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POI Descriptive Title

Victoriatown (Goose Village) / Autostade






POI Historical Details

Victoriatown, also commonly known as Goose Village, was a largely residential neighbourhood in Montreal, Quebec (Canada). The neighbourhood was initially home to primarily Irish immigrants who landed in the vicinity during the 19th century. However, by the mid-20th century the area was largely comprised of Italian Canadians. The neighbourhood was eventually raized in 1964 in preparation for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition (Expo 67), part of which was to be located nearby, and as was eventually decided, upon the site of the former neighbourhood.

Victoriatown was located on a point of land, formerly called Windmill Point, just above the port of Montreal, on the St. Lawrence River. The area received the name Goose Village from its pre-19th century use as a marshy area where natives, and then Montrealers of European descent, would set up temporary camps each fall to hunt the migratory geese that would inevitably visit the marsh. With the construction of the Lachine Canal during the 1830s the marsh was drained and filled in, but the commonly used name of Goose Village was retained by local residents. [1]

Goad, Charles E. . Atlas of the city of Montreal : from special survey and official plans, showing all buildings & names of owners [ca. 1:1 200]. Montreal: Charles E. Goad, 1881. Detail of plate #28.
Victoriatown mapped on top of area today

Establishment Of Community

During the early-mid 19th century Windmill Point acted as a landing station for ships bringing immigrants from Europe to Canada. Located near the entrance to the Lachine Canal, Windmill Point was the western-most point on the St. Lawrence that ships could reach before encountering shallow water and the Lachine rapids. Disembarking at the point, immigrants who would travel further west would transship onto other vessels which would continue up the Lachine canal. [2] [3](see U. Calgary document, H. of C minutes.; immigration reports)

During the 1840s and 1850s many of the immigrants arriving at Montreal by ship were Irish attempting to flee famine in their home country. During 1847 over 100,000 Irish left Ireland for Canada, with approximately one in five dying of disease (often typhus, commonly referred at the time as "ship fever") either during or following the voyage.[4] Like Grosse Ile at Quebec, Windmill Point functioned as a quarantine station, isolating ill immigrants from the rest of the city, and thus limiting the spread of disease to the city's population. Of the thousands of largely Irish immigrants who landed at Windmill Point in 1847 and 1848, between 3500 and 6000 died and were buried at the site.

Initially, the sick of the quarantined immigrants of the 1840s were housed in three "fever sheds", 150 feet long, and between 40 and 50 feet wide. However, as the number of sick arrivals increased, the number of sheds also increased to 22. Prevented from leaving the quarantine station by police and troops, the largely Catholic sick were cared for by the city's Order of the Sisters of Charity (commonly called the Grey Nuns), as well as members of other Catholic communities. [2]

While more than 400,000 Irish immigrants came to British North America between 1846 and 1854, by the mid-1850s the numbers arriving decreased dramatically. This was partially the result of both better economic conditions in the British Isles, as well as the outbreak of the Crimean War, which offered employment to many young men while also creating manufacturing and trade jobs in Britain.[4] As the epidemic of ship fever subsided with the decrease in the number of immigrants arriving at Montreal the significant quarantine facilities on Windmill Point were torn down. Many of the largely Irish immigrants who had arrived, and were still arriving, at Windmill Point eventually settled on the now vacant land and the surrounding areas, forming Victoriatown, and the nearby, larger neighbourhoods of Pointe Saint-Charles and Griffintown. Many of these immigrants and their descendents would work for the Grand Trunk Railway, whose rail yards were located on Windmill Point, between Victoriatown and Point St-Charles. In addition, many Irish immigrant workers were employed in the construction of the Victoria Jubilee Bridge (commonly called Victoria Bridge), which was constructed between 1854 and 1859 to connect the Grand Trunk's operations on the Island of Montreal to the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River. Leaving the island at Windmill Point, the bridge influenced the choice of the name Victoriatown for the newly formed nearby neighbourhood.

With many Irish immigrant workers employed in the building of Victoria Bridge, the workers felt a connection to the location where the bridge touched the Island of Montreal. Indeed, the workers allegedly unearthed the remains of some of the thousands of immigrants buried at the point during the construction of the bridge. In commemoration to those who had died and were buried there, the workers erected a large stone, with the inscription, "To preserve from desecration the remains of 6,000 immigrants who died of ship fever A.D. 1847-1848 this stone is erected by the Workmen of Messrs. Peto, Brassey and Betts, employed in the construction of the Victoria Bridge A.D. 1859". Officially called the Irish Commemorative Stone, the stone has also been commonly referred to as The Black Rock, The Big Black Rock, and the Boulder Stone. The stone is currently located on Bridge Street, near what was the Immigrant Burying Ground and Victoriatown. [5][2]

By the mid-20th century Victoriatown consisted of approximately 20.5 acres, 176 buildings containing 330 dwelling units, and approximately 1500 residents. The neighbourhood was made up of seven blocks, with Forfar, Conway, and Britannia streets running south-west to north-east, intersected by Menai Street, which ran north-west to south-east. None of these streets exist today, but the south-western side of the neighbourhood was framed by Bridge Street (which still exists), while a street called Riverside bound the community almost from where Bridge Street met Victoria Bridge to the neighbourhoods north-eastern most corner. (Parts of Riverside Street still exist today, intersected by supports and ramps for the Bonaventure Expressway.)[6]

