A Montrealer once penned a famous short story about a neighbourhood that went undetected by municipal bureaucrats. When the top Montreal bureaucrat found out that the whole area had been left undetected due to a lost filing cabinet card, he went to visit it and found a paradise on earth where people got along well and did not suffer at all due to the lack of attention.
One might put the area of Snowdon on the list of candidates for such a paradise as it maintains no official status as a separate neighbourhood, instead it is just an unofficial area of the giant Cote-des-Neiges/Notre-Dame-de-Grace borough, a massive aera – which would be the 30th largest city in Canada if it were so classified – which contains a large English and allophone population. So fond have residents been of their experience in Snowdon that one writer compiled two large volumes of happy memories of people who lived in the area.
The flagship of the area is the magnificent art-deco Snowdon Theatre which ended its movie-showing days decades ago and fell into the hands of the city after its owner failed to make a renovation into a shopping outlet a success. The city – after pettily francicizing the marquee – rented out the space to a popular gymnastics club where hundreds of girls would participate in a sport that received far less funding than the male-intensive sport of hockey.
The borough, however, decided they would sell the building and evicted the gymnastics club, which still has no adequate facility, leading many girls to quit the sport. Borough representatives kept a close lid on the file, refusing an access to information request to find out what was happening with the then-boarded up building as Borough Mayor Russell Copeman, veteran Snowdon City Councillor Marvin Rotrand offered no plans on saving the magnificent art-deco treasure. Mayor Denis Coderre, for his part, offered $5 million to improve baseball diamonds, about the same amount that is considered necessary to rehabilitate the building, which the city allowed to fall into ruin due to poor maintenance.
Due to city’s negligence the repairs to the structure would now require about $5 million, which might seem steep but is in the same ballpark as the money pledged to the baseball diamond project and about the same price as a moderately-sized community centre building placed elsewhere in the borough.
Last Saturday a fire was set off inside the structure, due no doubt to inadequate supervision of the premises and prevention from squatters. The cost of repairs is now undoubtedly that much higher and the many girls who once practiced the sport are now on to other things, with a new crop of girls never knowing the joys of the sport.
The building itself, which is a significant heritage treasure for the area, looks doomed as well. Meanwhile city bureaucrats, many of whom appeared hostile to the notion of such a brazenly English-speaking enclave within the borough, will soon continue to attempt to peddle off the property, with the fanciful idea that its new owner might proposed to do something other than demolish it.
There’s a facebook page to save the theatre as well. LINK
Kristian Gravenor is the Montreal journalist behind the Coolopolis website and author of the upcoming Montreal: 375 Tales of Eating, Drinking, Living and Loving
Photo: Facebook photo Yanni K.