Saturday, March 30, 2013


Things almost didn't happened for me this week, 
and I have only myself to blame, 
being a procrastinator and waiting until the last minute to prepare everything... 
When I saw a couple of weeks ago 
the prompt picture for this weekend's edition of Sepia Saturday
I knew I'd take the theme into a certain direction 
to speak of one of the many culinary landmarks of Montreal, 
when I finally sat down to research my topic, 
nothing worthwhile came up!!! 
I was most disappointed, 
especially when comparing with everything I've got already for the following theme... 
So I had decided on Thursday to announce I was skipping this week, 
looking at the prompt and nothing inspiring coming up. 
The prompt showed a sign for a watchmaker 
and I had already done some kind of jewellery here
Another sign speaks of a florist and I did that when I presented some pictures "of a blind man", 
at our Botanical Garden
here and here.
And for that coffee lounge, 
I had already served you tea here
and coffee [or so I thought...] here
So, what now?!? 
I 've done coffee with you guys, 
but never "café"... 
Some will say 
"Aren't they one and the same?!?" 
Not quite, 
as you will see... 

St James Club
Montreal, 1884.

One of the oldest clubs still active in Canada, 
the St James Club was first situated on St-James Street
hence the name
(and I noticed that this was only a street away from where I nearly got hit by a truck last week 
I actually walked by that place and didn't even know it'd be part of this post. 
See a recent view I found on the web), 
in a somewhat modest house built in 1845, 
called the Marie-Emilie Berthelet House
They held a first reunion in 1857 
and sought incorporation in 1858. 
See the document here
It quickly moved to a new location on Dorchester Street
(now Rene Levesque Street), 
near University Avenue
This is what you see here above, 
a Victorian building by J.W.Hopkins
where they moved into in 1864. 
It was meant to be a gathering place for Montreal's elite, 
for business and relaxation. 
Many deals may have been settled there 
among businessmen and politicians; 
we have a commission that is looking into corruption 
between [current] politicians and businessmen, 
breaking the law about fair business and taking bribes to sway decisions 
about various projects in favor of those who gave that money. 
I wonder if back then, 
business was [always] done properly 
as ethics would dictate... 
I am not insinuating that shady deals happened 
among its illustrious members, 
many who shaped the city's history and destiny, 
just that politics and money make odd bedfellows...

St James Club's Café
Montreal, 1894. 

Imagine yourself enjoying coffee or a stiff drink 
while chatting up some fellow members 
about current affairs and other small talk. 
An elegant surrounding offering dining and relaxation in a private setting, 
away from prying eyes. 
the city had its eye on the building during the mid 1950s 
because of a major project they were planning, 
the building of Place Ville Marie
and the club got an eviction notice in 1958, 
despite being a reputable institution and the building near a century old. 
The notion of heritage didn't impress politicians back then 
as they saw only progress, 
and nothing would stand in their way.  
It happened in many instances. 
Still does sometimes...

The club relocated nearby, 
on Union Street
in 1961, 
to what is still its current location
offering the same excellent services to its members.
If this was once a gentleman's club only, 
women have been admitted since the 1970s. 
With the Women's Lib Movement 
and women becoming gradually a force by sheer number  to be reckoned with, 
it would have been nonsense to keep them excluded from the club.

St-Louis Café and Tavern
Montreal, 1925.  

A less exclusive establishment, 
by the looks of it... 
but surely it was convivial enough back then 
to satisfy its regulars. 
Its location caused me a dilemma though... 

