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.
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.