October 2006

page 3

Understanding the Built Form of Industrialization along the Lachine Canal in Montreal

Desmond Bliek and Pierre Gauthier


This article tracks the morphogenesis of one of the birthplaces of Canadian industry: the Lachine Canal corridor in Montreal. The authors propose a reading of the evolution of the artifacts and spatial forms to be found along the canal from its construction starting in 1819. This work complements the history of Montreal’s industrialization and working-class communities by offering the untold story of a piece of the city whose birth and long sedimentation of built forms testifies to the emergence, peak, and decline of a new industrial order. The urbanization of the Lachine Canal corridor is, we argue, the result of a complex dialectic between a residential spatial order of the faubourg and a first- and second-generation industrial spatial order. Accordingly, the fine folds and articulations of domestic space and the sidewalks, streets, and church steps that are the sites of socialization and exchange succeed, or have imposed upon them a divided space organized by the flows of goods, materials, and energy destined to serve the industrial machine. The urban tissues, residential and industrial, today testify through their artifacts and spatial configurations to the historical conditions that saw them created and transformed.
page 18

From Summer Cottage Colony to Metropolitan Suburb: Toronto’s Beach District, 1889–1929

Nik Luka


Over four decades beginning in the 1890s, the east-end Toronto district now known as “The Beach” was transformed from a summer second-home setting into a metropolitan suburb dominated by the middle classes (occupationally defined). Using a systematic random sample drawn from the municipal property tax assessment rolls for the study area at six intervals from 1889 to 1929, along with narrative examples and illustrative analyses of growth and change in urban form, this paper examines three compelling aspects of this transformation. First and foremost, this district is a fine example of pre–Second World War suburban growth: slow, piecemeal, and inconsistent in pattern and form, as now reflected in its eclectic built form and fine-grained mix of housing types. “The Beach” is also a place-based example of how metropolitan social geographies were being sorted out from within by user groups early in the twentieth century. Without becoming exclusively or solely a middle- class district, the Beach came to be dominated by the middle classes—typifying the “weave of small patterns” that characterized the social fabric of the early North American metropolis. Finally, the term cottage colony is used quite deliberately, for it appears that the Beach’s role as a summer leisure destination was instrumental in spurring its transformation into a middle-class suburb, imbuing it with particular qualities that enhanced (or ensured) its desirability. In effect, this district’s “summer cottage” period was a telling prelude to its emergence as a markedly middle-class district in Toronto of the 1920s and later.
page 32

A Regional Perspective on Canadian Suburbanization: Reflections on Richard Harris’s Creeping Conformity1

Larry McCann


Richard Harris’s recently published Creeping Conformity offers a carefully reasoned interpretation of the country’s evolving suburban landscape from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. In particular, Harris argues that Canadian suburbs have passed from a state of diversity to one of conformity. No longer are suburbs a jumble of land uses and social classes. Instead, through the initiative of large, vertically integrated corporations, supported by federal mortgage and other fiscal policies, suburbs have become more middle class, yielding to a “conformity” in the shaping of their physical design and social make-up. This paper suggests that factors of a distinctive regional character—for example, corporate land development in western Canadian cities before World War I and provincial town planning and zoning legislation in the 1920s—require elaboration within the “diversity to conformity” model. Once done, we can then speak more assuredly about how, when, and to what extent “conformity” has emerged to distinguish Canada’s suburban landscape.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required