Up to the beginning of the 20th century the neighbourhood was overwhelmingly occupied by Irish-Canadians, French-Canadians, and some Italians. However, by the 1960s, and especially following the end of the Second World War, the number of Italian-Canadians living in the area increased significantly, while the proportion of Irish-Canadians decreased. By the 1960s approximately 52% of the residents were Italian-Canadians, 25% "English" Canadians, and 16% "French" Canadians. More than 90% of all of the residents were Catholic, and thus, the one school in the neighbourhood, which was an English primary school, was staffed by "Irish religious." [7] In addition to the school, the neighbourhood also had a fire station, a train station, a park, and several corner grocery stores.

Urban Renewal / Community's Destruction

Consisting largely of Victorian era homes built for, and maintained by, working class families, the area became the focus of urban renewal proposals as early as 1954. That year the city carried out preliminary studies on thirteen areas of the city deemed to be in need of urban renewal. Victoriatown was also included in a 1961 report "General Study of Urban Renewal," prepared for the city by the Economic Research Corporation Limited, which studied 17 "renewal areas" in the city. In addition, in 1962 the city produced a further report on the conditions and prospects for renewal of Victoriatown, "Victoriatown: Urban Redevelopment / Réaménagement urbain." The study does not define "urban renewal" or "redevelopment", but from reading the study, it is clear that an area in need of redevelopment or renewal included neighbourhoods which did not reflect the living conditions or environment typical of middle-class urban or suburban neighbourhoods. Furthermore, it appears that the study was carried out with the end of, not determining whether Victoriatown should be raised, but justifying its destruction.

The report emphasizes that Victoriatown did not, and could not, constitute a real community since it was isolated from much of the city (separated from Pointe Sainte-Charles by railway yards, and from the rest of the city by the Lachine Canal); it lacked any stores other than a few corner "unattractive" corner stores; it only had a single school, which was in a poor state of repair; that many of the buildings in the area were more than 70 years old, "worn-out", and/or in a state of disrepair; and that the relatively poor population of the neighbourhood did not have the means to renovate the buildings to a standard that the authors of the report considered acceptable. Indeed, when discussing whether the buildings of Victoriatown should be conserved in any way, the authors reveal their view that only certain kinds of older neighbourhoods should be preserved so as to portray a particular image of the city's past.

          "Considering what has already been said [earlier in the report], it must be concluded that "conservation" is out of the question. Even though from the viewpoint of the City's

          evolution [Victoriatown] is an old site, it cannot be said in fact that the area is one typical of "Old Montreal" and that it has any historical value as such. From an                         

          architectual point of view the area is certainly no more interesting, since the existing buildings are merely ordinary labourers houses."[8]

As part of the report, the authors included numerous photographs taken from a Photographic Survey conducted by the City Clerk's Department. Interestingly, only photographs which show negative elements of the neighbourhood are shown (with the sole exception of "A Good House" which is juxtaposed beside "A True Slum Dwelling"). Each of these photographs are also is accompanied by a caption which emphasizes the negative aspects of the photograph, and in some cases to point out negative elements which many readers may not be able to see from the photograph alone. Furthermore, the report stresses what the authors saw as the unhealthy living and environmental conditions of Victoriatown. In addition to claiming that condition of many of the houses posed a health risk, they also note that,

          "...slaughter houses, tanneries, junk yards, a large coal yard, and an asphalt plant ring the area, and pollute the air with smoke, dust and foul odors. The situation is [sic] not

          improved by an open sewer (at the end of Bridge Street) and a dumping ground where rubbish is burned in the open. In short, this area is absolutely unsuitable for habitation,

          and deprives the inhabitants of any comfort or ease."[9]

Interestingly, the authors of the report also note that, while being surrounded by potential environmental health risks, the population of the area was statistically healthy. They also found that, despite not having its own police station and the population being poor, Victoriatown had a relatively low crime rate.[10] However, at no point in the report do the authors suggest that the foul conditions of the open sewers, dumping ground, etc., or the poor state of the neighbourhood's public lands and buildings, should be rectified by the city. Rather, the only proposed solution to dealing with all of the negative elements the authors note about Victoriatown is the neighbourhood's demolition. As the authors clearly state in the report's introduction, despite the best efforts and state of the people living there, the city would not consider the neighbourhood a community.

          "But if one can only admire the efforts [the inhabitants of Victoriatown] have made to improve the conditions in which they live, it has to be recognized that the results of their

          efforts have not and never will create a community in which they and the City as a whole can take pride. New linolium does not prevent a floor from sagging, new plaster does

          not straighten the structure of a house nor fix a crumbling foundation; new windows do not stop coal dust and the smell of tanneries and slaughterhouses from coming into a

          dwelling. Housewives have to put up with all the troubles that go with an old, old house, and the cellar vents have to be boarded up against rats."[11]

The 1962 report was eventually used by the City to justify the demolition of Victoriatown in 1964 in time for the construction of Expo 67 and the Bonaventure Expressway. The only remnants of the neighbourhood are the former fire station, the train station platform and access tunnel huts, the Big Black Rock, and the small memorial stone dedicated to the former residents who had died in the Second World War. While the report authors repeatedly insist that the removal of the working class neighbourhood had no connection to the possibility that the exposition could be located nearby, but was simply fueled by the City's desire to provide the best living conditions for its citizens, the site of Victoriatown was indeed used for Expo 67.


