1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Montreal

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MONTREAL, a city of the Dominion of Canada, its leading seat of commerce and principal port of entry, as well as the centre of many of its important industries. It is situated on the south-east of the island of Montreal, at the confluence of the Ottawa and St Lawrence rivers, in the county of Hochelaga and province of Quebec. The observatory in the grounds of McGill University, in the city, has been determined to be in 45° 30' 17” N. lat., and 73° 34' 40-05” W. long. The city holds a ine position at the head of ocean navigation, nearly a thousand miles inland, and at the foot of the great system of rivers, lakes and canals upon which the commerce of the interior is carried to the Atlantic seaboard. The ship channel below Montreal permits the passage of ocean vessels drawing 30 ft. at low water. The deepening of the channel, largely due to the initiative of Montreal merchants, was begun in 1844 by the government of Canada. The work was transferred to the Harbour Commissioners of Montreal in 1850. The depth of the channel was then 11 ft. Fifteen years later it had gradually been increased to 20 ft.; and in 1888, when the work was taken over by the Dominion government, the depth was 27 ft. 6 in. The Lachine canal, with the chain of artificial waterways that succeeded it, opened the way for the shipping of the Great Lakes. The first sod in the digging of the Lachine canal was turned in July 1821 by John Richardson of Montreal. The same public-spirited merchant presided in April of the following year at the preliminary meeting which led to the formation of the committee of trade, itself the forerunner of Montreal's indispensable board of trade. Even before the close of the French régime in Canada efforts had been made to cut a canal across the island of Montreal, and M. de Catalogne succeeded in building a waterway practicable for the canoes of the fur-traders. The more ambitious canal commenced in 1821 was completed four years later, at a cost of $440,000. Before its completion, however, the increasing draught of inland shipping made it practically useless, and in 1843 work was begun on an enlargement. Since then the canal has been repeatedly deepened, to keep pace with the requirements of lake shipping, until to-day a 14-ft. channel is available. In the meantime the rival method of rail transportation was taking shape, and in 1836 the first Canadian railway was opened, between Laprairie, opposite Montreal and St Johns, in the eastern townships. In 1848 a second railway, from Longueuil to St Hyacinthe, was opened; both these projects owing their existence to the enterprise of Montreal citizens. The broad St Lawrence, however, still lay between the city and the outside world. In 1854 work was commenced upon the famous Victoria tubular bridge, designed by Robert Stephenson and A. M.1Ross. The bridge was opened by King Edward VII., then prince of Wales, in 186O. In 1898 it was replaced by the Victoria jubilee bridge, built on the piers of the old bridge. At the foot of Lake St Louis, some distance above the Victoria Jubilee bridge, the Canadian Pacific railway crosses the river on a graceful cantilever bridge with two central spans each 408 ft. long. Montreal is on the Canadian Pacific, Grand Trunk, Intercolonial, Canadian Northern, New York Central, Rutland, Central Vermont and Delaware & Hudson railways. During the season of navigation several lines of well appointed steamers maintain communication with Liverpool, London, Glasgow, Bristol and other British and European ports, as well as the principal ports on the river and gulf of St Lawrence and the Great Lakes. A system of electric railways covers every section of the city and affords easy communication with the suburbs and neighbouring towns. Built originally along the water-front, Montreal has in the course of years swept back over a series of terraces—former levels of the river or of a more ancient sea—to the foot of Mount Royal. field there, it has been forced around the mountain on either side. Mount Royal, from which the city derives its nameand so much of its natural beauty, is a mass of trap-rock thrown up through the surrounding limestone strata to a height of 753 ft. above the level of the sea. Under the direction of Frederick Law Olmsted, it was converted into a magnificent park. Between mountain and river the Lachine canal winds through the plain. In the middle of the river lies the beautifully wooded St Helen's island, rising to a height of 150 ft., above the water, and itself commanding an excellent view of the city. The island, named after Helen Boullé, wife of Champlain, belonged at one time to the barons of Longueuil. The British government purchased it for military purposes, and it still contains a battery of guns and barracks, the latter tenant less, since the island' has been loaned to the city for use as a public park. The city is substantially built, grey limestone, quarried from the mountain, predominating in the public and many of the private edifices. On the south of the Place d'Armes, a small enclosure covering the site of an ancient burying-ground, stands the parish church of Notre Dame, whose Gothic outlines form one of the striking features of the city. Designed by James O'Donnell, the church was built in 1824 to take the place of an earlier structure dating back to 1672. The existing church is 255 ft. long and 134 ft. wide, and accommodates 10,000 worshippers. Its twin towers (227 ft.) contain ten bells, one of which, known as “ Le Gros Bourdon,” weighs 24,780 lb, the largest in America. Two others weigh respectively 6041 and 3633 lb. Beside the church stands the historic seminary of St Sulpice, one of the few remaining relics of the days of French rule. This ancient building is now used for the offices of the Order of Sulpicians, founded by the Abbé Olier in the early half of the 17th century. This zealous enthusiast had sent out Paul de Chomedy, sieur de Maisonneuve, in 1641 to establish the missionary enterprise which afterwards developed into the city of Montreal, and six years later the Abbé de Quelus, with three devoted companions, landed at Ville-Marie de Montreal and laid the foundations of the future powerful Order of Sulpicians. The seigneur of Montreal, acquired by Olier in 1640, is still held by the Sulpicians, and as they have retained large blocks of land in the heart of the city as well as elsewhere on the island, these “Gentlemen of the Seminary,” as they were locally called, rank among the wealthiest societies in America. The head offices of the Bank of Montreal face Notre Dame church, on the north of the Place d’Armes, and several other of the leading banking institutions of the city have their quarters in the immediate neighbourhood. In the Place d’Armes itself stands a striking figure in bronze erected to the memory of the founder of Montreal, Maisonneuve. At the base are a series of bas-reliefs setting forth historical incidents connected with the early history of the town. The monument is the work of a Canadian sculptor, Louis Philippe Hébert, C.M.G. The Roman Catholic cathedral of St. James stands upon Dominion Square. It is an almost exact reproduction, reduced to one-half the scale, of St Peter’s at Rome. The building, projected by the late Archbishop Bourget to replace the old church on St Denis street destroyed in the great fire of 1852, was begun in 1868. On the west of the square stand the Windsor Street station of the Canadian Pacific railway; St George’s (Anglican) church, which possesses a fine chime of bells; and the Windsor Hotel. A statue of Sir John Macdonald occupies the centre of the square. Close to the historic Bonsecours Market stands the church of Notre Dame de Bonsecours, founded by Sister Marguerite Bourgeois in 1673 as a sanctuary for a miraculous statue of the Virgin. The original church was burned in 1754, and the present building, erected in 1771, an example of Norman architecture transplanted to the New World, narrowly escaped destruction to make room for a railway station. Curiously enough, it remained for a number of English Protestants to secure the preservation of this relic of the French period. Jacques Cartier Square, adjoining Bonsecours Market, is notable for its column and statue of Nelson, erected in 1808. As the Roman Catholic cathedral owes its existence to the energy and enthusiasm of Archbishop Bourget, so Christ Church cathedral must always be associated with the name of the first resident Anglican bishop of Montreal, Dr Fulford. The church is a fine example of the Early English style of architecture. Beside it stands a memorial of Bishop Fulford, modelled after the famous Martyr’s Memorial at Oxford.

