Port of Montreal
Review and History

The Port of Montreal is the second largest city in Canada and the busiest seaport on the St. Lawrence River and Seaway that links the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. The Port of Montreal is about 267 kilometers southwest of Canada's Port of Quebec and about 335 kilometers northwest of the Port of Portland, Maine, in the United States. Covering about 75% of Montreal Island, the Port of Montreal surrounds Mount Royal rising some 233 meters above sea level. The Montreal metropolitan area contains many cities and towns that rest on both shores of the St. Lawrence River. In 2006, over 1.6 million people lived in the Port of Montreal, and more than 3.6 million people resided in the greater metropolitan area.

The Port of Montreal boasts the most productive economy in Quebec and the second most productive in Canada. It is a national center for culture, commerce, technology, finance, and technology. Industries in the Port of Montreal include pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, aerospace, software engineering, electronics, printing and publishing, transpiration, and tobacco. The Port of Montreal also supports a strong service sector and a sizeable research and development component. In addition to all this activity, the Port of Montreal is the world's biggest inland port and one of Canada's most important ports as well as a hub for the country's rail network.

Port History

When explorer Jacques Cartier visited the site of today's Port of Montreal in 1535, the indigenous Huron people who lived there called it Hochelaga. The inhabitants welcomed him at the base of the mountain he called Mont Real (Mount Royal). It was another 50 years before French explorer Samuel de Champlain came to the Port of Montreal. The village of Hochelaga disappeared, and a new European settlement called Place Royale rested on the shores of the St. Lawrence.

In 1642, today's Port of Montreal was founded by Paul de Chomedey who built a chapel, a hospital, dwellings, and other buildings surrounded by a stockade. He called the settlement Ville-Marie. King Louis XIV granted the community its first charter in 1644. By 1672, about 1500 people lived in the settlement.

Development of the modern Port of Montreal did not begin until the early 1700s when land grants were made and farms grew up outside the early stockade. For much of its early history, the Port of Montreal was a base for traders and explorers. By the end of the 1700s, several settlements had been established nearby that later became part of the Port of Montreal.

In 1760, the Port of Montreal surrendered to the British and became, with all of New France, part of British North America in 1763. Soldiers from the American Revolutionary army occupied the Port of Montreal in late 1775 but retreated after Benedict Arnold's siege of Quebec failed. Canada remained part of the British Empire.

In 1809, the first Canadian steamship made the journey between Quebec and the Port of Montreal. The Bank of Montreal, Canada's first bank, opened in 1817. In 1821, construction began on the forerunner of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Lachine Canal.

From 1844 until 1849, the Port of Montreal was the capital of Canada. Unfortunately, a mob burned the Parliament building in 1949. In the early 1850s, several fires destroyed large sections of the Port of Montreal, initiating a serious economic decline that ended in many bankruptcies. In 1853, shipping services between the European continent, Liverpool, and Port of Montreal began operating. Then in 1858, the transatlantic cable to Europe appeared. The Port of Montreal's horse-drawn trams started operating in 1861. Between 1880 and 1903, the city acquired its electric lighting, electric tramways, automobiles, and cinemas.

By the beginning of the 20th Century, 270 thousand people lived in the Port of Montreal, and the Port of Montreal began to annex communities at its outskirts. It also bought St. Helen's Island and two nearby manmade islands, which eventually were the site for Expo 67. In 1909, Montreal's famous ice-hockey team, the Canadiens, was founded. The Canadian National Railway Company, created by the merger of several railroads, selected the Port of Montreal as its headquarters in 1922.

Both World Wars in the early 20th Century spurred the economy of the Port of Montreal. When the United States Prohibition changed life in America, the Port of Montreal profited greatly from the many Americans seeking alcohol. The Great Depression of the 1930s was hard on the Port of Montreal. Unemployment rates were uncomfortably high.

During the Second World War, the Port of Montreal's Mayor, Camillien Houde was sent to a prison camp for his opposition to conscription when he encouraged the Port of Montreal's residents to refuse to register for military service. He remained in the prison camp until 1944.

In early 1947, the Canadian and U.S. governments started talking about building the St. Lawrence Seaway as a joint venture that was completed in 1959. Unfortunately, the Seaway allowed many vessels to by-pass the Port of Montreal, reducing the Port of Montreal's position of economic dominance.

The popular Expo 67 brought international recognition to the Port of Montreal in 1967. The recognition won the first non-U.S. major league baseball franchise for the Port of Montreal, and the Montreal Expos played ball in the city from 1969 until 2004 when they were moved (as the Nationals) to Washington D.C.

Hosting the Summer Olympics in 1967 proved to be a financial disaster for the Port of Montreal, as it acquired heavy debt burdens for the province. Exacerbating the Port of Montreal's problems, the Quebec separatist movement led many corporations to move their headquarter offices from the Port of Montreal to Toronto during the 1970s and 1980s, largely due to the enforcement of French-language use "guidelines." The Port of Montreal's economy slowed to a near stand-still in the early 1990s, but it began to make gradual improvements when high-technology industries like electronics and aerospace engineering started growing.

In 2002, all 27 municipalities on Montreal Island were merged into one vast city of Montreal. However, several districts did not agree with the merger. All citizens were allowed to vote on the action in 2005, and 15 elected to separate from the megappolis in 2006, becoming once again independent municipalities.

Review and History    Port Commerce    Cruising and Travel    Satellite Map    Contact Information