In addition to being intersected by the expressway which took visitors to and from the exposition site, the land of the former neighbourhood and the much of the surrounding area were used to build Expo 67's Automotive Stadium (commonly referred to by its French name, "Autostade"). Completed in 1966 and paid for by donations from American Motors, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, and Volvo, the Autostade was a 33,172 seat stadium designed by the architects Victor Prus and Maurice Desnoyers. It was comprised of 19 pre-cast concrete stands, or sections, which were designed to be dismantled and used in different locations after the stadium was no longer needed. The stadium complex also included an administrative building and parking for 11,000 automobiles. Also located on the former site of Victoriatown the Autostade was the Cité du Havre Chartered Bus terminal.

During Expo 67 the Autostade was site of six major events: Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus (May 16-21, 23-28); Canadian Armed Forces Tatoo (June 19-22 and June 25 to July 4); Flying Colors, starring Maurice Chevalier (July 11-30); La Gendarmerie Française (August 21 to 27, August 29 to September 4 and September 6-9); World Horse Spectacular (September 17 to October 1); Great Western Rodeo (October 6 to 15).

Expo67 Autostade postcard
Expo67 Autostade

In addition to being used for Expo 67, the stadium had originally been intended to be the home of Montreal's new baseball team, the Montreal Expos. However, after the team elected to be based at Jerry Park in the Montreal neighbourhood of Villeray, the Autostade's field was reconfigured to host Canadian Football League teams. It was first used by a football team prior to Expo 67 when the Ottawa Rough Riders based themselves at the stadium in 1966 while Ottawa's Lansdowne Park was being renovated. Following 1967 the Autostade was used by the Montreal Alouettes football team until 1971, and then again from 1973 until the team moved to the City's Olympic Stadium following the 1976 Summer Olympics.

While also used for concerts and other events during the 1970s, the stadium was eventually dismantled in the late 1970s, with several of its reusable stands allegedly being relocated to parks in the cities of Lasalle and Laval.[12] [13][14]

Today, the only remaining part of the Autostade is the administrative building, which houses part of Corby Distilleries Limited's Montreal operations (formerly Meagher’s Distillery Limited of Montreal). Also located on the former site of both Vitoriatown and the Autostade complex are Canada Post's Bridge Street mail distribution station, a large parkinglot used by Casino Montréal, and a Hydro Québec transmission station.


  1. Montréal - Service d’urbanisme, Victoriatown : urban redevelopment = réaménagement urbain, (Ville de Montréal, Service d’urbanisme, 1962) ii.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 John A. Gallagher, "The Irish Emigration of 1847 and Its Canadian Consequences," Canadian Catholic Historical Association [Report], 3 (1936): 43-57.
  3. Province of Canada, Journals of the Legislative Assembly, from the 2nd day of June to the 28th day of July, 1847, 26 July 1847: 197-9.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Valerie Knowles,Strangers at Our Gates: Canadian Immigration and Immigration Policy, 1540-1997, (Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1997) 44-5.
  5. Montréal - Service d’urbanisme, Victoriatown : urban redevelopment = réaménagement urbain, (Ville de Montréal, Service d’urbanisme, 1962) 10-1.
  6. Montréal - Service d’urbanisme, Victoriatown : urban redevelopment = réaménagement urbain, (Ville de Montréal, Service d’urbanisme, 1962) 3, 16-7.
  7. Montréal - Service d’urbanisme, Victoriatown : urban redevelopment = réaménagement urbain, (Ville de Montréal, Service d’urbanisme, 1962) 38.
  8. Montréal - Service d’urbanisme, Victoriatown : urban redevelopment = réaménagement urbain, (Ville de Montréal, Service d’urbanisme, 1962) 54.
  9. Montréal - Service d’urbanisme, Victoriatown : urban redevelopment = réaménagement urbain, (Ville de Montréal, Service d’urbanisme, 1962) 35.
  10. Montréal - Service d’urbanisme, Victoriatown : urban redevelopment = réaménagement urbain, (Ville de Montréal, Service d’urbanisme, 1962) 48, 50.
  11. Montréal - Service d’urbanisme, Victoriatown : urban redevelopment = réaménagement urbain, (Ville de Montréal, Service d’urbanisme, 1962) 5.
  12. "The Automotive Stadium," Expo Lounge, http://expolounge.blogspot.com/2008/04/automotive-stadium.html
  13. "Autostade," Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autostade
  14. Expo 67, Montreal, Canada 1967 Map, retrieved from:http://www.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=http://www.alamedainfo.com/Expo_67_Map_Overview_001.jpg (July 26, 2010)

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