These Fascinating Vintage Maps Of Montreal Show How Far The City Has Come (Photos)

From 1843 to 2019, Montreal has seen a lot of change.
Staff Writer
Old Maps Of Montreal That Show How Far The City Has Come (Photos)
  • Thanks to the BAnQ, MTL Blog was able to get our hands on some vintage maps of Montreal to show you all how much the city has changed.
  • This article looks over 175 years of Montreal history.
  • Find 10 antique maps of Montreal throughout the years below!

Montreal has come a long way since it first became a city more than 375 years ago. From fur trading post to a modern metropolis, our humble town has seen it all. 

It may be hard for some of us to visualize just how much Montreal has changed over the years, though. Sure, you can head down to the Old Port and see century-old buildings and cobblestone streets, but perhaps the most striking example of how many changes Montreal has gone through can be seen in antique maps. 

Montreal was once a city that only reached as far as rue Sherbrooke downtown, but Montreal saw its most drastic changes in the 1890s and early 20th-century. 

I decided to scour the BAnQ archives and found some of the most amazing antique maps of Montreal. The BAnQ, or Bibliotheque Nationale, has an incredible archive of Quebec history available to the public. From antique maps to old newspapers, one can find some really interesting things at the BAnQ. 

Here are just a few of the amazing antique maps of Montreal that I found! These maps truly show just how far our city has come. 

READ ALSO: The STM Has A New Interactive Map & It Will Actually Give You Hope For The City's Future

Montreal Map (1843)

BAnQ Archives. Adolphus Bourne (1843)

This map shows downtown as it was back in 1843. It was much smaller, ending near Square Victoria (once called Queen's Square).

If you zoom in, you'll notice that many street names have been changed since then! The map is full of fun facts like Dorchester Square was once an old burial ground. Unlike today, downtown Montreal was once split into a bunch of smaller suburbs, too.

Map of Montreal With Latest Improvements (1853)

BAnQ Archives. Edgar Gariépy (1853)

Jumping 10 years into the future to 1853, we can already see that Montreal has undergone some incredible transformations. Gone are the small suburbs and in are larger "wards."

Downtown was also expanded to include two huge water reservoirs above rue Sherbrooke and the Old Port expanded slightly eastward.

Slowly but surely, we're starting to see downtown as we know it taking shape, but you still wouldn't recognize many streets if you were walking around in 1853!

Montreal Bicycle Map (1897)

BAnQ Archives. Arthur Vincent (1897)

Some people are under the impression that Montreal only became a cycling city this century. This map from 1897 proves everyone wrong and shows that even 19th century Montrealers loved to bike!

According to the BanQ archives, the red lines indicate where the best and most efficient bike routes in the city are. In a city with no cars and little traffic, biking in 1897 Montreal seems like a dream to modern-day cycling enthusiasts.

Montreal's Places of Interest (1903)

BAnQ Archives. Rodolphe Beaugrand (1903)

Downtown Montreal in 1903 would be more familiar to many of us, according to this map. As you can see, our city's three major parks, Parc Mont-Royal, Parc Sainte-Hélène (today's Parc Jean-Drapeau), and Parc La Fontaine had been officially mapped as tourist attractions.

The red lines show the tramway routes that used to criss-cross the city to provide a reliable means of public transit to many early-20th century Montrealers. Before the bridge was built, Montrealers had take a ferry to visit what is now Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Montreal Map With New Suburbs (1927)

BAnQ Archives. Elzéar Pierre Joseph Courval (1927)

Just 20 short years later, the Montreal urban area expanded to include the suburbs of Ville Saint-Laurent, Saint-Leonard, Montreal Nord, and Côte-Saint-Luc, among others.

These are are densely populated in the present day but used to be plots of land that were numbered for sale. We've travelled almost 100 years in maps and we can already see the gradual expansion of our modern metropolis.

Montreal's Tramway & Bus Network (1941)

BAnQ Archives. Montreal Tramways Company Network Map (1941)

After another 20ish years of progress, Montreal's public transit network grew exponentially to better accommodate a new suburban population. The red lines are the tramway and the blue lines are the bus routes.

In this map, we can already see the beginnings of neighbourhood transit hubs like Snowdon, Parc Avenue, Place d'Armes, Viau, and more. This map also highlights some notable landmarks like the Montreal Forum, the Botanical Gardens, and Jarry Park.

Westmount and NDG's Tramways and Points of Interest (1945)

BAnQ Archives. Westmount Realties Company (1945)

If we fast forward a few years later, we can see new developments start to spring up in Westmount and NDG. This neighbourhood map shows potential residents the landmarks that they needed to know, like churches, tramway lines, and schools.

A post-war boom definitely contributed to huge neighbourhood expansions across the city, and the West End was one of the first to see massive development.

Montreal Tourist Map (1983)

BAnQ Archive. Québec Ministère de l'énergie et des ressources (1983)

Montreal saw a huge boom in infrastructure, development, and population throughout the 50s, 60s, and 70s. The 80s were huge for tourism in Montreal because of this and new maps needed to be drawn up for all kinds of new visitors.

Each colour represents a different area and what you'd find there. Dark pink represents business areas and light pink residential ones. The map also shows where tourists could spot the best landmarks.

Notice the yellow swaths in Laval — that meant all that land was cultivated land that was empty and needed development. Even more, the orange line ended at Du College on the West end and Henri-Bourassa in the North.

Tourisme Montreal Map (2015)

Ville de Montréal

Comparing the 80s tourist map to the city's 2015 tourist map, we can instantly spot two major differences: the 80s were a lot more colourful and downtown Montreal became a business and retail hub for all tourists.

Google Maps, Present Day 

Google Maps 2019

Finally, from hand-engraved maps in 1843 to Google's highly detailed satellite imaging in 2019, our city has come a long way.

These days, we can zoom in and view a digitized rendering of anywhere you want in the city of Montreal. A huge step up from red lines and numbering.

Truly, our humble little city has come a long way!

To see more maps and find out more about Montreal's history, visit the Patrimoine Québécois archives on the official BAnQ website.

Teddy Elliot
Staff Writer