into the railway cars, so as to be transported to the heating and electricity plant.
Being protected by a tall fence, I had to jump over it in order to be able to take some close pictures. I started to climb the rusted stairs but the higher I got the stronger the wind blew (despite of the fact that down there, street level, on that beautiful early summer morning there was no wind at all!). Everything was so squeaky and so spooky, with all those noises of metal against metal, of birds croaking being deranged by a human creature – that I gave up my ascension to the top.
Canada Malting Co.
The second on the list was a huge abandoned silo. The architectural complex was built in 1904 and until 1984 or 1985 there was a famous brewery. Situated between Saint Remy and Saint Ambroise Streets the unit is now abandoned and covered in graffiti.
Most of the entrances were sealed using steel plates to keep the homeless people out. Despite of my efforts I couldn’t find a way to get in.
Basically the complex is a main tall building and the adjacent silos – the last ones used to store malt.
In 1970 the Lachine Channel was closed to the naval trade and that decision forced the company to transport its malt by train only; around 1980, the building was way too small for the market demands of malt and the transportation costs were too high, so the company abandoned the site and moved somewhere else. By the end of the 80s the structure was emptied and left abandoned ever since. The ancient clay silos are now protected as part of the Lachine Channel National Historic Site. The acts of vandalism are visible everywhere and huge graffiti logos are displayed all around the ancient factory.
Where The Train Never Stops
The third abandoned place I visited was an old railway station that belongs to the Canadian National (CN). Situated in downtown Montreal, in the Griffin District (a pretty rich and cosmopolite area) the CN Wellington sits in silence, abandoned for more than a decade. Built in 1930, it ceased operating in 2000. During the “living years”, Wellington station was a distribution point for the City of Montreal for all sorts of merchandise.
Now it sits with the doors and windows covered with plywood, and the walls full of paintings. There’s a rumor flying around that says the City Hall has the intention to re-open the railway station by allowing some restaurants or coffee-shops to be opened there.