At first, 
I wondered if the "St Louis" referred to what used to be 
Village St-Louis, 
an old district in the northern part of Montreal, 
in what we now call the Plateau Mont-Royal and the Mile End. 
But the type of building and paving of the street made me think of another part of town, 
and its clear affiliation with the Dawes Brewery in Lachine 
makes me think I am right 
and that this tavern was situated on St-Louis Street, 
in Lachine as well. 
That would be the arrow on your left on the map. 
A more modest part of town 
where workers would gather for a brew [or coffee, though unlikely...] 
after a long day's work. 
They perhaps were not part of the decision making that would influence their life, 
but they made life happen with the blunt force of their arms and sweat on their brow 
through various jobs to provide for their families, 
part of a community that stood together in solidarity. 
Lachine is a very old district, 
going back to the early days of the [French] colony. 
Situated just before the Lachine Rapids
it had trading posts for furs and other goods in demand at that time, 
but also forts to defend themselves against Iroquois in the 1600s... 
As centuries passed by and it became obvious the "pale faces" were not going anywhere, 
they became a permanent fixture on the island of "Ville Marie". 
The British eventually conquered the French colony, 
and as they say
the rest is History!!! 

Back to Dawes
Thomas Dawes established his brewery in 1811, 
starting an economic boom in that sector, 
bringing in labor and development [over a few decades, mind you...] 
of all  the necessary services to sustain a population, 
like transport, electricity and sanitation. 
Other companies followed suit, 
tapping in this new work force for bridges and railroads, 
among others. 
The Lachine Canal was dug between 1821-25 and inaugurated in 1826, 
thus securing safe transport on the waterway for neighboring companies, 
and also on train tracks lining the canal 
and connecting to the Port of Montreal
a vital part of our economy.

Here's a lovely bird eye view of the canal. 
If I've inserted a link above for the Lachine Canal in its sepia days... 
here is a link for a modern view or even here
It is a lovely location!!! 
Once more, 
back to Dawes!! 
Can't you feel that this is the middle of the night 
and I am spinning this post out of proportion?!? 
Well I am!! 
I just keep on adding stuff. 
Somebody stop me!!! 
As I was about to say, 
Dawes Brewery and its founding family were influential in the development of Lachine
getting involved in its politics, 
building churches and a general hospital und so forth... 
The 20th century was not so kind to them, 
what with the American prohibition, 
a fusion with the National Breweries Ltd consortium, 
and the crash in the late 1920s... 
the company survived until it was sold in 1952. 
It remained in the collective memory of Quebecois for a long time, 
and favorably so. 
The Dawes' involvement in the community was perceived most positively, 
their contribution is undeniable.

Coffeeshop Talk
Montreal, 1991. 

By Aislin
another institution, 
one of our best known cartoonists who, 
among other things, 
graced the pages of the Montreal Gazette since 1972 with his work. 
I grew up with his work!! 

Café Holt Renfrew
Montreal, 2013. 

I have been to many cafés in my life, 
but I have no pics to show for except, 
a recent visit to Holt Renfrew's Café
where I shared lunch with a friend of mine. 
Fine fare and a glass of wine went down easy. 
And yes, 
I had espresso!! 

not bad for someone who had absolutely nothing to say this week. 
Brace yourselves, 
I have plenty to say next week!!!! 
I should be better prepared this time...
You can now go for your next serving at 
One lump or two?!? 

Legit Sepians can join our Facebook page for info and fun, 
as always... 


  1. Bruno! You Have Posh Coffee in Montreal!

    1. And you, you have Posh Spice!!!
      I'll keep my Cafe and leave you with Mrs Beckham...

  2. You have made an interesting observation about the democratic nature of coffee. While wine and champagne and brandy seem to belong in the world of the wealthy and beer claims the blue collar workers, coffee is equally at home in both worlds.

    1. I've had coffee in the best of places, and in the worst too!!
      Unfortunately, it is rarely any good.
      I like mine strong, not some dishwater...

  3. I was drawn to the brewery floor, mainly because of the figures in it. Interesting to read of the company's fortunes. I can't see those clubs being to my liking, but then I'm hardly likely to receive an invitation, am I?

    1. You and me both!!!
      I've been approached in the past,
      about some private club of some kind,
      and to tell you the truth, pretentious and over rated!!!
      They didn't survive long...
      I had brought guest whom they found "unsuitable".
      We were there only for a drink before going elsewhere,
      not to spend the whole evening there.
      Never went back, never regretted it!!
      And now, the way I look, the only club I might be invited to
      would be a Hell's Angels Club ...
      and even so...

