First street grid
Montreal developed in the same manner as a European city.
The town spread out within the urban space reserved by Paul de Maisonneuve since the 1650ies. A dweller first had to own a parcel of land in order to occupy it, which meant that he had to be conferred a formal title. People relied on notaries, whose practice was governed by law and who drafted numerous deeds that had to be preserved. Thanks to their careful preservation we can accurately reconstruct Montreal’s development over time.
Until 1672, a certain degree of anarchy pervaded the town’s organisation. In fact, there was no lack of space, but the town’s layout quickly showed the effects of la lack of planning, even when the space within the town territory was more or less clearly divided. Actually, there was no street greed, but paths following property boundaries topographic features gave rise to roads that became accepted through their use. In 1672, Francois Dollier de Casson, the Superior of the Sulpicians since 1670, proceeds to draw the first plan of Montreal.
Dollier de Casson had acquired knowledge of architecture and engineering in France. The first street plan simply shows existing or future streets, squares and main buildings in relation to each other, according to an orthogonal grid that slightly exaggerated reality was neither to scale nor oriented correctly.
However, this was the first official street grid of Montreal, and each street was officially named there and its width established. In many ways, the plan structured the town’s development.
On the map, trails and roads are clearly seen, and the urban grid of 1672 formed the basic framework of the present-day district, which preserves for the most part the original organisation and street names.
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