Country-style house on Berri near Boucher, in the Plateau.
As time passes cities’ built environments change with the arrival of new technologies, new uses of space, new means of transportation, and new architectural styles. While the general faces of cities and neighbourhoods evolve, little bits of the past survive and remain as reminders of what things were once like.
Most of central Montreal is densely built, but here and there one can still find hold-outs from a different era in the form of cottages and single family houses smack dab in the middle of highly urban neighbourhoods.
Many of these buildings are remnants of former farming and mining villages that were scattered accross the Island of Montreal back when the the City of Montreal extended just barely past the Old Port. One such village was Coteau-Saint-Louis which was located in the area just north of the modern day Laurier Metro station. The village was founded in the middle of the 1800s and was engulfed by the expanding city around 1900. To this day one can find in this corner of the city little cottages with peaked roofs and porches that would look more at place in a small farming town than in the middle of Montreal.
Small clapboard cottage on Lagarde in the former Village Coteau-Saint-Louis.
A rough-hewn stone house with a tinplate roof and a full-length porch, on Berri.
Other such unusual houses were built when the city was just expanding into the neighbourhoods in which they’re located. When a given area on the edge of the city started being built up, land was cheap and there wasn’t much incentive to make the most of it by building upwards. Early buildings were often modest and only a single story tall. As the neighbourhood became more dense, and real estate more valuable, most of these little structures were either replaced or added onto to create the familiar triplexes and duplexes that dominate the streetscape of central Montreal.
The neighbourhoods densified over time, but some early constructions remained and were never upgraded. These buildings can be distinguished from those that predate the city by their architecture. Put simply, they look like baby versions of “normal” Montreal architecture, and lack typically rural features such as peaked roofs, and stone or wood construction.
Modest brick house on Avenue de Chateaubriand in Villeray.
These kinds of little houses can be found all over Montreal. They are particularly common in the Centre-Sud, the Plateau, Petite-Patrie, Villeray, Saint-Henri, and Point-Saint-Charles. There are also small pockets in Ahunstic, Saint-Michel, Rivière-des-Prairies, Lachine, and Pointe-aux-Trembles where small villages were engulfed by the expanding city. Their quirkiness add interest to our streetscapes and their out of place appearances serve as visible reminders of our city’s history.