Discovery of the nail: Jean Poitras. Historical commentary: Jocelyn Duff. Directing and filming for this video: Nicolas St-Germain.
We see a heron standing in the shallow waters, and then from the mills’ dike, Mr. Jean Poitras (JPo) tells us how he discovered an old nail as he was watching birds on the basin, upstream from the factories. The presence of a nail could be explained by the presence of railway tracks here when the Des Prairies River power plant was being built. He then talks to Mr. Jocelyn Duff (JD), architect. Duff explains how nail production was an important activity on the dike, as Montreal was in the process of greatly expanding its territory at the time.
JPo I often go on these bird-watching excursions in the Île-la-Visitation Nature Park, walking across the bridge and looking at the basins. I usually see herons, cormorants, or ducks.
As I was leaning on the railing, I felt something under my foot.
And it was this nail. It was a bit rustier back then. So I picked it up.
When I asked the Société d’histoire d’Ahuntsic-Cartierville about it, they told me that there was in fact a temporary railroad that had been built here to bring building materials for the construction of the hydroelectric power plant’s dike and dam, in 1929.
Perhaps that this nail was part of that rail system, and that, after its dismantling, it lay in the embankment until someone discovered it, by chance.
JD The mills on La Visitation Island had many functions, they produced flour, planks of wood for construction, and also nails.
In the middle of the 19th century, thousands of nails were manufactured right here, just behind me, that went into the construction of all the houses built during Montreal’s big population boom.