M930.50.7.279 | Bonsecours Market and City Hall, Montreal

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Bonsecours Market and City Hall, Montreal
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1852, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
10.4 x 18.7 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , commercial (1771) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

In 1878 the new city hall replaced the Bonsecours Market as the symbol of municipal political power in Montreal. At around the same time, French Canadians were becoming successful not only in establishing major companies, but also in making a breakthrough in municipal politics. In 1882 they won a one-seat majority on city council and, from 1883 on, managed to strengthen their position through annexations. Things would no longer be the same. City councillor Raymond Préfontaine forged a strong political organization that found most of its support among the French-speaking population. When he came to power at City Hall, he practised populist politics aimed at ensuring that French-Canadian voters and the east end of the city benefited from the major road development work his administration undertook.

  • What

    The Bonsecours Market housed a public market for well over a century (1847-1964). It also served as Montreal's city hall for a quarter of a century (1852-78).

  • Where

    The Bonsecours Market is located in the eastern part of Old Montreal. One of its façades gives onto St. Paul Street, the city's oldest street. The other façade overlooks the harbour. The building thus represents a symbolic link between the city and the river.

  • When

    Construction of the Bonsecours Market began in 1844, and the building was inaugurated in 1847. The interior was not finished until 1851, however.

  • Who

    The municipal council sat in a room on the upper floor of the building. Butchers had their stalls on the ground floor, while farmers who came to sell their produce at the market set up their stands outside, around the building.