Looking north over Lafontaine Park and the Plateau in 1965
It’s a rare treat to come across some aerial photographs that are both old and high-resolution. I came across a bunch in the Flickr photostream of Le présent du passé de Montréal, who also has lots of photos of street scenes, markets, buses and streetcars from the 1940s to the 1980s.
While there’s some good shots of the central parts of the city, like the one above, most of the aerials focus on Montreal’s north end. The photo below shows the notorious Acadie Circle in 1974. The parking lot of the Rockland Centre mall is on the lower right and the north end of Park Extension is just above that. The empty fields on the centre-left have since become home to the Marché Central, a wholesale food market surrounded by a terrible collection of suburban big-box stores.
The Metropolitan Expressway at Acadie Circle, 1974
Looking south towards Crémazie and Saint-Denis, 1980
My favourite photos were taken around Jean-Talon Street on October 13, 1977. At first, it might seem that very little has changed — all the buildings are the same, except for a few new additions — but a closer inspection reveals a much different neighbourhood than the one that exists today. Jean-Talon seemed like much less of a retail street back then, with fewer commercial spaces. There was no sign of the immigrant communities that would establish themselves along the street in the 1980s, 90s and 2000s — the space at Saint-Denis and Jean-Talon that is now home to a large Chinese supermarket was a “Centre du Billard” back then.
The Jean-Talon Market seems like it was much less lively than it is today. The photos were taken in mid-October, right when the fall harvest is at its peak, but the market is virtually empty, with only a handful of stalls scattered amidst all the parked cars.
The late 70s were probably the market’s nadir. It was a period when the city’s population was beginning a long decline due to suburban flight and a weak economy; the waves of new immigrants that revitalized the market and surrounding neighbourhood in the 1980s and 90s hadn’t yet arrived. If you took an aerial photo from the same spot today, you’d see a market that has expanded to twice its original size, with plenty of spillover retail in the surrounding streets.
East down Jean-Talon from Saint-Denis, 1977
Jean-Talon and de Châteaubriand, 1977
Looking west over the Jean-Talon Market, 1977
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