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© McCord Museum
Joseph Bastien Grocery, Barré St. corner of Gareau Lane, Montreal, QC, 1903
Wm. Notman & Son
1903, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

In working-class neighbourhoods, the big architectural innovation was the duplex, a two-storey building with one flat on top of another. Its popularity soared starting in the 1860s and it became the standard model for Montreal housing. The duplex later evolved into the triplex and its variants, some of which consisted of up to five or six dwellings. These new models met the needs of a rapidly increasing population made up chiefly of low-income tenants seeking reasonably priced housing. Architectural innovation was not limited to the residential sector. The way commercial buildings were constructed changed dramatically, too: open plans, iron or steel structures, and elevators made it possible to erect bigger, taller buildings. There were many fine examples of Victorian architectural styles, especially in Old Montreal, where new warehouses and office buildings were put up -- resulting, however, in the elimination of a large part of the city's French architectural heritage.


This picture shows a row of brick duplexes. The buildings come right up to the edge of the sidewalk, and the staircases are inside. In the 1880s, the trend switched to building back from the sidewalk, which allowed the staircases to be built outside.


Duplexes were built all over the city. The styles were more modest in working-class neighbourhoods, more elaborate in fashionable areas.


The first duplexes were erected in the late 1850s, and ever since then Montrealers have continued to build them. The style and form have evolved with the times, however.


Duplexes like these were primarily intended for Montrealers who had to rent because they did not have enough money to become property owners.

© Musée McCord Museum