1902 Encyclopedia > Montreal, Canada


MONTREAL, the largest city in the Dominion of Canada, its chief seat of commerce and principal port of entry, is situated on an island of about 30 miles in length and 7 in breadth, at the confluence of the rivers Ottawa and St Lawrence, 45° 32' N. lat. and 73° 32' W. long. It stands at the head of ocean navigation, 160 miles above Quebec, and nearly 1000 miles (986) from the Atlantic Ocean, and lies at the foot of the great chain of river, lake, and canal navigation which extends westward through the great lakes. Montreal is built upon a series of terraces, the former levels of the river or of a more ancient sea. Behind those rises Mount Royal, a mass of trap-rock thrown up through the surrounding limestone strata to a height of 700 feet above the level of the river. From this rock the city derives its name, though its original founder, Paul de Chomedey, sire de Maisonneuve, in 1642, gave it the name of Ville-Marie, when it was dedicated with religious enthu-siasm, not as a centre of commercial enterprise, but as the seat of a mission which aimed specially at the conversion of the native Indians. The modern city of Montreal occupies an area of about eight square miles,—its principal streets running parallel with the river. On the north side of the Mountain the Trenton limestone approaches the surface, and is there quarried for building purposes. Of this grey limestone most of the public edifices and many of the better class of private dwellings are built. But both brick and wood are largely used for workshops and private houses of a humbler class. The western slope of the Mountain is occupied by the Côte des Neiges (Roman Catholic) ceme-tery, and the Mount Royal (Protestant) cemetery. The upper portion of the Mountain, embracing an area of 430 acres, is now laid out as a public park, with fine drives shaded by well-grown trees. From its commanding site, and the wide expanse of the valley of the St Lawrence, the views on all sides are of great variety and beauty. A well-cultivated and wooded country, watered by the Ottawa and the St Lawrence, stretches away on either hand, being bounded on the west by the lakes of St Louis and the Two Mountains, and on the distant horizon by the Laurentian Hills, the Adirondacks, and the Green Mountains of Vermont. On the east side the city occupies the slope towards the river St Lawrence, which has here a breadth of from one to two miles. Two islands, the Nun's and St Helen's Isles—the latter rising to a height of 150 feet, beautifully wooded, and laid out as a public park—occupy the bed of the river immediately below the Lachine Falls, and between them the river is spanned by the great Victoria Bridge. This wonderful triumph of engineering skill is a tubular iron bridge supported on twenty-four piers of solid masonry, with the terminal abutments of the same, an 1 measuring 9184 feet in length. The river descends at the rate of 7 miles an hour at the point where it is thus crossed; and the

Plan of Montreal.
1. M'Gill College.
2. Christchurch Cathedral (Episcop.)
3. Church of the Gesu.
4. St Peter's Cathedral.
5. Railway Station.
6. Notre Dame.
7. Champ de Mars.
8. Court House.
9. City Hall.
10. Bonsecours Market.

piers are constructed with a view to resist the enormous pressure of the ice in spring. Near at hand the towers, spires, and domes of numerous churches and public build-ings rise from the general mass of houses. The wharves and docks are crowded with shipping during the season of navigation, for the St Lawrence is navigable to Montreal by the largest ocean steamers. But immediately above the city the river is impeded by a natural dyke of trap and limestone which here arrests the waters in their descent, forming the Lake St Louis at a height of 44 feet above the level of Montreal harbour. The river here forces its way through a channel of about half a mile wide, with a rapidity of about 18 miles an hour, forming the Lachine or St Louis Rapids. Owing to the immense volume of water concentrated in a narrow channel, steamers drawing ten feet of water are safely navigated down the rapids, but these necessarily present an insuperable barrier to the ascent of the river. This is accordingly surmounted by means of the Lachine Canal, which, commencing at the port of Montreal, passes round the falls by a series of locks, in a course of nine miles, to Lake St Louis, opposite the Indian village of Caughnawaga. The fall of water in the canal furnishes water-power for saw-mills, boiler and1 engine works, sash, blind, door, edge-tool, and other factories, established on its banks. Sugar-refining has. also been carried on here with great profit. Woollen and cotton mills, silk factories, a large rubber factory, rope and cordage works, boot and shoe factories, <fec, are likewise: organized on an extensive scale. The water supply of Montreal is derived from the river above the city; and,, after passing along an open canal 5 miles in length, it is raised to a reservoir excavated out of the solid rock on the east slope of the Mountain, 205 feet above the level of the harbour.

