View of Montreal from Mount Royal

Left:Montreal from Mount Royal, QC. about 1890

Right:Montreal. QC. Looking South from the Belvedere. After Notman (VIEW-2396). Taken March 13th 2000 at 1:30 p.m.

Photographers: Left: William Notman, Right: Andrzej Maciejewski
McCord Museum of Canadian History

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


Date/Time: March 13, 2000, 1:30 p.m.

In this case, the only landmarks I could use to line up my camera were the Victoria Bridge and St. James Cathedral. All the other buildings are now gone or hidden from view. I also compared the angle of the street to be sure it was the same, and chose a slightly hazy day, to match the conditions under which Notman worked. As I set up and took the picture I wondered whether Notman would have liked the view today. I think he would have, because was a very modern and progressive man.
Date/Time: March 13, 2000, 1:30 p.m.

In this case, the only landmarks I could use to line up my camera were the Victoria Bridge and St. James Cathedral. All the other buildings are now gone or hidden from view. I also compared the angle of the street to be sure it was the same, and chose a slightly hazy day, to match the conditions under which Notman worked. As I set up and took the picture I wondered whether Notman would have liked the view today. I think he would have, because was a very modern and progressive man.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Map

This Map of Montreal depicts the location where the photographs by Notman and Maciejewski were taken.

McCord Museum of Canadian History

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


In the 1890s, British visitors who spent the winter in Montreal all went to admire the panoramic view from Mount Royal. Below them, they could view the fashionable upper-class neighbourhood, mostly Anglo-Protestant, where they were usually received. In the distance, they could see the huge industrial and working-class neighbourhoods of the southwest (around Victoria Bridge), which they were not likely to visit. A remarkable and disturbing investigation by Herbert Ames would, however, be published in 1897, The City Below the Hill, which uncovered the reality of housing conditions in those neighbourhoods.
In the 1890s, British visitors who spent the winter in Montreal all went to admire the panoramic view from Mount Royal. Below them, they could view the fashionable upper-class neighbourhood, mostly Anglo-Protestant, where they were usually received. In the distance, they could see the huge industrial and working-class neighbourhoods of the southwest (around Victoria Bridge), which they were not likely to visit. A remarkable and disturbing investigation by Herbert Ames would, however, be published in 1897, The City Below the Hill, which uncovered the reality of housing conditions in those neighbourhoods.
Printed Documents
  • Ames, Herbert Brown. 1972. The City Below the Hill : [A Sociological Study of a Portion of the City of Montreal, Canada]. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Hanna, David, and Sherry Olson. 1993. « L'évolution sociale de Montréal, 1842-1901 ». In Atlas historique du Canada. II : La transformation du territoire, 1800-1891. Montreal : Presses de l'Université de Montréal. Plate 49.
  • Lauzon, Gilles. 1998. « Cohabitation et déménagements en milieu ouvrier montréalais. Essai de réinterprétation à partir du cas du Village Saint-Augustin (1871-1881) ». Revue d'histoire de l'Amérique française, vol. 46, no 1 (Summer), p. 115-142.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Montreal

Photographed in 1896, this poor area - one of the most densely populated in Montreal - was part of the "city below the hill." Living in old houses behind new commercial buildings, families had an average of four rooms. Herbert Ames noted severe individual cases of overcrowding and a high proportion (25%) of backyard flats built close to outhouses. In this area, almost 60% of households had no modern toilets.

Wm. Notman & Son
McCord Museum of Canadian History
c. 1896
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
VIEW-2939-D1
© McCord Museum of Canadian History


Montreal

This photo dating from 1896 shows two residential sectors of the "city below the hill," which were close to the St. Antoine Market, one of the busiest in Montreal. In the foreground, a very dense, dilapidated area; farther away, north of the market, new houses, which were much more spacious (often including two-storey apartments), in a block that is much more open because it has an alley.

Wm. Notman & Son

Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
VIEW-2938-D1
© McCord Museum of Canadian History


Spanning the river.

The Victoria Bridge gradually becomes a feature of the Montreal landscape. Begun in 1854, it takes more than six years to complete and involves the participation of thousands of workers. The inauguration, celebrated with great pomp, overlooks no detail to mark the presence of the guest of honour, the Prince of Wales. During the ball that follows, even the badges of the service personnel bear an inscription honouring the heir apparent. Soon after, however, railway traffic outstrips the original bridge's capacity and, at the turn of the 20th century, modifications have to be made to its structure.
Spanning the river.

