The Main National Historic Site of Canada

Montréal, Quebec
One block of this Historic District. (© Parks Canada   Parcs Canada  1996 (Gordon Fulton))
Cultural buildings.
(© Parks Canada Parcs Canada 1996 (Gordon Fulton))
Address : Saint-Laurent Street (Jean Talon - Notre Dame), Montréal, Quebec

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 1997-09-22

Other Name(s):
  • The Main  (Designation Name)
  • Saint-Laurent Boulevard  (Other Name)
  • Immigrants' Corridor  (Other Name)
  • SAINT-LAURENT BOULEVARD  (Plaque name)
Research Report Number: 1996-025

Plaque(s)


Existing plaque: on a slab Saint-Laurent Street, Montréal, Quebec

Saint-Laurent Boulevard, commonly known as "The Main," holds a special place in the emergence and development of cultural communities in Canada. Since the end of the 19th century, waves of immigrants from all around the world have stepped ashore at the foot of this 17th-century artery, and from there moved onto the street and into Canadian society. Along this strong sinewy backbone of Montréal, in a kaleidoscope of neighbourhoods such as Chinatown, the Jewish and Portuguese quarters, and Little Italy, a vibrant, cosmopolitan heart for the city has been forged. For more than a century new Canadians have lived and worked, merged and mixed, claiming and transforming the street in a constant cycle of renewal. With its numerous small businesses, textile and clothing factories, and its world of theatre and entertainment, this magical corridor of immigrants, commerce, and culture has evolved a way of life that has intrigued and inspired novelists, poets, singers, and film-makers alike.

Description of Historic Place

The Main is a 6-kilometre long district along Boulevard Saint Laurent in Montreal from la rue de la Commune in the south to la rue Jean-Talon in the north where consecutive waves of immigrants settled, establishing businesses and homes. The district is characterized by a mixture of small factories, shops, theatres and restaurants established and developed over time by numbers of peoples from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

Heritage Value

The Main (Boulevard Saint Laurent) was designated because: the district is a special place in Canada speaking to the emergence and development of cultural communities representative of Canadian society as a whole; as the immigrants' corridor, the district's cosmopolitan character and the constant renewal brought about by the merging and mixing of cultures and aesthetics give it a very special sense of place; with its textile and clothing factories, its numerous small businesses and the world of the theatre and entertainment, it has evolved a way of life that has inspired novelists, poets, singers, and film-makers.

The heritage value of the district resides in its association with successive waves of immigrants and their efforts to establish lives in Canada. The district is characterized by a variety of functional building types, usually of a modest scale, and their successive redevelopment by numbers of peoples from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, imparting to the district a distinctly cosmopolitan flavour.

Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, June 1996.

Character-Defining Elements

The elements that characterize the heritage value of the district include: the linear quality of the 6-kilometre stretch of street; the evolutionary nature of the streetscape with buildings dating from many time periods; the modest scale of most structures; a variety of functional building types including small factories, shops, restaurants,- theatres, as well as religious, institutional and community structures; the orientation of most buildings to the street; a preponderance of masonry structures; a strong presence in certain sectors of Montreal's "urban vernacular", 2 to 3 storey structures with grey Montréal stone facades and brick party walls; the variety and constant evolution of aesthetic expression.