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First And Foremost: Old Montreal

Where it all began for Canada from colonial times through the past three centuries

By : Anthony Branco
montreal nightlife photo
montreal nightlife photo
montreal nightlife photo
montreal nightlife photo
montreal nightlife photo

As many will describe Old Montreal as Europe in a nutshell, cobble streets and historical architecture makes Old Montreal one of the most unique and traditional places in North America.

Archeologists discovered traces of Nomadic populations dating back from the Late Woodland Culture (1300 to 1550 A.D). In 1535, Jacques Cartier dropped by to name the island of Montréal “Mont-Royale” while Samuel de Champlain popped in during his 1611 voyage to name the area Place Royale, later changed to Pointe- -Callière.

On May 17th, 1642, a group of French settlers led by Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve attempting to convert the Natives to Catholicism named the area Ville-Marie, later to become known as Montréal. By 1685, some 600 colonists resided in their wooden homes and would go to the Marketplace to trade with Amerindians.

After multiple attacks attempted by the Iroquois on Montréal, the French town became a military force with a wooden wall surrounding the town. By 1717, after the war ended between England and France, the wooden wall was replaced with stones to fortify the town’s boundaries. And when New France fell on the Plains of Abraham to the English, Montréal surrendered without a single gunshot fired.

By the 1800s, much changed in Montréal, as it became a city with thousands of residents. Old Montreal (which is nestled between the downtown business district and the St-Lawrence River) was home to the residence and business district of the bourgeoisie. Demolishing the fortification of Montréal was approved in 1800 and finished in 1809. For the next 40 years, Montréal was hit with several riots due to political uprisings and conflicts, all the way to 1849 where it was no longer considered the capital city of Canada.

Montreal went under great expansion through the Industrial Revolution during the 1850s to the early 1870s. Larger buildings were constructed, working class boroughs soared in population, and railways linked Montreal to the entire continent.

Place d’Armes in 1888 was site of the first skyscraper in Montreal. It was eight storeys high and four years later it would also be the main junction of the first electric tramways. Many wealthy people began to spread to trendy neighborhoods outside today’s Old Montreal, yet city hall remained on Notre-Dame Street in the then city centre (today’s Old Montreal).

And through the two world wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s, Old Montreal was first considered “Old Montreal” in 1944 by a writer of the time. After World War II, constructors and developers leaned to the new downtown and by 1964, Old Montreal was declared a historic district. Putting some new in the old, Old Montreal has gone under many vintage facelifts to seek out and redevelop the historical landmarks and sites of today’s Old Montreal.

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