Factories, neighbourhoods... and people!

Rosemont, Saint-Henri, Hochelaga, Saint-Gabriel (Pointe-Saint-Charles), Ahuntsic, Villeray...

The flashing neon Farine Five Roses sign that stands watch over Old Montreal, the red brick walls of the Angus Shops in Rosemont and the monumental Silo No. 5 in the Old Port are eloquent reminders of the industrial activity that shaped Montreal over the past two centuries.

While some may be more evocative than others, reminders of the city’s industrial past can be found in every neighbourhood across the island. In fact, industrialization played such a major role here that it established Montreal asthe largest industrial centre in Canada, a status the city would maintain until the mid 20th century.

This activity was the prime driver of Montreal’s expansion. Concentrated along the Lachine Canal in the 1800s, industrial production soon spread to neighbouring villages. However, the rapid pace of this growth placed such significant financial obligations on these small towns that they had no choice but to join the “big city.” From 1883 to 1918, Montreal absorbed 23 of these neighbouring towns, including Rosemont, Saint-Henri, Hochelaga, Saint-Gabriel (Pointe-Saint-Charles), Ahuntsic and Villeray.

Textile mills, garment, shoe and tobacco factories, metalworking plants, food production facilities and flourmills dotted the island. The almost insatiable need for labour enticed many families to settle here. They arrived primarily from rural areas, but also from Europe (Ireland, England, Scotland, France, Italy) and Eastern Europe (Russia, Poland, Ukraine). In 1930, the island’s population exceeded one million, and over 8% of its inhabitants (more than 80,000) worked in factories.

In the following articles, we offer you portraits of some of Montreal’s districts whose existence was largely dependent on local industry.