First Flat – Édifice de l’Alliance Nationale

Édifice de l'Alliance Nationale ca. 1920

My first flat in Montréal, all the way back in the early spring of 2006, was in this building. It still stands across the street from the National Archives building (formerly Dawson’s Viger campus, formerly HEC) at the intersection of Labelle and Viger) though as you can see below, the western portion was demolished some time ago.

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My room was on the west side, second floor – the room with the open window in the photo above.

I lived there with an oddball mix, which included a circuit-bending slacker-musician and a militantly progressive photographer-libertarian with a quintessential mid-Californian accent. Various others came and went making use of the larger surface area and cubby-hole design of the apartment. There was a back staircase that opened into one of the rooms (which was piled high with assorted garbage), a crawlspace large enough for one of our itinerant guests to propose sleeping in, and a closet similarly fashioned into a room. The common spaces were so exceptionally large it became the de facto party house of Concordia’s Liberal Arts College, which we all attended. Viger House, as it was known, saw some pretty epic parties over a solid stretch nearly a decade ago.

The flat was oddly designed and seemed a bit thrown together – as if it was actually an assembly of of other discarded buildings. Rent, as you might imagine, was exceptionally cheap. I discovered later on the building had once been the siege sociale of an insurance firm that would eventually get folded into Industrielle Alliance.

Odd part of town that – on the edge of everything yet seemingly distinct, the area around Viger Square could use a redesign and reconceptualization. That said, I wonder what the land value will be like once the new CHUM superhospital is completed? Though I’m sure it will increase, and that the new hospital will assist in the gentrification of the eastern fringe of the city centre, the area is so much of a ghost town it makes me wonder if the design of Viger Square (which tends to limit lines-of-sight and attract a lot of unsavoury activities) doesn’t pose the greater problem.

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