Neighbourhood Downtown

History

1650 1760

1650 - 1760

A rural landscape

What is now Montreal's downtown core was once covered by woodlands and the fields of Côte Saint-Antoine. This site was favoured as it was highly fertile, was protected from north-west winds, and faced the sun. The nearby Fort de la Montagne, a mission built in the late 17th century, welcomed various Amerindian nations that had been converted to Christianity and allied with the French. First located on the southern flanks of Mount Royal, it was moved to Sault-au-Récollet in 1696. The sector was then developed by the Sulpicians with orchards, farms, vineyards, and a stone quarry.

Image : HM_ARC_003120

Grand Séminaire de Montréal, Mountain (de la Montagne) Fort

14 cm
9 cm
© Dinu Bumbaru © Héritage Montréal


1650 - 1760

A rural landscape

What is now Montreal's downtown core was once covered by woodlands and the fields of Côte Saint-Antoine. This site was favoured as it was highly fertile, was protected from north-west winds, and faced the sun. The nearby Fort de la Montagne, a mission built in the late 17th century, welcomed various Amerindian nations that had been converted to Christianity and allied with the French. First located on the southern flanks of Mount Royal, it was moved to Sault-au-Récollet in 1696. The sector was then developed by the Sulpicians with orchards, farms, vineyards, and a stone quarry.

Image : HM_ARC_003127

Grand Séminaire de Montréal of Mountain (de la Montagne) Fort

8.9 cm
14.1 cm
© Dinu Bumbaru © Héritage Montréal


1761 1840

1761 - 1840

The bourgeois gentlemen of the north-west

After Montreal fell to the British, the population of what is now Old Montreal grew rapidly. Between 1801 and 1821, the fortifications were destroyed, allowing the city to expand westward. In the late 18th and early 19th century, part of what is now the downtown area was occupied by cemeteries (Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant).

Another sector belonged to a wealthy new social group: the barons of the fur trade and the international merchants; the McGills, Frobishers, McGillvrays, McTavishes, Desrivières, Guys, and others turned the area into a vacation spot with gardens, orchards, country homes, and ponds. Côte Saint-Antoine Road was the major thoroughfare, and around 1840, it was supplemented by Sherbrooke, Sainte-Catherine, and Dorchester streets.

Image : HM_ARC_004153

View of Montréal from the mountain

© Rare Books and Special Collections Division, McGill University Library, © Héritage Montréal


1761 - 1840

The bourgeois gentlemen of the north-west

After Montreal fell to the British, the population of what is now Old Montreal grew rapidly. Between 1801 and 1821, the fortifications were destroyed, allowing the city to expand westward. In the late 18th and early 19th century, part of what is now the downtown area was occupied by cemeteries (Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant).

Another sector belonged to a wealthy new social group: the barons of the fur trade and the international merchants; the McGills, Frobishers, McGillvrays, McTavishes, Desrivières, Guys, and others turned the area into a vacation spot with gardens, orchards, country homes, and ponds. Côte Saint-Antoine Road was the major thoroughfare, and around 1840, it was supplemented by Sherbrooke, Sainte-Catherine, and Dorchester streets.

Image : HM_ARC_002544

Plan of the Saint-Antoine cemetery in 1825

20.3 cm
30 cm
© Ville de Montréal, Gestion de documents et archives (Boîte 17-11-8-2 Dossier 3795.à 3795.11), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_001161

Montreal, From the Mountain
1839-1842, 19th century
12 cm
18 cm
© McCord Museum, (M20074), © Héritage Montréal


1841 1881

1841 - 1881

Montreal's New Town

Beginning in 1840, rich merchants such as John Redpath and Thomas Phillips sub-divided and developed their lands with the help of renowned architects such as John Ostell, creating a New Town for the wealthy. The shape and size of the lots varied, depending on the investor and the architect, but they were generally laid out in a rectangular grid pattern in the form of row housing - or townhouses - contiguous single-family homes with a uniform facade and a back lane.

The arrival of more Protestant Anglophones lead to the building of new Presbyterian, Anglican (Christ Church Cathedral), and Methodist (St. James) churches. During this same period, a synagogue was built along with the new Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur Catholic cathedral (now Marie-Reine-du-Monde) which was previously located in the Latin Quarter until it burned down in 1852. A few years later, in the interests of public health, the cemeteries were moved to the mountain.

The first trams of the Montreal City Passenger Railway appeared on St. Catherine Street and St. Lawrence Boulevard around 1864, with both of these streets becoming vibrant commercial hubs.

Image : HM_ARC_001978

Aerial view of the elevation plan of Royal Albert Bridge
February 17 1876
40 cm
55 cm
© Dinu Bumbaru, © Héritage Montréal


1841 - 1881

Montreal's New Town

Beginning in 1840, rich merchants such as John Redpath and Thomas Phillips sub-divided and developed their lands with the help of renowned architects such as John Ostell, creating a New Town for the wealthy. The shape and size of the lots varied, depending on the investor and the architect, but they were generally laid out in a rectangular grid pattern in the form of row housing - or townhouses - contiguous single-family homes with a uniform facade and a back lane.