The Victoria Bridge gradually becomes a feature of the Montreal landscape. Begun in 1854, it takes more than six years to complete and involves the participation of thousands of workers. The inauguration, celebrated with great pomp, overlooks no detail to mark the presence of the guest of honour, the Prince of Wales. During the ball that follows, even the badges of the service personnel bear an inscription honouring the heir apparent. Soon after, however, railway traffic outstrips the original bridge's capacity and, at the turn of the 20th century, modifications have to be made to its structure.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Victoria Bridge, Montréal

This photo was taken during the summer of 1859. To speed up the work, some teams worked at night by the light of big fires. Some teams even worked through the winter of 1858-1859 to keep the project on schedule.

William Notman (1826-1891)
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gift of Mr. James Geoffrey Notman
c. 1859
Silver salts on paper mounted on card - Albumen process
7.3 x 7 cm
N-0000.193.109
© McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


These workers, who seem to be walking on water, are dismantling the structure that permitted the erection of a pier. There was a continuous workforce of 1500 to 3000 workers on the construction site for the Victoria Bridge.

Most of the workers were hired on site. The trades involved were many and varied: carpenters, civil engineers, steam engineers, crane operators, divers to inspect the construction structures, etc. A few of the workers came from England, Ireland and Scotland. Very skilled and experienced, they were the elite among the work force.

Boys who worked on the construction were from eight to twelve years old. We do not know how many there were, but we do know that they did specific tasks that did not require great physical strength, such as heating and passing rivets. Boys 14 to 16 years old were considered to be men and were given men's jobs to do.
These workers, who seem to be walking on water, are dismantling the structure that permitted the erection of a pier. There was a continuous workforce of 1500 to 3000 workers on the construction site for the Victoria Bridge.

Most of the workers were hired on site. The trades involved were many and varied: carpenters, civil engineers, steam engineers, crane operators, divers to inspect the construction structures, etc. A few of the workers came from England, Ireland and Scotland. Very skilled and experienced, they were the elite among the work force.

Boys who worked on the construction were from eight to twelve years old. We do not know how many there were, but we do know that they did specific tasks that did not require great physical strength, such as heating and passing rivets. Boys 14 to 16 years old were considered to be men and were given men's jobs to do.

© McCord Museum of Canadian History

Stamp

This lithograph of the Victoria Bridge was produced in October 1854 from the engineers' plans. The general appearance of the bridge is close to what would be built, although the exaggeration of certain details betrays the imagination of the artist S. Russel.

S. Russel
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Purchased from Mason and Woods Christie
c. 1854
Ink and watercolour on paper - Lithography, hand-coloured
38.2 x 80.5 cm
M969.81
© McCord Museum of Canadian History


Ferries were the main link between the South Shore and Montreal before the construction of the bridge. Steamers also went back and forth beginning in 1832. In the winter, when the river was frozen, roads were built on the ice.

The Victoria Bridge (built on 24 piers and 2790 m long) was the first to link the two shores of the St. Lawrence at Montreal. Considered to be a "vital link," it would place a key role in the development of Montreal and contributed for a long time to the economic expansion of Quebec and Canada. Open all year long, this exclusively railway bridge provided at that time an outlet to the ocean thanks to 1395 km of the Grand Trunk line that linked Sarnia (Ontario) and Portland (Maine).
Ferries were the main link between the South Shore and Montreal before the construction of the bridge. Steamers also went back and forth beginning in 1832. In the winter, when the river was frozen, roads were built on the ice.

The Victoria Bridge (built on 24 piers and 2790 m long) was the first to link the two shores of the St. Lawrence at Montreal. Considered to be a "vital link," it would place a key role in the development of Montreal and contributed for a long time to the economic expansion of Quebec and Canada. Open all year long, this exclusively railway bridge provided at that time an outlet to the ocean thanks to 1395 km of the Grand Trunk line that linked Sarnia (Ontario) and Portland (Maine).

© McCord Museum of Canadian History

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify the changes that were operated within Canadian society over two decades (territory, population, economy, etc.);
  • Describe in details changes that he/she is able to observe;
  • Explain and speculate about the reasons that could justify these changes;
  • Make connections between the differences and similarities of the two eras.

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