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Hector Barsalou

23 March 2017

When technological progress started knocking on the doors of cities at the start of the 1920s, over 6,000 cars could be found on the streets of Montreal. The demand for easy access back and forth to the South Shore gave rise to the project for the Jacques Cartier Bridge, which involved many engineers from North America.

To make this ambitious project a reality, residents on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River (Ville-Marie today) had to pay a high price. In 1926, a series of expropriations forced many Montrealers to give up their homes and businesses so that the Jacques Cartier Bridge could be built. However, one business-owner named Hector Barsalou flat-out refused to move his soap factory.

Did you know that we owe the Jacques Cartier Bridge’s Montreal curve to Hector Barsalou?

The son of businessman Joseph Barsalou, Hector took over the reins of his family’s soap factory with his brother. The entrepreneur then developed a new technology that allowed the factory to produce 6,000 pounds of soap in an hour and a half instead of one week. With this increased production, the Barsalou brothers could sell their soap to middle and lower class families instead of to just the affluent.

Since their business was booming, the two brothers declined the purchase offer from the corporation in charge of building the bridge. As a result, the bridge designers had to find another option, and the engineers came up with the idea of curving the bridge as it approached the island, earning it the nickname “the crooked bridge.” As for the soap factory, you can still find it at 1600 De Lorimier Avenue.

Today, our prevailing expropriation laws only allow landlords to refuse government demands and force change to large-scale projects in very rare cases.