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History of the Old Port

The Quays of the Old Port are steeped in history. 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.

1642 – 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.

1760 – 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.

1809 – The Accommodation becomes the first steamship to offer regular service between Montréal and Quebec City. It departs from the pier of John Molson, owner of the vessel, west of the Bonsecours Chapel.

1825 – Official opening of the Lachine Canal, which made it possible to sail up the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes.

1830 – 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.

1850 – 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.

1859 – Victoria Bridge is opened, allowing trains to cross the river. Montréal becomes Canada’s primary hub for rail and maritime transport.

1886 – The first transcontinental train departs from the port.

1898 – 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.

1922 – Clock Tower is inaugurated and cold-storage warehouse is opened. Montréal is the most important grain port in the world.

1928 – Annual tonnage reaches its peak: over 12.5 million tonnes of merchandise transit the Port of Montréal.

1930 – Inauguration of the Montréal Harbour Bridge, renamed the Jacques-Cartier Bridge a few years later.

1959 – 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.

1963 – Old Montréal is declared a historic district.

1970 – Lachine Canal is closed to shipping.

1976 – 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.

1977 – 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.

1981 – 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.

1982 – 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.

1987 – The Old Port of Montréal Corporation master plan is submitted and approved, advocating the enhancement of the site and its rediscovery by Montréalers.

1989 – The Old Port site gets a makeover: development plans and work on the Bonsecours Basin, the Jacques-Cartier Quay and other facilities.

1992 – Inauguration of the “New Old Port of Montréal” on the 350th anniversary of Montréal’s founding.

2000 – The Montréal Science Centre opens on May 1.

2002 – Lachine Canal reopens to pleasure boaters.

2005 - 2005 – 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.

Today - The Old Port welcomes six million visitors annually

Questions or Comments

By telephone
(514) 496-PORT (7678)
or 1 800 971-PORT (7678)

Postal address :
Old Port of Montreal Corporation inc.,
333, de la Commune West
Montreal (Quebec) H2Y 2E2 Canada

Head Office:
(514) 283-5256

Reports and Statements

Financial statement December 31, 2012 Download