First Palisade Around Montreal

Montreal remained an open town until 1685. However the increasingly frequent Iroquois attacks in the vicinity of the town made the authorities erect a palisade.

Five-metre-long stakes were assembled in sections and set in shallow trenches around Montreal. Traces of these rudimentary fortifications are still visible at Place Royale in the archaeological crypt at Pointe-a-Calliere Museum of Archaeology and History.

The palisade enclosed the terrain between the St. Lawrence River and the Little River to the south, present-day McGill Street to the west, the stream to the north and the area near present-day Place Jacques-Cartier to the east. In 1699, the palisade was extended up to present-day Saint-Claude Street.

Another extension was made in 1709. It encompassed both Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel and the redoubt built on the small hill in 1693. By the late 17th century, the space inside the palisade housed Montreal’s entire population, including its garrison. There were roughly 1500 inhabitants, including 200 soldiers.

The newly fortified town was small, but it became a major strategic fortress that supplied French posts and traders in the interior of the country. This new function shaped the urban environment.

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