Chapter 4 IntroductionHochelaga 1500-1642Ville-Marie 1642-1665French Empire 1699-1763Small French Town 1665-1760Conquered City 1760-1800British Commercial Takeover 1800-1850Industrial City 1850-1896Canada's Metropolis 1896-1914North-American City 1914-1929Depression and War 1930-1945Modern City 1945-1960Québec's Metropolis 1960-1992ConclusionQuizEducational Resources

Urban development

A distinct society

Chapter 4 / SMALL FRENCH TOWN / Urban development  Previous pageNext page

From 1665 onwards, Montréal’s institutions and structures increasingly resembled those of a small provincial French town. The toponym “Ville-Marie” was abandoned: despite strong religious presence, the missionaries’ ideal gave way to commercial interests.

Urban development
Growing from approximately 600 inhabitants in 1663, Montréal’s population reached the 4,000 mark in 1754.

Around the island, rural settlement was organized according to a system of côtes, a group of farms and houses aligned along the St. Lawrence River or a road named after each côte. By 1731, about thirty of these groupings could be observed in the countryside surrounding Montréal.

An urban street grid was laid out parallel to the river, starting from Rue Saint-Paul and Rue Notre-Dame, then expanding as cross streets formed over time. Most of the city’s buildings were made of wood, which contributed to frequent fires. In the 18th century, well-to-do Montrealers built two-storey stone houses with pitched roofs. Some had cellars equipped with vaults to store merchandise. Less fortunate Montrealers gradually settled in wooden houses in the earliest faubourgs, or suburbs, which began to develop outside the city walls starting in 1730.

Crafts manufacturing was mostly intended for local use, employing construction workers, bakers, seamstresses, tanners, cobblers, cabinetmakers, blacksmiths, gunsmiths and coopers.

Religious convents, the Hôtel-Dieu and the Seminary were all surrounded by gardens. A parish church was built in the middle of Rue Notre-Dame, with Place d’Armes laid out next to it. Near the harbour, Place du Marché was the busiest part of the city. Farmers came to this bustling marketplace to supply city-dwellers with produce, while crowds attended public executions and punishments.

Plan of the Town
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