The mixture of races and creeds, which is so striking a characteristic of Montreal life, has not only endowed the city with many beautiful churches, but also with varieties of philanthropic institutions. Each of the several national societies—St George’s, St Andrew’s, St Patrick’s, and that of the French-Canadian patron saint, St Jean Baptiste, to mention no others-looks after the welfare of its own adherents. Of the several hospitals, the most venerable is the Hotel Dieu, founded in 1644 by Mme de Bouillon, a French lady of high rank. The original building, in the early days of Ville Marie, stood without the fort, and was fortified to withstand the attacks of the Iroquois. The site is now covered by a block of warehouses on St Paul Street. The present buildings, completed in 1861, contain both a hospital and nunnery. The Order of the Grey Nuns, founded by a Canadian lady, Mme d’Youville, in 1737, cares for hundreds of foundlings and aged and infirm people in the great hospital in Guy Street. The Montreal General hospital was founded in 1819 by public subscriptions, and the Royal Victoria hospital is a monument to the generosity of Lord Strathcona and Lord Mount-Stephen. Besides these should be mentioned the Notre Dame, the Western and the Children’s Memorial hospitals. Separate hospitals for contagious diseases are maintained both by the Roman Catholics and Protestants.

Montreal provides for the education of its young people through two distinct systems of public schools, one for Roman Catholics, the other for Protestants, each governed by a board of commissioners. The schools are maintained by an annual tax based upon the assessment, two-fifths of 1% being levied upon the Protestant section of the community for the support of the Protestant schools, and one-quarter of 1% upon the Catholics for their schools. Unlike the neighbouring provinces of Ontario, Quebec makes no provision for a state university. But James McGill (1744–1813) left property, valued at the time of his death at £30,000, for the foundation of a university, one college of which was to bear his name. A royal charter conferring university powers was obtained in 1821. During early years slow progress was made, but with the appointment of Sir William Dawson as principal, in 1855, the institution entered on a career of prosperity. It now embraces five faculties: arts, applied science, law, medicine, agriculture, and comprises the following: McGill College, Montreal, the original foundation; the Royal Victoria College for Women, Montreal, built and endowed by Lord Strathcona; four affiliated theological colleges in Montreal; the Macdonald College, erected and endowed by Sir William C. Macdonald, at Ste Anne de Bellevue, 20 m. from the city; the McGill University College of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C.; and three affiliated colleges: Stanstead Wesleyan College, Stanstead, P.Q.; Victoria College, Victoria, B.C.; Alberta College, Edmonton. The finely-equipped Macdonald scientific laboratories, with the Redpath Museum and University Library (114,000 vols. in 1907), form part of a noble group of buildings on the campus in Montreal. Disastrous fires in April 1907 wiped out two buildings and destroyed the splendid medical museum, but the plans for rebuilding provided for further extension and improvement. Previous to the fires the property of the university in buildings in Montreal, including equipment and endowment, was valued at $6,000,000.

