Saint-Henri is well known as a historically French-Canadian, Irish and black working class neighbourhood. Often contrasted with wealthy Westmount looking down over the Falaise Saint-Jacques, in recent years it has been strongly affected by gentrification.
The area, historically known as Les Tanneries because of the artisans shops where leather tanning took place, was named for St. Henry via the Église Saint-Henri, which at one time formed Place Saint-Henri along with the community's fire and police station. Nearby, the bustle of a passenger rail station was immortalized in the song "Place St. Henri."
Saint-Henri is part of the municipal district of Saint-Henri–Petite-Bourgogne–Pointe-Saint-Charles. The borough hall for Le Sud-Ouest is located in Saint-Henri, in a converted factory, bearing witness to the borough's industrial heritage.
Église Saint-Henri was so named to commemorate Fr. Henri-Auguste Roux (1798–1831), the superior of Saint-Sulpice Seminary. The municipality of Saint-Henri was formed in 1875, joining the village of Saint-Henri and the surrounding settlements of Turcot, Brodie, Saint-Agustin and Sainte-Marguerite into one administrative unit. The municipality was incorporated into the City of Montreal in 1905.
Well-known people from Saint-Henri include strongman Louis Cyr, who served as a police officer there; the Place des Hommes-Forts and the Parc Louis-Cyr are named for him. Celebrated jazz pianist Oscar Peterson grew up in Little Burgundy which is the neighborhood adjacent to Saint-Henri. Stand-up comedian Yvon Deschamps has treated the daily struggle of Saint-Henri's citizens with humorous melancholy.
Saint Henri and Little Burgundy are considered to have a fairly common social makeup. Historically, Saint-Henri was occupied predominantly by European blue collar workers while Little Burgundy was occupied primarily by African-Canadians who worked on the railroads. Today, a multi-ethnic collage of people of varied social classes live in both neighbourhoods, especially in the recent housing developments that have sprouted along the Lachine Canal. A great number of teenagers from neighboring districts attend Polyvalente Saint-Henri and James Lyng High School (English Montreal School Board).
Depictions in literature and film
Saint-Henri has been the subject of two National Film Board of Canada (NFB) documentaries, each capturing one day in the life of the district. In 1962, Hubert Aquin directed À St-Henri le cinq septembre (September Five at Saint-Henri). In 2010, director Shannon Walsh and producer Sarah Spring oversaw a crew of sixteen videographers as they followed area residents during the course of one summer's day to make À St-Henri le 26 août, an NFB/Parabola Films co-production inspired by Aquin's cinéma-vérité classic.
Notable people from Saint-Henri
- Pat Burns - former police officer, NHL head coach and TV hockey broadcaster
- Yvon Deschamps - author, actor, comedian and producer
- Louis Cyr - strongman who served as a police officer in Saint-Henri, commemorated with a park, a square, and a statue
- 2011 Canadian census tracts 4620079 - 4620084
- Industrial Architecture of Montreal: Saint-Henri
- "Saint-Henri Fire Station". Images Montreal. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
- "Montreal Insites". Heritage Montreal. Retrieved 2009-11-15.
- "Trois architectes, trois quartiers : Ludger Lemieux (St. Henri), Ernest Cormier (Cité universitaire), Ernest Isbell Barott (St. Antoine)". Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
- Fraser, Malcolm (19 May 2011). "St-Henri revisited". Montreal Mirror. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
- Documentary film about the neighbourhood released in 2011, "St-Henri, the 26th of August"
- Parish oral history of part of Saint-Henri with a number of historical photographs.
- Aquin, Hubert. "September Five at Saint-Henri" (Requires Adobe Flash). Documentary film. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
- Saint-Henri Historical Society website.
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