Words: Olivier Cadotte
Photography: Elisa Barbier

Pop-quiz, no peeking: what is the name of the eastern Montreal neighbourhood bordered by the St. Lawrence River to the east, refineries to the north, Sherbrooke St. East to the west, and Autoroute 25 to the south?

Welcome to Tétreaultville!

The City journalists, Olivier Cadotte and Elisa Barbier, packed up a camera and spent a few snowy days in late January discovering this oft-forgotten neighbourhood and chatting with some locals about its history and its future.

Retro-ville

The neighbourhood is named after Lord Pierre Tétreault, who purchased two plots of land in Longue-Pointe in 1896. Before that, this area of the island was all farmland, woodland, or both. Today, some elements of the woods remain, like Thomas-Chapais Park, located between Des Ormeaux St. and Pierre Bernard Blvd.

Tétreaultville offers plenty of retro charm: the famous shoebox houses built in the early 20th century are a common sight in the neighbourhood’s residential areas near the Honoré-Beaugrand metro station.

Shoebox homes dot Tétreaultville’s residential streets.

Other architectural leftovers from the 1950s and 1960s, like a cream-and-blue-painted depanneur that doubles as a t-shirt and cactus shop, stand out significantly.

A depanneur at the corner of Hochelaga St. and Desmarteau St. doubles as a t-shirt and cactus shop.

Much of Tétreaultville harkens back to a simpler time – or at least a different one. However, much of the charm has faded over the years.

A 2015 article from the local news blog, Pamplemousse Mercier-Est, covered 15 restaurants on Hochelaga St., pointing out the signage on almost all of them is like walking through a sad time machine. Three of the restaurants on that list have since closed.

Many of the older buildings in the neighbourhood are in grave disrepair. The Cinema Paradis, for example, was the movie theatre that helped launch the Guzzo empire in the 1970s. Today, with its rusted sign, boarded-up windows, and generally run down appearance, it stands on Hochelaga St. with no immediate plans for its future. There was a plan to transform it into an office building, but that hasn’t seen much movement since 2016.

The Cinema Paradis on Hochelaga St. has been abandoned for a decade.

Getting around

Everything in Tétreaultville is simultaneously very close, but very far away, especially if you don’t have a car. The closest metro station is Honoré-Beaugrand, all the way at the eastern end of the green line. From there, you need to take a bus for about 15 minutes to get to Tétreaultville-proper.

Very few buses serve the area, and they don’t come all that often. According to the STM schedule, the 26 bus, which runs along Hochelaga St., comes every 27 minutes when traffic and weather conditions cooperate. Meanwhile, the 186 and 189 buses, which serve the same street, come only every half hour. If you miss those buses and don’t have a car, you’re in for a long wait or a long walk.

“The buses [the 26 and 189] come so close together, that if you miss one, you’ve missed both. Then you have to wait a while,” said Tétreaultville resident and community volunteer, Madeleine Michaud. She’s lived in the neighbourhood for 11 years, but has even deeper ties to it through her sister, who called it home in the 1970s.

A small shoebox home sits squeezed between two buildings on Hochelage St.

A Forgotten Hub

Michaud has seen a lot of things happen in Tétreaultville, and worries about the neighbourhood’s decline she’s witnessed over the past years.

“We used to have a lot of business that were open for 10, 15 years, and now they’re closing. Everyone’s buying power is going away,” Michaud said about the stretch of Hochelaga St. that runs through Tétreaultville.

“Let’s admit it: there isn’t all that much around here,” added Stéphane Tremblay, general manager of the café at the Service d’éducation et de sécurité alimentaire de Mercier-Est (SÉSAME), an organization focused on food security and education in Mercier-Est, and one of the more popular spots in the neighbourhood. “When people go shopping, they go to the Galeries D’Anjou, or Place Versailles, or even downtown.”

When walking through Tétreaultville, several businesses with “for rent” signs can be seen. Many shops have closed their doors due to a lack of customers.

Looming Steel

The looming presence of heavy industry is omnipresent in Tétreaultville. Just down the street from SÉSAME you can see grey smoke billowing from the oil refinery smokestacks and factories on the other side of long barbed wire fences.

Air pollution has some Tétreaultville residents worried.

“A few of my friends, once they hit 50 [years old], they got lung diseases, almost every one of them,” said Serge Desjardins, a retired delivery truck driver who has lived in Tétreaultiville for decades.

“There’s a higher risk of arsenic poisoning in the air around here,” said longtime resident and police officer, Luc Tremblay, referencing reports about air pollution made public last fall. “I learned that from the news. I shouldn’t be learning things like that while reading the paper one day. They should tell us these things.”

While many of the Mercier-Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough’s factories have closed down over the years, a number of them still operate at the east end of Tétreaultville. The presence of heavy industry has some residents worried about air pollution and the impacts on their health.

Change (in the House of Tétreault)

The face of Tétreaultville has been shifting with new real estate developments. According to Stéphane Tremblay at SÉSAME though, it’s not necessarily the real estate developers or politicians that will make positive changes in the neighbourhood.

“Societal change comes from organizations and from the people in the neighbourhood itself. Remember, each neighbourhood has its own core of people that come to every consultation and meeting. People think it’s the city, but that’s not entirely true. It’s the people,” Tremblay said.

”Le Passeur” by MONK.E adorns a building at the corner of Hochelaga St. and A.-A.-Desroches St.