an old building dating back to 1867 here in Montreal,
back when the francophone bourgeoisie lived in this district,
the Square Viger,
now a patrimonial legacy of our past.
created in 1886,
established its headquarters in this building in 1909,
(I read this somewhere but this detail remains unconfirmed by other sources...),
where the French community could gather together for various activities and celebrations.,
and offer services to those in need.
They still do on some degree nowadays.
I went for a short visit during my lunchtime yesterday to have a closer look at this building.
It shows some damages but still stands after all of this time,
a jewel of its era.
You see above a close-up of "Marianne",
French symbol of the Motherland,
gazing upon the evolution of the modern world,
and indifferent toward the junkies and homeless folks
wandering through the park across the street,
day and night...
even if something seems to be missing underneath her clasped hands.
I love this medallion between her breasts and her Empire style dress.
another proud symbol of the French people.
The facade still commands attention as you walk or drive by.
Long gone are the days when L'Union Francaise welcomed French immigrants
freshly off the boats that crossed the Atlantic to bring them on an exciting journey,
a new life far away from home perhaps,
but nonetheless full of hope in this [still] young country,
when you consider History itself in general.
Its archives are now preserved in another building nearby,
the BanQ (Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec),
another architectural monument of the Square Viger.
It is a little difficult to grasp the importance the Union had for so many
upon their arrival in the "New World",
how many needed assistance to settle in,
just how many climbed these steps
and gazed out these windows to have their first look at their new "home",
full of apprehension and dreams all at once.
To emigrate takes a certain force of character,
to uproot yourself totally from everything familiar and comforting
to embrace a new life set by different standards.
Surely it was reassuring for them to find themselves behind these walls for a little while.
Those familiar with my photography already know
that I like looking at things up close,
seeking details many wouldn't even pay attention to...
This door at the basement with its mail slot at the bottom...
Where postmen back then "midgets"?!?
I find this odd,
given the snowstorms we had back then,
that there would be an opening so low
that the snow could filter in,
or that it would be buried under snow,
making it impossible to leave mail in there.
Just a thought!!!
Try imagining just how many have turned this door knob,
the way they were dressed,
the things they carried with them,
things salvaged from an old life,
a few precious memories and possessions.
I like how this reflect a little the modern life surrounding it,
like an ever changing time capsule.
I took a peek at their backyard.
It needs some work...
But I was pleased to see those old balconies,
and that modern fire escape,
very graphic in its shape.
I also noticed...
I also noticed,
to the left,
a small terrace,
a convenient place for a morning coffee,
the occasional smoke...
or even a glass of wine shared by friends as dusk settles over the city.
But that is just my imagination taking over...
I leave you with this,
as I noticed,
from the angle I was standing at,
that people appeared to be walking by right underneath "Marianne"'s hands.
"Come here so that I can crush you!!"
No innocent bystanders were hurt in the process,
especially as this one was wearing his hard hat,
a consequence of the many construction sites around in the area.
As I was taking my pictures,
a young woman came out to greet me.
French by her own admission,
and her accent still fresh from the old country,
she was excited to let me know
that she and three other French women were now there
to revive L'Union Francaise,
and make it a vital part in the life of the French community in Montreal.
I did notice that it seemed to have gone into a lull these last few years.
Back in the 1990s,
when I was living just a street away from there,
activities were frequent but not so much lately.
Nice to hear this is about to change.
"Nous sommes unis par la langue
et réunis par le Québec".
127 years of history,
how many lives were affected here,
one can hardly imagine the scope of its importance,
welcoming newcomers and preserving a language and traditions in the New World.
May the organization and the building both enjoy long life and prosperity!!
I have found a document about the organisation's creation in 1886.
For those who understand French,
this should prove interesting.
You'll find it HERE.
In my research,
I also came across a short article [written in English] about a man
who held position at the Union for a while,
an interesting fellow by all accounts,