A Consuming Passion
Houses for Mr. Meredith, 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
Keywords: Architecture (8646) , domestic (461) , Photograph (77678)
Keys to History
TO WORKING-CLASS AREAS
In the late Victorian age, Canadian cities were highly diverse mosaics. The upper and middle classes shared the city with a fast-growing working-class population. Industrialization led to an explosion of a highly stratified proletarian population made up of men, women and children, most of them new arrivals from rural regions or overseas. As they grappled with terrible working conditions and often irregular pay, these new city-dwellers had to develop new ways of life. Working-class areas grew up in the shadow of the factories and a host of new products and services became available to these consumers with more modest budgets.
Luc Carey, "Le déclin de la maison de fond de cour de Montréal, 1880-1920," Urban History Review 31, no. 1 (fall 2002):19-36.
This is a photo of two rear tenements at the turn of the 20th century. To maximize the return on their property, landlords put up several buildings on the same lot: the first one, directly on the street, and another at the back of the courtyard, which was accessible only through a porte-cochère.
Rear tenements were usually built in working-class neighbourhoods. The ones seen here were in the St. Anne district, probably north of the Lachine Canal.
Rear tenements were typical of Montreal working-class neighbourhoods between 1880 and 1920. Their numbers peaked in 1900 and then declined.
We don't know exactly who lived here, but we can guess that the woman in the unit on the right, glimpsed in the doorway, is proud of her house and garden.