  4. The stuff on the plate looks very colorful and artistic, but I have no idea what it is.

    1. Ah, my dear!!Thesecret lies in the "links"...
      You would have found out, looking at the Montreal menu,
      that this is one of their famous "tartines",
      Caprese in this instance, oven-roasted tomatoes, Mozzarella, roasted garlic and fresh basil.
      Yummy, according to my friend.
      One of her faves, at any rates!!!

  5. This was just a wonderful excursion! From the highs to the lows and in between. I'm guessing there was a lot of "shhhhhhhhing" in the men's club. The sound of tea spoons in cups probably caused glares over the tops of newspapers.

    1. A bunch of guys together?!?
      I doubt very much this was a quiet place...

  6. "Ticklebear" and "nothing to say" do not belong in the same sentence. Loved the pictures this week : both the images and the writing were full of beery eloquence.

    1. so it would seem...

      Including a mention of a brewery is always winning with you, isn't it?!?
      We sure had a fine tradition here in Montreal in these matters.

  7. I would really have liked to be able to go to that St James Club Café with the leather sofa, Sheer decadence.

    1. Yeah, it looks great with its short arm rests.
      I prefer the curved one by the window, personally.
      So we could have each our own spot there!!

    2. So you two are hogging the comfy seats. I rest my case (see my comment).

    3. Of course!!!
      First arrived, first served!!
      I prefer a couch to a chair anyway.
      Got my leather couch here, but no living room chairs.
      just ottomans that the cats can lay down on,
      or people sit down on those too.

  8. Where two or three are gathered together there will always be corruption (to investigate). I'm afraid it's rife here too. For the exchange of a 'brown envelope' it's amazing what can be achieved. I am actually a member of a club in London - don't laugh - and I stayed there once :) The RAF club, due to my husband serving in the Forces. You'd have thought the St James club cafe could have provided more comfortable leather seats, instead of cane or wicker ones - smacked too much of colonialism.

    1. Yeah, these chairs also surprised me.
      But then you mentioned colonialism...
      Since many where British or Scottish,
      their taste is hardly a surprise,
      and Montreal used to be a French colony,
      now under the control of the British Crown,
      hence the colonialism.

      I wonder:
      does one need a lack of ethic to gain power and money,
      or does one lose all ethics when accessing such power?

      You, a club? The RAF, of course!!
      Do they have better chairs?!?

  9. For a man with nothing to say, you have done quite well! Sometimes Sepia Saturday offers the opportunity for free association and leads to unexpected places.

    1. And this post is a prime example of that!!!
      Glad you liked!!

  10. Another fine tour - even if a bit short on content. :-)
    I took the link to the New St. James club and found the interior panoramic views. Nothing special compared to the earlier club. The tall ceiling, the woodwork details, the fine furnishings were as important as the old building. That kind of craftsmanship was once common in every club, high and low too. Just like good coffee at a fair price.

    1. I'll try to do better next weekend, promised!!

      Indeed you are right, the craftsmanship just isn't the same anymore.
      I wonder if, is it because people are unwilling to pay for it,
      or is it because we no longer have the craftsmen to do this kind of work properly?
      Pity the original got demolished...

  11. No lumps just hot and black.... it's funny at times I've ordered "just black coffee please" through those drive-ups and they always ask do you want cream????????? Well once again for a man with nothing to say...Ha! Ha! You sure gave me lots to chew with my coffee or is that wine now? Can't wait to see what you have in store for our next SS! Enjoy your week, it's coming up to Saturday soon....BTW did you catch Kat's post on FB about her new plans for SS??????????

    1. I'll do my best but nothing is written yet.
      I do have some photographic material
      but writing is what takes me the longest...
      I'm not a writer, you know?!?...

      Yes, I saw her comment and have answered it.
      I am also resigning as admin.
      Marilyn will do just great, I'm sure!!

  12. One of my ancestors worked in small breweries in South Australia in the 1800s and I've never really checked out what his work conditions would have been like. Your blog has prompted me to do some research.

    1. It can't have been easy but do let us know about your findings!!


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