Towards the middle of the 19th century, Montréal embarked on a new chapter in its history, which would make it Canada’s most prominent industrial centre. The forces of industrialization would have a lasting effect on Montréal, shaping both the city and its population.
A prominent city
Montréal’s population grew from 107,000 in 1871 to over 267,000 in 1901. A rural exodus replaced immigration as hundreds of thousands of citizens left the countryside in hope of a better life. Most went to the United States, but many ended up in Montréal. New municipalities sprang up: Hochelaga to the east, Saint-Jean-Baptiste to the north and Saint-Henri to the southwest.
The city’s architecture was profoundly altered, and the flat roof and use of brickwork came into widespread use. The duplex appeared in working-class neighborhoods, evolving into the triplex, which in turn would eventually become the model for Montréal housing. With the introduction of steel structures and the elevator, the girth and height of new commercial buildings increased. Victorian architectural styles were abundant and widespread.
The city developed several public services, including an aqueduct, an underground sewer network and a Health Department. The city also inaugurated major parks, such as Mount Royal Park, La Fontaine Park and Sainte-Hélène’s Island.
Public services such as public transit, gas, electricity and the telephone, were managed by private companies. A horse-drawn tramway was inaugurated in 1861 and the electric streetcar followed thirty years later. The city’s gas utility had been operational since 1836, while the telephone would only make its appearance in 1877. Montréal’s many newspapers kept its citizens in touch with the outside world.