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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Montréal en quartiers

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I’ve been spending part of the afternoon poking around Montréal en quartiers, known less memorably in English as Montreal InSite, a new website created by Heritage Montreal and Heritage Canada. It’s an interactive, Flash-based guide to the history of Montreal’s neighbourhoods, with enough chronologies, maps and videos to keep you distracted for at least an hour or two.

Currently, thirteen districts are covered: Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Old Lachine, Point St. Charles, St. Henri, downtown, the Golden Square Mile, the Latin Quarter, Lafontaine Park, Côte des Neiges, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, the Petite Patrie, Little Italy and Sault-au-Récollet.

As much fun as it is to play with, I have some qualms about the site. There’s plenty of information, but it still feels incomplete, lacking both depth and breadth. There needs to be more than just the obvious facts about each neighbourhood. For instance, the Côte des Neiges section covers the area’s general history, and it points to a few notable sites like the oratory and the university, but it doesn’t really give you a sense of why Côte des Neiges evolved as it did. More details are needed about its architecture and urban development, its social history and its relationship with the rest of the city. I’d like to see some entries on more unconventional attractions, too, like Victoria Avenue or Côte des Neiges Plaza.

Montréal en quartiers definitely needs to cover a broader range of neighbourhoods; right now it’s just sticking to the standards. It seems like every other guide out there tells us about the same thing about them. Where’s Griffintown, Park Extension, Mercier, LaSalle — all of the places we never hear about?

On the whole, it’s a good start, but hopefully the website will be expanded and updated with more information and even more neighbourhoods. There’s such a wealth of history in this city, it’s a bit of a shame to see the same stuff covered over and over again.



  1. My reaction’s pretty much the same. Great interface, but too little content. It’s a very good step forward though. I’ve been craving some good info on my own neighborhood (petite-patrie).

    I feel the map should be drawn with streets and actual neighborhood separations in mind, not the “arrondissements”‘s often fuzzy borders.

  2. My favorite site is:

    It really reflects the beauty and diversity of one neighbourhood: the Plateau. I send it to everyone I know who’s coming to town for the first time.

  3. Made me laugh out loud that the West Island was covered over on the main screen.

    “Oh that place, no it doesn’t count…”

  4. I love the map interface, although I do think there is a lack of neighbourhoods. You should technically be in a neighbourhood wherever you are on Montreal Island.

    I’m currently working on making Wikipedia articles (and slowly improving them) on every neighbourhood in Montreal. (Click my username) Do you think the list is complete? Any neighbourhoods I should add, remove or merge? Thanks for the input.

  5. I think that’s a nice start, MTLskyline. Montreal’s neighbourhoods were woefully underrepresented on Wikipedia. Thanks for changing that.

  6. Merci aussi, MTLskyline. A good start, yes. Being new here, I’ve often wondered about my own neighbourhood – it’s obvious there have been and continue to be many waves of immigration, maybe more than some areas – and in particular things like how did Tamil, Jamaican, Filipino, Russian (etc.) communities come to settle here rather than elsewhere in the city? Why did it become the hospital capital of the island? Why is it stitched together with NDG? (Which feels like a totally separate part of town to me, not just because of the Decarie.) To name just a few of the more obvious “hmmm’s”…

    I’ll spend more time looking at your wikis and try to give some feedback.

  7. Why La Petite Patrie and not Villeray just to its north?

    My tenants’ association (L’Association des locataires de Villeray) has brought out TWO illustrated booklets on the history of our neighbourhood. I’ll be looking at improving Wikipedia articles (in both French and English) on Montréal neighbourhoods.

    Actually, I now live in Petite Patrie (Petite Italie) after several years just north of the JT Market. It is rather an artificial boundary, and I think Villeray + Petite-Patrie would have made a more logical arrondissement.

  8. I’ve always been a bit confused about the difference between Petite-Patrie and Rosemont. What are the boundries? I’ve been told that the Petite-Patrie is more just an area which includes Little Italy and some of what’s a bit east of it, north Mile End and a bit of south Villeray. I haven’t been able to find much online despite the fact that so many people live there and it’s a fairly central neighbourhood.

  9. I think Petite Patrie is usually defined as the area between Little Italy and Papineau. Rosemont is a huge area that comprises several distinct neighbourhoods like Vieux-Rosemont (around Masson) and the Molson Park area.

  10. That’s what I thought too. I figured the borders of Petite-Patrie were Hutchison to the west, Papineau to the east, Jean-Talon to the north and the railroad tracks to the south. Once you pass Papineau you can definitely feel a bit of a difference.

  11. Petite Patrie is a fairly recent denomination, after a novel/recollection by Claude Jasmin. And several of the sites in the story are actually in Villeray. Many people just south of Jean-Talon said they lived in Villeray (which was a village) or used their parish as their location (St-Edouard etc).

  12. This website link. It’s a good start and I like the maps a lot.

    However, the captions to the photos are inadequate, and the photo/caption interface is not quite right. And, most importantly, there is a lot of information missing — for example, on the the Victoria Bridge. There was a whole city of Irish immigrants who lived near the Victoria Bridge during its construction. You can make it out in the photo of Griffintown that’s in Griffintown, in the church square, facing the water.) It is not even alluded to … yet!

    There’s one photo in the Point St-Charles section that shows a park full of elm trees! :) my favorites…

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