Take a step back in time to learn about major milestones in the port’s history and the birth of the Old Port.
The first colonists arrived here on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, and it was thanks to the port that old Ville-Marie grew into the thriving international metropolis of modern-day Montréal.
The founding of Montreal
Montréal is founded by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve. The Lachine rapids prevented him from sailing further west, so he likely anchored at what is today the Old Port.
Figure 1, The Founding of Montreal, by Donald Kenneth Anderson M976.179.3 | © Musée McCord
Fur trade expands
The fur trade expands and the first port facilities are built. Instead of landing on muddy river banks, merchants build temporary wooden docks along the shore.
Figure 2, An East View of Montreal, in Canada, 1762, by Thomas Patten M19848 | © Musée McCord
Steamship service between Montréal and Québec City
The Accommodation becomes the first steamship to offer regular service between Montréal and Québec City. It departs from the pier of John Molson, owner of the vessel, west of the Bonsecours Chapel.
Figure 3, The steamship Accommodation works back upstream with the help of horses and oxen. Archives de Montréal
Lachine Canal opens
Official opening of the Lachine Canal, which made it possible to sail up the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes.
Figure 4, Entrance to Lachine Canal, Montreal, QC, 1826, watercolour by unknown artist MP-1976.288.2 | © Musée McCord
Creation of the Montréal Harbour Commission
The Montréal Harbour Commission is created to enlarge the port and improve facilities. The first phase of this work would take place over the next 20 years.
Figure 5, The Port of Montreal, 1830, by Robert Auchmuty Sproule MP-1976.288.2 | © Musée McCord
A canal is dredged between Montréal and Lac Saint-Pierre
The Port of Montréal is now able to accommodate transoceanic ships. The railway industry begins to flourish.
Figure 6, Trans-Atlantic ships and train cars in the Port of Montréal, ca. 1872. MP-0000.1452.53 | © Musée McCord
Victoria Bridge is opened, allowing trains to cross the river
Montréal becomes Canada’s primary hub for rail and maritime transport.
Figure 7, Grand Finale of Fire-Works in Honor of the Prince of Wales and the Successful Completion of the Victoria Bridge, Montreal, Canada East M975.62.263.3 | © Musée McCord
The first transcontinental train departs from the port.
Figure 8, Wood from British Columbia transported by train to Montréal, 1890. II-93180 | © Musée McCord
The federal government allocates one million dollars to upgrade port facilities
Major infrastructure built during this period includes concrete quays, steel storage sheds, docks and grain elevators.
Figure 9, The last rivet driven into place marks the official opening of Shed 11, the first of the Port of Montréal’s permanent warehouses. Port de Montréal – Archives | APM-0934
Cold-storage warehouse is opened
Clock Tower is inaugurated and cold-storage warehouse is opened. Montréal is the most important grain port in the world.
Figure 10, Cold storage plant in harbour, Montreal, QC, ca. 1925 MP-0000.25.234 | © Musée McCord
Peak annual tonnage
Annual tonnage reaches its peak: over 12.5 million tonnes of merchandise transit the Port of Montréal.
Figure 11, Bananas from the Antilles arrive at the Port of Montréal, for shipment by train to the rest of Canada. MSTC/Collection : CN Photo 31279 Musée des sciences et de la technologie du Canada
Inauguration of the Montréal Harbour Bridge
The bridge is renamed the Jacques-Cartier Bridge a few years later.
Figure 12, Jacques-Cartier Bridge, Montréal Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec / Notice 0002632544
Opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway
Ocean-going vessels can now reach the Great Lakes without stopping in Montréal. The port experiences a drop in activity.
Figure 13, Opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, June 26, 1959 Auteur inconnu
Lachine Canal is closed to shipping
Figure 15, View of the locks sector after the canal is filled in. © Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal
The Port is moved farther east
The Port is moved farther east, putting an end to port activities in Old Montréal. The Port of Montréal specializes in handling containers and soon receives its one millionth container.
Figure 16, One of the Port of Montréal’s container terminals. © Port de Montréal
Plans for redevelopment
The Canadian government announces its intention to redevelop the area left vacant by the port’s move. Subsequent years see public consultations on its future vocation.
Figure 17, Final public consultation report on the future of the Old Port of Montréal. © Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal
The Old Port of Montréal Corporation is established
A linear park is created along Rue de la Commune, and six of the eight rail lines are removed.
Figure 18, View of linear park along Rue de la Commune. © Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal
Clock Tower is restored
Grain Elevator No. 1 (near the entrance to Alexandra Quay) is demolished to improve access to the river, in accordance with public wishes.
Figure 19, The white Beaux-arts-style Clock Tower. © Mattera
Master plan is submitted and approved
The Old Port of Montréal Corporation master plan is submitted and approved, advocating the enhancement of the site and its rediscovery by Montréalers.
The Old Port site gets a makeover
Development plans and work on the Bonsecours Basin, the Jacques-Cartier Quay and other facilities.
Figure 21, Aerial view of Bonsecours Basin and Pavillion after completion of development work. © Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal
Inauguration of the “New Old Port of Montréal”
On the 350th anniversary of Montréal’s founding
Figure 22, Visitors flock to the Old Port during Montréal’s 350th birthday celebrations. © Archives de la Ville de Montréal / VM71
The Montréal Science Centre opens on May 1
Figure 23, Entrance of the Montréal Science Centre. © Mattera
Lachine Canal reopens to pleasure boaters
Figure 24, The locks sector after the reopening. Source inconnue
The government and Old Port of Montréal Corporation adopt the 2005–2015 Vision Development, a plan to enhance the Old Port’s recreational, tourism and cultural infrastructure.
Figure 25, Overview of the Vision at completion. Production: Graph Synergie
The Old Port welcomes six million visitors annually
The Old Port welcomes six million visitors annually
Figure 26, Tall Ships Edition. © Roland Lorente