The circumstances attendant on the foundation of Montreal, anoT: the marked contrasts in its mixed population of French and English,, give a peculiar character to its religious and benevolent institutions. This has led to the multiplication of churches, colleges, convents, and religious and charitable foundations, and to a rivalry in the zeal of their promoters, one result of which is seen in the scale and imposing character of many of their buildings. The Metropolitan Cathedral of St Peter, designed to reproduce on a reduced scale-the chief features of St Peter's at Rome, was projected by Bishop Bourget after the destruction of his church and palace in the great, fire of 1852. It occupies a prominent site in Dorchester Street, at the corner of Dominion Square ; and, when surmounted by the projected dome and finished in front with its classic facade, it will form a striking feature in the general view of the city. The parish church of Notre-Dame, on the Place d'Armos, affords, accommodation for 10,000 worshippers. The Jesuits' Church is> another large church, elaborately painted in the interior. Near it is the College of St Mary. Christchurch Cathedral (Protestant)-is a fine specimen of Decorated Gothic, built externally of the-native limestone, but with the chief facings and carvings of the exterior and the whole of the interior of fine Caen stone. It was. erected under the direction of Bishop Fulford, the first Anglican bishop of Montreal, to whose memory a memorial cross, after the model of the Queen Eleanor crosses, has been erected on the south-side of the cathedral. The other churches of the various Protest-ant denominations include St George's, Anglican, St Andrew's and St Paul's (Presbyterian), St James Street Methodist Church, the Church of the Messiah, Unitarian, &c.

The Hotel Dieu, founded in 1644 for the cure of the sick, now occupies a building at the head of St Famille Street. A body of professed sisters and novices perform the duties of nursing and. attendance, and upwards of 3000 sick persons are annually received into its wards. The order of the Grey Nuns, founded in 1737, have built a new hospital in Guy Street. The professed sisters of this religious community, numbering at present 310, receive under their care the aged and infirm and orphan and foundling children of the French Canadian population. They also undertake the care of various asylums and schools in different parts of the city. Mont-real has also a General Hospital, founded in 1822 ; a Protestant House of Industry, the Mackay Institution for Deaf-Mutes, the-Protestant Orphan Asylum, Infants' Home, &c. The curiously mixed character of the population of Montreal is further shown in its separate daily and weekly newspapers in the English and French languages, and in its various national societies, of St George, St Andrew, St Patrick, St Jean Baptiste, and New England,—each confining its charitable operations to those of the nationality which, it represents. There are two theatres in Montreal, but the Roman Catholic clergy have systematically discountenanced the stage, and the diverse languages have further tended to limit the numbers who-patronize the drama.

Among the chief civic buildings is the city hall, built in the modern French style, with lofty mansard roofs, and a central pavilion. It affords accommodation for all the municipal offices, including the waterworks and fire alarm departments, the recorder's court, the police office, and for the meetings of the city corpora-tion, which consists of a mayor and twenty-seven aldermen. Three, aldermen are elected by each of the nine wards, one of whom retires, every year. The court house, situated close to the city hall, between the Champ de Mars and Jacques Cartier Square, is a hand-some classical building where all the law courts hold their sittings ,-and accommodation is provided for the Advocates' Library, which numbers upwards of 10,000 volumes, including a fine collection of books in the department of old French civil law. Bonsecours Market in St Paul Street is a large structure surmounted by a dome, which forms a prominent feature in every view of the city. "When it is crowded with the peasants bringing in their country produce, and by the French Canadian city populace as purchasers,, as is the case especially on Tuesdays and Fridays, the scene is very-striking to a stranger.

