Welcome to Hampstead

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Writers and journalists looking for a quick and easy symbol of Montreal’s political and linguistic divide usually find one in the city’s downtown west end. There, in the shadow of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, René Lévesque Boulevard turns into Dorchester Avenue as it crosses Atwater and passes from Montreal into Westmount, a remnant of the divisive legacy of nationalism in Quebec.

Symbolically, I’ve always thought that this streetcorner did Montreal an injustice. It’s too simple, too obvious. It doesn’t jive with the nuanced reality of the city’s everyday life.

A more representative streetcorner can be found further north, on the border between Montreal and Hampstead. On its west side, in Hampstead, a newish set of street signs marks the corner of Rue Macdonald Road and Rue Fleet Road. Right across the street, in Montreal, two much older signs, dating back to the 1950s, describe the corner simply as Macdonald and Van Horne, their English articles—“Ave.” and “St.”—covered by white tape.

About eight different varieties of street signs can be found within Montreal’s old city limits; that doesn’t include the two dozen other kinds of signs seen in former suburbs like Outremont or de-merged municipalities like Hampstead. As innocuous and quotidian as they might seem, these signs capture the real complexity of its social and political landscape.

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This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Sunday May 11 2008at 09:05 pm , filed under Art and Design, Canada, Society and Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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