Growing Up Healthy in the 20th Century

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Photograph
New triplex development, Montreal, QC, 1925
Wm. Notman & Son
1925, 20th century
Silver salts on film - Gelatin silver process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
VIEW-23307
© McCord Museum
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Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , Cityscape (3948) , Photograph (77678) , residential (1255) , streetscape (1737)
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Keys to History

In the early years of the 20th century, finding housing for a family in a booming place like Montreal was a real challenge. To meet the demand from all the people who flooded into the city between 1900 and 1930, huge numbers of multi-family dwellings were built. There was another shortage of reasonably priced rental accommodation between 1940 and 1945, when 65,000 people moved to the city to work in the factories producing goods for the war effort.

The sharp increase in Montreal's population at the turn of the 20th century meant that people often had to live in very cramped conditions. In contrast with families living in the country, those that moved to the city sometimes had to share dark, poorly ventilated dwellings that were not connected up to the drinking water system or the sewer system. Such crowded living conditions, on top of a general lack of hygiene, increased the risk of contagion and epidemic. This dire situation and its potentially disastrous consequences for public health in Montreal, and particularly for children, were a cause for serious concern to many officials at the time.

  • What

    The typical Montreal residential building of this period was a duplex or triplex: a two- or three-storey building consisting of two to five large, long, narrow apartments.

  • Where

    In Montreal, residential buildings were put up first around the old part of the city, then along the shores of the St. Lawrence and then northwards along St. Denis Street and St. Lawrence Boulevard.

  • When

    After the Second World War, housing development spread to neighbourhoods such as Ville Émard and Notre Dame de Grâce and to the areas north of Villeray and along the Rivière-des-Prairies. This development went hand in hand with a gradual shift in population from the city centre to the outskirts

  • Who

    Montreal was (and still is) known as a city of renters. In comparison with other cities in Canada, Montreal had a large pool of rental accommodation in the form of duplexes, triplexes and other multi-unit residential buildings.