Incredible pictures document Montreal’s past

Posted on November 14th, 2013 by .

montreal then and now cover

Montreal is marching towards its 375th anniversary in 2017; counting from 1642 when Ville-Marie was founded by Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance. With a history so tumultuous and rich, several museums are dedicated to cataloging everything that’s gone down on this small island sitting tight in the St. Lawrence river…

The following selection of photographs of Montreal are from the McCord Museum Archives. They offer a rare glimpse back into yesteryear; when the Old Port was a new port, the Plateau was countryside, and the things we see in museums today were fresh, new and fashionable.

Old Montreal

By 1884, Montreal’s Rue de la Commune was a thriving hub of trade and industry. Fast forward to 2013 and it’s now a protected historical site; home to Montreal’s Science Centre, which is screening a 3D movie about sharks; Bota-Bota, a spa on a boat; and hosts Divers/Cité’s Mascara, North America’s largest drag show.

Montreal PlateauMontreal’s Plateau is home to artists, students, and Montrealers who love the vibes that old homes with curved staircases on tree-lined streets give off. But once upon a time back in 1925, these were new triplex developments far in the suburban countryside. As you can see by the people in the photo, the Plateau has always been popular with hipsters. Nowadays a stroll through the neighbourhood will allow you to discover places like L’Aquarium, a spa where fish eat the dead skin off your feet.

Montreal Holt Renfrew

The year is 1937 and construction on Holt Renfew – Montreal’s most fabulous department store – is nearing completion. Holt Renfrew is still in the original location selling upscale fashion to luxury lovers. Any dapper gentleman looking for some swanky clothes should definitely check it out. Harry Rosen and L’Uomo Montreal on Peel, along with Ogilvy Monsieur at the corner of Saint-Catherine and De La Montagne are also great places for men to shop!

Montreal Saint Catherine street

Back in 1890 this beautiful (maybe was considered hideous and plain at the time?) building on Saint Catherine street housed Henry Morgan’s Department Store. Today it is the flagship store of The Bay and is connected to surrounding shopping centres via an underground tunnel network called Reso. You can get from Promenades Cathedrale and Place Montreal Trust to Place Ville Marie without ever braving the snow!

Montreal Blvd St-Laurent

Boulevard Saint Laurent is nicknamed “The Main” because it’s a central artery that splits Montreal west and east. The strip became a central Jewish district from 1870 and into the early 1900s with a flood of poor Jewish immigrants; who quite literally would get off the boat in the Old Port, and walk up Saint Laurent with their luggage and settle down. While many of the Jewish institutions were destroyed after 1950, culinary landmarks like Schwartz’s and Moishes Steakhouse still stand. Saint Laurent has evolved into a boulevard of boutiques, bars, and restaurants.

Montreal Scare Victoria

Approximately 127 years ago Montreal suffered a massive flood. The flood was so crazy you could canoe through Square Victoria. 127 years later Square Victoria is bone dry and now home to the only W Hotel in Canada.

Montreal Mount Royal

Did you know Mont Royal used to have an elevator? Back around 1900 people were merrily ferried up and down to enjoy the spectacular view. Now we have to enjoy a beautiful hike up like cavemen.

Montreal snow cone

No, it’s not Lady Gaga’s newest look. It’s an amazing plastic face cone from 1939 that Montrealers used to wear to protect their faces from snow storms. Can we bring this back? We’re bringing this back.

Make the most of your trip to Montreal with this exclusive Sweet Deal coupon booklet with special offers valued at $500!

More articles

Let's experience Montréal

→ Select your interests
→ Live your Montréal moments
→ Get inspired for you next stay

Try the experience