I-77457 | View from Notre-Dame Church, looking north-west, Montreal, QC, 1872

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Create a new pair3- Deux quotidiens se rencontrent - Urban Life through Two Lenses
View from Notre-Dame Church, looking north-west, Montreal, QC, 1872
William Notman (1826-1891)
1872, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Wet collodion process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
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In 1872, the photographer William Notman again perched on the top of Notre Dame Church to take a series of panoramic shots of Montreal. The image reproduced here provides an unobstructed view of the neighbourhoods to the north, Saint-Laurent and Saint-Antoine, as well as Mount Royal. While the mountain, churches and private houses dominate the landscape, serendipity gives us a glimpse into industrial activity in Montreal. In fact, the recent demolition of a building on Place d'Armes, in front of Notre Dame, revealed the presence of modern factories near the business district.

In 1872, Montreal was the most important industrial centre in Canada. The city was at the leading edge of the industrial revolution in Canada. The Lachine Canal area, downtown and the surrounding suburbs were all affected by this industrial growth. However, harbour and commercial activities attracted more attention from tourists and photographers. While there are few photographs of the façades of factories, visual records of the insides of these buildings, and the men, women and children who worked there, are even rarer.

Source: Urban Life through Two Lenses (Consult the See Also box on this page)

Keys to History

Looking northwest from atop the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral, one could, in 1872, make out the spires of the churches of Saint Patrick and Jesus, as well as that of Christ Church Cathedral. The names of several companies are legible on the walls of the buildings in the foreground. These include the George James & Co. Boot & Shoe Factory, the Montreal Type Foundry and the Dawson Bros. Bookbindery. Farther to the north, at the foot of Mount Royal, one can see the vaulted iron and glass roof of the Crystal Palace, built to accommodate an exhibition of agricultural and industrial products from throughout North America. Finally, in the lower left corner of the picture the skylights of the Notman photography studio are visible.