A Ghost Appears, But Not For Long


In a city with as many layers of history as Montreal, the demolition of a building usually entails the relevation of something else, like a ghost ad. I’ve written before about these old painted advertisements faded by time and the elements; they can be found in cities and towns right across North America and Europe, where the practice of painting advertisements on building sides was long ago usurped by billboards and other media. No matter how many I find in Montreal, though, there are always more lurking in tight corners, dark alleyways and, of course, behind brick walls.

Not too long ago I was walking down St. Denis Street when I noticed that the old building that housed L’Barouf had been completely demolished. (It caught fire in July and was badly damanged.) Behind the construction hoardings that separated its rubble from the street, I spotted the remnants of an old wall sign, mostly obscured by soot and debris. It’s pretty much illegible but a nice discovery nonetheless, just like the much more intact Lea & Perrins ad that was uncovered by another demolition on the Main. The owner of L’Barouf has vowed to rebuild as soon as possible, which means it won’t be long before this ad is hidden once again.


The old Coca-Cola ad on Ontario Street in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, near the corner of Valois, was never obscured by a building. In fact, judging by its use of Helvetica and the slogan “Coke, le vrai de vrai,” I would guess it was painted as recently as the early 1970s. (“Le vrai de vrai” is probably a translation of Coke’s 1969 slogan “It’s the real thing.”) Until recently, the ad loomed over a autobody shop, but the garage has been demolished and will soon be replaced by the Cours Valois, a three-storey apartment building. Like so many other painted wall advertisements in Montreal, this ghostly Coke ad will soon be entombed behind a brick wall.

In the end, though, that might actually be a good thing: there’s no better way to preserve a ghost ad than to protect it from sunlight, the rain and fresh air. If and when, decades from now, the Cours Valois is demolished, Montrealers will once again have another window into the past.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Friday October 05 2007at 01:10 am , filed under Canada, Heritage and Preservation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

2 Responses to “A Ghost Appears, But Not For Long”

  • Lily says:

    That old Coke ad was right near where I lived in Hochelaga last year, I always enjoyed it! Good sleuthing on the date of the slogan.

  • Reminds me of something I read last week when I was preparing for a book group I lead at the Outremont Library. L’Immeuble Yacoubian (The Youcoubian Building) was the topic, and I was looking for information about the author Alaa El Aswany. He’s a Cairo dentist and writer, whose novel about the people who live in a real apartment block has sold hundreds of thousands of copies around the world. El Aswany says he got the idea from watching a similar building being demolished–someone’s bedroom, another person’s living room, the outline of stairs on the wall of an adjacent building.

    The result–a couple of years and much reflection later–is a very good novel which was recently made into a film. Recommended reading.