Foremost among the educational institutions is the university of M'Gill College, founded by James M'Gill, a Scotchman, who in the later years of the 18th century engaged in the north-west fur trade and ultimately became one of the leading merchants in Montreal. At his death in 1813 lie left his property for the founding of a col-lege. The most recent and liberal addition to it is the Peter Red-path Museum, valued at upwards of $100,000, the gift of a wealthy citizen. The university embraces the faculties of arts, law, and medicine, and lias also a department of practical science. The college buildings stand in a pleasant park fronting on Slierbrooke Street, at the base of the Mountain. Theological colleges in con-nection with the Church of England, the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregational Churches, occupy buildings in the vicinity, and their students attend the classes at M'Gill College for secular instruc-tion. The Seminary of St Sulpice is a theological training school for priests, where the larger portion of the Roman Catholic clergy of the province of Quebec have received their training, and also a college where a large number of the French Canadian youth obtain their education. This seminary is held in high esteem, and attracts many Roman Catholic students from the United States. Laval University, which has its chief seat at Quebec, has also a branch at Montreal, with a large staff of professors, chiefly in theology, law, and medicine. The M'Gill and the Jacques Cartier Normal Schools for training teachers for the Protestant and Roman Catholic public schools are conducted under the Protestant and Roman Catholic boards of public instruction ; and model schools attached to them afford the requisite practical training for teachers. The principal public monuments are the column erected in honour of Lord Nelson, and a bronze statue of Queen Victoria, by the late Marshall Wood, which occupies a good site in Victoria Square.

The commerce of Montreal is well represented by the architec-tural character of its banking establishments and many of the large mercantile houses. It is also the seat of a large manufacturing industry. But the most substantial evidence of its importance as a commercial centre is its harbour. The solidly-built basins, wdiarves, quays, and canal locks extend for upwards of a mile and a half along the river-side. In 1849, at a period of depression, the total value of the imports and exports amounted to £2,013,478 sterling. In 1882 they had risen to £15,633,657 sterling. The business of the port at the same date is thus expressed in Canadian currency:—total value of exports $26,334,812, of imports $49,749,461; customs duties collected estimated at $8,100,366. The number of sea-going vessels in port was 648, of which fully one-half were ocean steamers, in addition to which the inland vessels arriving at the port numbered 6543. The estimated value of real estate in Montreal is $65,978,930. The population in 1851 numbered 57,715 ; in 1881 it had increased to 140,747, of whom 78,684 were of French and 28,995 of Irish origin, and of the whole number, 103,579 were Roman Catholic.

The city returns three members to the Canadian House of Commons, and the same number to the provincial legislature of Quebec.

When the first French explorers landed on the island of Montreal under the leadership of Jacques Cartier in 1535, a large Indian palisaded town existed a little to the west of Mount Royal, and not far from the present English cathedral. To this fortified town the Indians gave the name of Hochelaga, and Jacques Cartier describes it as surrounded by fields of grain and other evidences of a settled native population. The name is now applied to the eastern suburb of the modern city. Sixty years later, when Samuel de Champlain made his way up the St Lawrence, and climbed to the summit of Mount Royal, the populous native town had disappeared, and only two Indians were found from whom soine obscure hints were derived of war between rival tribes, followed by the destruction of the town and the extermination or flight of its former occupants. The enmity thus established between the Wyandotts or Hurons of Canada and the Iroquois settled in the valley of the Hudson and south of Lake Ontario was perpetuated throughout the whole period of French occupation. Champlain took the side of the Hurons, while the Iroquois allied themselves with the Dutch and English settlers on the Hudson. Thus the early history of Montreal is largely occupied with incidents of Indian warfare. In 1665 the marquis de Tracy arrived from France, bringing with him a regiment of French soldiers, with wdiose aid the Indian assailants were driven off, and forts erected and garrisoned to repel their incursions ; thus pro-tected, Montreal became the centre of the fur trade with the west, and entered on its history as a commercial city. In 1722 it was fortified with a bastioned wall and ditch, under the directions of I )e Lery ; and the citadel was erected on a height now laid out as Dalhousie Square. The taking of Quebec by the English under General Wolfe in 1759 was followed ere long by the surrender of Montreal. Since that date it has rapidly developed as an impor-tant centre of commercial and manufacturing enterprise. (D. W.)

The above article was written by: Prof. Daniel Wilson, LL.D.

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