The arrival of more Protestant Anglophones lead to the building of new Presbyterian, Anglican (Christ Church Cathedral), and Methodist (St. James) churches. During this same period, a synagogue was built along with the new Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur Catholic cathedral (now Marie-Reine-du-Monde) which was previously located in the Latin Quarter until it burned down in 1852. A few years later, in the interests of public health, the cemeteries were moved to the mountain.

The first trams of the Montreal City Passenger Railway appeared on St. Catherine Street and St. Lawrence Boulevard around 1864, with both of these streets becoming vibrant commercial hubs.

Image : HM_ARC_004261



86.3 cm
73.4 cm
© McCord Museum, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_004166

J. T. Ostell, Montreal, QC, 1876
1876
17.8 cm
12.7 cm
© McCord Museum, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_003548

Mary Queen of the World Cathedral (benediction of the first stone)
1870
© Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Albums de rues E.-Z. Massicotte – MAS 2-80a-a, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_000826

Christ Church Cathedral

16.5 cm
11.9 cm


Image : HM_ARC_003504

Tram lines on Saint-Laurent boulevard at the corner of Sainte-Catherine Street
1918
25 cm
20 cm
© Exporail (# P167), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_003507

Workers replacing the tram tracks at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Stanley
1933
25 cm
20 cm
© Exporail (# 1340A), © Héritage Montréal


1882 1938

1882-1938

The downtown core shifts

The railway network grew more complex with competition between the Grand Trunk Railway and the new Canadian Pacific (CP), founded in 1881. CP built Windsor Station, its head office and most imposing station, and then the prestigious Windsor Hotel. Montreal became the rail metropolis of Canada.

Following in the wake of Morgan's in 1891, major stores and businesses began to move from Saint-Jacques Street and Square Victoria (in what is now Old Montreal) to be closer to their wealthy customers, newly established in sumptuous new homes. Beginning in 1900, luxury apartments were built for members of the upper class, who wished to live in a convenient, centrally located, and sought-after location. Like hotels, elegant apartment buildings such as the Marlborough and Bishop Court offered shared services such as a telephone exchange and a service elevator. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (first built in Phillips Square), hotels, private clubs, churches, banks, elegant concert halls, and luxury businesses sprang up on and around Sherbrooke Street.

In the early 20th century, competition was still stiff between the railroads. Between 1910 and 1912, CP renovated and expanded Windsor Station, while in 1938 Canadian National (a merger of the Grand Trunk Railway and the Canadian Northern Railway), began to build Central Station. Electricity had come to the area in 1886, and the service sector now began to grow in importance. Skyscrapers built around Dominion Square (now Dorchester Square), around Phillips Square, and along Bleury Street began to transform the city's skyline. These included the Dominion Square Building, the Sun Life Building, the Acadia apartments, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the Unity Building, and many more. Montreal's downtown core was taking shape. Then the economic events triggered by the stock market crash of 1929 hit Montreal hard - particularly downtown businesses - and Toronto quickly began to pick up the slack.

Image : HM_ARC_003428

Windsor Station and Dominion Square

18.9 cm
24 cm
© HEC Montréal, © Héritage Montréal


1882-1938

The downtown core shifts

The railway network grew more complex with competition between the Grand Trunk Railway and the new Canadian Pacific (CP), founded in 1881. CP built Windsor Station, its head office and most imposing station, and then the prestigious Windsor Hotel. Montreal became the rail metropolis of Canada.

Following in the wake of Morgan's in 1891, major stores and businesses began to move from Saint-Jacques Street and Square Victoria (in what is now Old Montreal) to be closer to their wealthy customers, newly established in sumptuous new homes. Beginning in 1900, luxury apartments were built for members of the upper class, who wished to live in a convenient, centrally located, and sought-after location. Like hotels, elegant apartment buildings such as the Marlborough and Bishop Court offered shared services such as a telephone exchange and a service elevator. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (first built in Phillips Square), hotels, private clubs, churches, banks, elegant concert halls, and luxury businesses sprang up on and around Sherbrooke Street.

In the early 20th century, competition was still stiff between the railroads. Between 1910 and 1912, CP renovated and expanded Windsor Station, while in 1938 Canadian National (a merger of the Grand Trunk Railway and the Canadian Northern Railway), began to build Central Station. Electricity had come to the area in 1886, and the service sector now began to grow in importance. Skyscrapers built around Dominion Square (now Dorchester Square), around Phillips Square, and along Bleury Street began to transform the city's skyline. These included the Dominion Square Building, the Sun Life Building, the Acadia apartments, the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, the Unity Building, and many more. Montreal's downtown core was taking shape. Then the economic events triggered by the stock market crash of 1929 hit Montreal hard - particularly downtown businesses - and Toronto quickly began to pick up the slack.

