To complete my Montreal walking tour trilogy, I present my impressions of St. Louis Square. A Victorian-era urban square similar in setting to the many city squares of Savannah, this area of the city is now a bohemian paradise. Just a block or two from the pedestrian street Avenue Laval, with buskers and endless outdoor dining, this grand-but-funky square is the perfect setting for a late afternoon stroll. I took out a few minutes to write in my journal as a impromptu jazz quartet blew some standards:
Victorian houses always have bright colors and incredible detailing. Since this neighborhood’s presumable decline and hippie-era gentrification, there is a wonderful sense of preservation and longevity. The crazy colors and gingerbread detailing suit the new inhabitants. Some scenes along the square:
The sense of scale is just about perfect. The adjacent streets have the best residential width (parking on each side and one driving lane), with the houses the correct height for the width. The street trees and small gardens in front were generally very well maintained and creatively planted.
Honey locust was a good tree choice for planting right up against the facade:
I love the variety. The New Urbanists must love this place – I certainly do.
A slightly-dilapidated old gem:
As I walked around this place, I was reminded of the book City Life by my favorite urbanist/writer Witold Rybczynski. At the beginning of the book the author describes a fellow-Montrealer’s remarks about visiting Paris; “why can’t our cities be like that?” There is no short answer; the author works on this question for hundreds of pages of lovely prose. Ironically, however, I find Montreal to be quite beautiful, compared to other say, more industrial North American cities.
This neighborhood is not unlike several in Baltimore, in which I live. I’ll have to do a few studies of Bolton Hill, Reservoir Hill… the sense of scale, grandeur and detailing is very similar. The ironwork and stonework is remarkably close. Also, the street layout is similar using the alley systems, which is my favorite feature of North American cities (well, those which preserved the alleys). I walked around back too… the houses push right up against the rear fence. Now we see the significance of those front balconies and gardens.
Some interesting street art was to be had:
Overall, this neighborhood had a calmness and scale that was at once both invigorating and relaxing. This theme crops up a lot in my urban walks – and I think much of it has to do with the lack of automobiles, the presence of trees and the variety of building style.
I’ll close with a random picture from Chinatown in Montreal. Lovely city, I do hope to get back for our project’s completion.