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Montreal’s Fight Against Water and Ice

Did you know that, from its foundation in 1642 up until the 1800s, Montreal experienced flooding on a relatively regular basis? It’s true! When spring would roll around each year, the melting of ice and snow would get completely out of hand, burdening our city with a slew of complications.

When colonizers first founded Montreal, they began building up their new city (which occupied the area we as Old Montreal today) a little too close to the river. Unfortunately, the colonizers only realized this mistake after getting settled in; come springtime, their community would experience severe flooding and damages.

The Mount Royal Cross was erected on top of the mountain following this first tragedy. Mr. de Maisonneuve prayed to God, begging for his newly established colony to survive this disaster. In exchange for salvation, he promised to plant a cross at the top of the mountain. While the colony managed to survive this first scare, it would unfortunately not be the last of its kind.

Montreal would experience its most remarkably disastrous flood in April of 1886, once again in the Old Montreal area. With water reaching levels higher than our city had ever seen, this flood was one for the history books. Our city’s soil was submerged in a full meter of water, making it the largest flood of the 19th century.

This natural disaster pushed the Commissaires du Havre (created in 1830) to construct a protective dam to avoid this problem in the future. Construction was completed in 1898 and the dam would be known as the Mackay Jetty. During Expo 67, it would be renamed the Cité du Havre, the area in which Habitat 67 can be found today. An impressive protective barrier measuring more than a kilometer in length would also be constructed, this time beginning at Berri Street.

From 1896 onward, under the eye of Wilfrid Laurier, a number of projects aimed at protecting against flooding while simultaneously developing the Port would be brought to life; one such initiative would be the Laurier Quarry in Maisonneuve.

Despite damages caused by natural disasters, the Montreal Port would eventually thrive, developing quickly and significantly. In the early 1900s, the city would see the building of many silos and shortly after their construction Montreal would become one of the biggest exporters of grain. The first silo was built in 1903 and demolished in 1982.

Over the years, Montreal managed to fight back against water and ice, allowing residents, merchants and tourists to fully enjoy the Old Port we know and love today. Definitely one of the most beautiful spots in the entire city!

Sources :

Montréal en Histoires

ICI Radio-Canada


Archives Montréal

Crédit couverture: Musée McCord

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