The French university of Laval, the chief seat of which is in the city of Quebec, also maintains a branch at Montreal, established in 1877. It embraces the faculties of arts, law, medicine and theology, the latter conducted through the Seminary of St. Sulpice. The college library has been enriched by a rare collection of Canadian books and manuscripts, bequeathed by Judge Louis François Georges Baby (1834–1906), of Montreal. The medical school, which now occupies a portion of the university building, formerly held its sessions in the historic Chateau de Ramesay, built by the Chevalier de Ramesay, governor of Montreal, in 1704, and occupied after the conquest by the British governors of Canada, until the stoning of Lord Elgin and the burning of the Parliament Buildings in 1849 brought about the removal of the seat of government from Montreal. The Chateau de Ramesay is now the fitting home of a public collection of historic relics. Of other educational institutions in the city the most important is St. Mary’s College, founded in 1848 by the Jesuits, and removed to the present building in 1855. The archives boast a notable collection of early Canadian manuscripts, upon which Francis Parkman drew in preparing his histories of New France.

Montreal’s position as the chief doorway of the outgoing and incoming trade of the Dominion is largely due to the foresight of her great merchants. With the gradual opening up of means of communication by land and water, and the development of her facilities for handling the exports and imports of the country, the city has increased rapidly in importance, until to day one third of the imports of the Dominion come through Montreal, and nearly 30% of the exports. In shipments of grain Montreal has outstripped all her rivals on the continent except New York and New Orleans, and the building of the Georgian Bay canal will, by materially shortening the distance between the western grain fields and European markets, give her a very considerable advantage over both these ports. In dairy produce she is already the chief export centre of the continent. Montreal is also the financial centre of Canada, and in it are to be found the head offices of more than 25 important banks, of the leading insurance companies, and of the two greatest railways of the country. Montreal is governed by a mayor and 36 aldermen, elected every two years. The city returns 5 members to the Dominion House of Commons and 6 to the Provincial Legislature of Quebec.

The population of Montreal, according to.the census of 1901, was 266,826. With the suburbs, it was estimated in 1907 at over 405,000, about three-fifths French.

The history of the town is steeped in romance. From that first remarkable scene, so graphically described by Francis Parkman, when, on the 18th of May 1642, Maisonneuve and his little band of religious enthusiasts landed upon the spot where the Montreal Custom House now stands, and planted, in the words of the saintly Dumont, a grain of mustard seed destined to overshadow the land, the history of the town was to be intimately associated with missionary enterprise and such missionary heroism as the world has rarely seen. Montreal began as a religious colony, but its very situation, on the outer confines of civilization and at the door of the Iroquois country, forced it to become a military settlement, a fortified town with a military garrison. Similarly its position, even then an ideal one from a commercial point of view, made it the dominating centre of the fur-trade. For a hundred years after its foundation these three influences held sway, more or less mutually antagonistic, the streets of Montreal presenting an animated picture of sombre priests, and jovial soldiers, savage hunters in their native finery and more than half-savage fur traders. Within another hundred years, although both priests and soldiers were still to be seen on her streets, they had become but atoms in a larger and more varied population. The fur trader of New France, merged after the conquest in the fur trader of the North West Company which had its origin in Montreal—remained for a time the one picturesque survival of earlier and more romantic days. Finally, he too disappeared in the multiform and strenuous life of the modern city.

Bibliography.-Francis Parkman, Jesuits in North America and The Old Régime in Canada (Boston, new ed., 1902); Newton Bosworth, Hochelaga depicta (Montreal, 1846; repr. Toronto, 1901); A. Sandham, Montreal Past and Present (Montreal, 1870); W. D. Lighthall, Montreal after Two Hundred and Fifty Years (Montreal, 1892); N. M. Hinshelwood, Montreal and Vicinity (Montreal, 1904); S. E. Dawson, Handbook for the City of Montreal (Montreal, 1888); A. Leblond de Brumath, Histoire populaire de Montréal (Montreal, 1890); H. Beaugrand, Le Vieux Montréal (Montreal, 1884); Dollier de Casson, Histoire du Montréal, 1640–1672 (Montreal, 1868); J. D. Borthwick, Montreal, its history, &c. (Montreal, 1875).  (L. J. B.)