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Centuries of History
Before the Founding
A Fortified Town
The Bourgeois Centre of the City
A New Victorian Showcase
The Heart of the Metropolis
The Historic City Centre

A Fortified Town

Starting in 1685, Montreal became more and more of a military stronghold. It would be surrounded by a wooden palisade, which had to be enlarged twice.

Two events helped to ensure the colony's continued existence. In 1701, the Great Peace Treaty of Montréal was signed with a large number of Amerindian nations, putting an end to the war with the Iroquois; and in 1713, the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht ended the war between France and England.

Reconstructed view of Montréal in 1725
Reconstructed view of Montréal in 1725.
© Canadian Centre for Architecture and Centre for Landscape Research
(University of Toronto), 1996

Starting in 1717, Montrealers took advantage of the new peace to replace the wooden palisade with stone fortifications.


A jumping-off point for the hinterland

Now that it was solidly established, Montréal served as a logistical base for French expeditions setting out to control the whole centre of the continent. Military convoys and loads of furs came and went, while some audacious souls set out to explore the rest of North AmericaÖ

The Ancien Régime

The fortified town in 1752

The fortified town in 1752, as drawn by Louis Franquet (detail).
Service historique de l'Armée de Terre (France), Vincennes

In the mid-18th century, Montréal resembled a little provincial French town, with convents and chapels, private hotels and gardens hidden behind stone facades lining the streets, all tucked away within its fortified stone walls. Farmers from the surrounding areas came and went through the gates of the fortifications, to sell their products to townsfolk and purchase their supplies or meet with colonial administrators.

Château Ramezay

Château Ramezay, by the Photographe masqué

In 1760, with the Conquest, the colony fell under British rule. The event would have far-reaching effects on Montréal society, but would not be reflected in the cityscape until nearer the end of the century.

Reconstructed view of early 19th-century Montréal

Reconstructed view of early 19th-century Montréal.
© Canadian Centre for Architecture and Centre for Landscape Research
(University of Toronto), 1996

Some key events


Montrealer Pierre Le Moyne d'Iberville founded Louisiana.


The Great Peace was signed in Montréal, between the French colony and the Iroquois and many other Amerindian nations.


A huge fire led to new rules governing construction in the city.
1743 Montrealer Louis-Joseph Gaultier de la Vérendrye reached the Rockies.
1759 Montrealers learned of the surrender of Québec City to the English, after a lengthy siege and a decisive battle on the Plains of Abraham.
1760 Montréal surrendered in turn, with no shots fired.
1763 The capitulation of New France was confirmed in the Treaty of Paris.
1765 Another fire devastated the city, as some one hundred homes went up in flames.
1775 Montréal was captured and occupied by the American Army until 1776. Benjamin Franklin came to stay for a time.
1783 The Treaty of Versailles granted the territory to the south of the Great Lakes to the United States. That same year, the North West Company was founded in Montréal to control the fur trade throughout northwestern North America.
Le centre bourgeois de la ville

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Last updated: April 2000