In 1698, the year that Coste Notre-Dame-des-Neiges was established, Ville Marie was less than 60 years old. And it is one of the great figures of the first period of Montréal, Marguerite Bourgeoys, to whom we owe this particular devotion to Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, the origin of the name of the new “côte.”
Establishing this new group of settlers on the island was the initiative of Dollier de Casson, the superior of the Sulpicians, who were the lords of the island of Montréal at the time. In the pursuit of the development of this immense property that had been granted to them by the Société de Notre-Dame in 1663, the Gentlemen of Saint Sulpice gave the King's engineer, Gédéon de Catalogne, the job of mapping out thirty seven concessions along a stream that ran down the northwest side of Mount Royal toward Rivière des Prairies. Frontenac was then the governor of New France, and Callière would succeed him in April 1699. The next month, the new governor of Ville-Marie was appointed—Mr. Vaudreuil, who would obtain a concession on Côte-des-Neiges in 1702. At the time, the total population of New France was 7391 men and 6424 women. The population of Ville-Marie was 1185 and 603 people lived on the rest of the island.
A path ran between the little and the big mountain along a stream and linked the Fort de la Montagne to Fort Lorette, where the Hurons had recently been transferred. On April 8, 1698, lots were established perpendicular to this north-running stream. They were thus oriented in an approximate east-west direction, while everywhere else on the Island of Montréal, lots were oriented in a more north-south direction. This particularity of Côte Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, which would soon be known as Côte-des-Neiges, is still visible today in the urban fabric of the neighbourhood.
Source: AVANT D’AVOIR TOUT OUBLIÉ, Petite histoire et patrimoine de Côte-des-Neiges
Environs of Montreal shewing the railway communication with the city-1851
© Collections de Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec
Hello ma’m, hello my friend.
You just came from Beaver Lake and you want to take the metro?
Here we go for a very special tour on the number 165 bus, where we’ll go down the hill and back in time.
Next stop, Forest Hill
On your right, you can see Mount Royal. They used to call it the big mountain. This is about where Côte-des-Neiges began, and it ran to about where Jean-Talon Street is today. If Gédéon could see it now!
What do you mean, who? Gédéon de Catalogne, of course! Louis the Fourteenth’s land surveyor. He surveyed the first concessions here in 1698 for the Sulpicians.
See there, on the left, those big buildings? They hide part of the view of the summit of Westmount.
Yes ma’m, you’re right, Côte-des-Neiges Road is a bit like a valley between the three summits of Mount Royal
Next stop Ridgewood!
You’re right Sir, those apartment buildings aren’t very old for a three-hundred-year old neighbourhood. Until the 1940’s, there were still farms, orchards and fields here.
Yes, really, I’m serious! They grew apples, different vegetables, flowers and even melons here! Côte-des-Neiges was a big garden. It was when the university and the hospitals were built that everything changed in this neighbourhood, and fast!
To your left, the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery, opened in 1854.
Next stop, Saint-Joseph’s Oratory.
The Oratory also really changed since the first chapel was built. Yes, a little chapel built in 1904 by Brother André.
Queen Mary Road. We are now in the Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood. One of the most multiethnic neighbourhoods in Canada. They say there are more than one hundred languages spoken here.
Do you know why the first European settlers moved here in 1698?
It was because there was a stream.
I bet you didn’t know that, did you!
A stream that ran from Mount Royal to Rivière des-Prairies.
And along this stream there weren’t just farms. There were tanneries!
At one time, they even called Côte-des-Neiges the village des tanneurs!
Pardon me? No, no! It’s not because it’s a hill that it’s called “côte” in French. Here in Montréal there’s also Côte-Vertu, côte de Liesse and many others. It’s because the seigneurs divided the concessions in parallel lines they called côtes. Whether they were on hills or not.
Have a good day. It’s nice outside, you should take advantage of the great weather to take a walk through the neighbourhood.