This article has been updated.
It’s not uncommon for big-city dwellers to stick to their familiar neighbourhoods and haunts.
The Old Lachine Walking Tour offers an opportunity to mix up the routine a bit and discover a perhaps less familiar area that happens to be rife with history. The two-hour, bilingual walking tours take place every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., until Oct. 7.
For many Montreal residents, Lachine is a place with pretty views of Lac St-Louis and a busy bike path.
In fact, the Montreal borough has a fascinating history that reaches back thousands of years.
Some 2,500 years ago, “the aboriginal people would come to the place where we now find the Lachine Museum to use the clay from a river bed that was dry eight months of the year to make their pottery,” tour guide Paul Racette said.
The 3.5-kilometre walking tour’s point of departure is the information centre in Lachine, located at Lock No. 5 of the Lachine Canal, at a junction formed by St. Joseph Blvd. in Lachine and Chemin du Musée and Chemin des Iroquois in LaSalle.
The walk ends at the 32nd Ave. pier, where participants board the Lachine water shuttle – called the Batobus – for a boat ride back to the information centre.
Racette first explains how Lachine got its name and why it became such an important stop on the international fur-trading circuit back in the day.
At its peak, after the Lachine Canal opened for business in 1825, 85 per cent of furs leaving North America for Europe passed through Lachine.
Walkers stop at the locks to learn how they work and then stroll through the waterfront park. They visit the old Dawes Brewery (est. 1811), the first business to open in Old Lachine. There’s no beer on tap, however. The former brewery is now a 320-seat performance space.
And if there’s interest, Racette turns off St. Joseph’s Blvd. to walk a few steps north on 12th Ave. to visit the tiny St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, one of the oldest Anglican churches in Canada. It recently celebrated its 189th birthday.
“At the church I talk about immigrants coming to settle in Lachine,” Racette said. “There were a lot of Irish and Scottish immigrants who came to Lachine when it was being established.”
There are stops at the Sisters of Ste. Anne Historic Centre, where visitors learn about life in a 19thcentury convent, and at the stately Lachine City Hall.
Racette said that Lachine has changed a lot over the last 40 years. The St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959 and shipping was stopped on the Lachine Canal in 1970. The closing of the canal resulted in an economic downswing in the area, but the borough is now being revitalized.
“I’m studying urban planning (at UQAM) and I look to the local markets to see how a neighbourhood is changing. Lachine’s market used to be small and not very interesting. It’s slowly growing in size and now you find really cool stuff there.”
The Old Lachine Walking Tour takes place every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m., until Oct. 7. Tickets cost $15. Reservations are required before 5 p.m. Friday. Call 5143644490. For information, visit www. oldlachine.com.
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