Image : HM_ARC_002583

Windsor Station
1896
© Ville de Montréal, Gestion de documents et archives (D-51-2), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_002596

Dominion Square with view of the river
End of the 19th century
12.7 cm
17.7 cm
© Ville de Montréal, Gestion de documents et archives (Collection Gariépy G-1449), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_001928

Windsor Hotel, Dominion Square, Montreal

9 cm
13.7 cm
© Dinu Bumbaru, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_001164

Morgan's Store, St. Catherine Street, Montreal, QC, about 1900
About 1900, 19th century or 20th century
16 cm
21 cm
© McCord Museum, (MP-1985.31.78), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_001184

The Marlborough Flats, Milton Street, Montreal, QC, 1902
1902, 20th century
20 cm
25 cm
© McCord Museum, (II-142552), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_001176

Art Association building, Phillips' Square, Montreal, QC, about 1890
About 1890, 19th century
20 cm
25 cm
© McCord Museum, (VIEW-2543.A), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_004668

Front view of the Mount Stephen Club

12.7 cm
17.8 cm
© Ville de Montréal. Gestion de documents et archives (R-3350.2(1440).006), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_002872

St.James Club

© Dinu Bumbaru, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_003471

Windsor Station, expansion (corner of Peel)

© Canadian Pacific Railway Archives (# A-11 339), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_003612

Central Station (CN)

© Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_003027

Sun Life building, first phase of construction
July 18 1914
© Sun Life Financial, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_003029

Sun Life building after the second phase of construction
1926
© Sun Life Financial, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_003429

The Ritz Carlton and Sherbrooke Street

19 cm
23.8 cm
© HEC Montréal, © Héritage Montréal


1939 2008

1939-2008

A modern city

After a few bleak years, the downtown core began to be rebuilt. With the growing importance of the automobile, Dorchester Street (now René-Lévesque Boulevard) was widened in 1943. In the late 1950s, developers could erect buildings higher than ten stories, and significant infrastructure was built or completed in the 1960s. Canadian National completed its Central Station with the construction of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (1958) and Place Ville Marie (1962); the opening of the metro (subway) system in 1966 facilitated access to the downtown core. The building of Place Ville-Marie launched the development of Montreal's underground city, an innovative network of pedestrian tunnels linking buildings, terminals, offices, restaurants, cultural institutions, and downtown metro stations stretching from the Bell Centre to Place des Arts. The head office of Hydro-Québec (1964) and Complexe Desjardins (1976), both major rental buildings, were built. After a brief slowdown, new projects began to revitalize the city centre in the early 1980s, including projects surrounding McGill College Avenue, Complexe Guy-Favreau, and office towers occupied by the National Bank and Bell Canada.

Each day, Place des Arts, the numerous museums and galleries, retail businesses, offices, department stores, and hotels draw Montrealers, commuters, tourists, and suburbanites into the heart of the city.

Image : HM_ARC_003945

Dorchester Street

8.8 cm
13.8 cm
© Dinu Bumbaru, © Héritage Montréal


1939-2008

A modern city

After a few bleak years, the downtown core began to be rebuilt. With the growing importance of the automobile, Dorchester Street (now René-Lévesque Boulevard) was widened in 1943. In the late 1950s, developers could erect buildings higher than ten stories, and significant infrastructure was built or completed in the 1960s. Canadian National completed its Central Station with the construction of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (1958) and Place Ville Marie (1962); the opening of the metro (subway) system in 1966 facilitated access to the downtown core. The building of Place Ville-Marie launched the development of Montreal's underground city, an innovative network of pedestrian tunnels linking buildings, terminals, offices, restaurants, cultural institutions, and downtown metro stations stretching from the Bell Centre to Place des Arts. The head office of Hydro-Québec (1964) and Complexe Desjardins (1976), both major rental buildings, were built. After a brief slowdown, new projects began to revitalize the city centre in the early 1980s, including projects surrounding McGill College Avenue, Complexe Guy-Favreau, and office towers occupied by the National Bank and Bell Canada.

Each day, Place des Arts, the numerous museums and galleries, retail businesses, offices, department stores, and hotels draw Montrealers, commuters, tourists, and suburbanites into the heart of the city.

Image : HM_ARC_004694

Central station and buildings around

© Ville de Montréal. Gestion de documents et archives (VM94-A-105-6), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_004335

Place Ville Marie

© Courtoisie de SITQ -Place Ville Marie, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_004344

Shopping mall inside Place Ville Marie
1962
© Courtoisie de SITQ -Place Ville Marie, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_002045

Event on Place des Arts' esplanade

2.3 cm
3.4 cm


Image : HM_ARC_004728

CIBC Building

© Ville de Montréal. Gestion de documents et archives (VM94-A-618-4), © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_002043

Place des Arts' esplanade and the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal

2.3 cm
3.4 cm
© Fonds d’archives de la Société de la Place des Arts de Montréal, © Héritage Montréal


Image : HM_ARC_003109

Complexe Desjardins, facade (from Sainte-Catherine Street)

© Place Desjardins, © Héritage Montréal