Residential development in the West Island, 1945-1994 (2022)

- McGill University School of Urban PlanningResidential development in the West Island, 1945-1994 (1)

1: Introduction - Project scope, data sources, processing, and display
Map 1.1 - Orientation map
Map 1.2 - Highways and rail stations

2: Permits
Graph 2.1 - All permit values
Graph 2.2 - Residential permit values
Graph 2.3 - Permit values by sector
Graph 2.4 - Total residential permits
Map 2.5 - Residential permits, 1958-1970
Map 2.6 - Residential permits, 1971-1982
Map 2.7 - Residential permits, 1983 -1994
Map 2.8 - Average permit value, 1958-1970
Map 2.9 - Average permit value, 1971-1982
Map 2.10 - Average permit value, 1983-1994

3: Permit trends
Graph 3.1 - Four cities
Map 3.2 - North/south trends
Graph 3.3 - North/south: Value of permits
Graph 3.4 - North/south: Number of permits

4: Population and dwellings

- Census information
Map 4.1 - Population increase 1951-1991
Graph 4.2 - Population by city
Graph 4.3 - Youth population
Map 4.4 - Dwelling units by period of construction

5: Analysis


6: Conclusion - Key observations

Data sources




Residential development in the West Island, 1945-1994 (2)
Project scope This project examines residential development from 1945 to 1994 in the West Island area of suburban Montreal. As the name suggests, the thirteen cities (Lachine, Dorval, Pointe-Claire, Beaconsfield, Baie-d'Urfé, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Senneville, Pierrefonds, Île-Bizard, Sainte-Geneviève, Kirkland, Roxboro, and Dollard-des-Ormeaux) lie on the western end of Montreal Island. Through proposals considered on this site, a more comprehensive research project that explores the historical relationship between the development of this particular suburban form and the transportation networks that wove it together.

The communities of the West Island have a long history as farming towns, rural parishes, and shoreline villages. At the initial period of European settlement, a chain of small forts and mills along the northern shore of Lac-Saint-Louis to provide secure redoubts for the relatively sparse agricultural population in case of attack. As part of this effort, five windmill-equipped forts were established along the southern edge of the West Island (Matthews 1985). The seigneurial system was based around control of the mill as the means of adding value to grain crops, and of the fur trade that operated along the Ottawa River (and to a lesser extent theSaint Lawrence). The subsequent period of agricultural development broughtthe gradual nucleation of rural settlements such as Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and Sainte-Genevi è ve along the periphery of the island (Marsan 1994).

The construction of the Grand Trunk (later absorbed into the Canadian Pacific) railroad between 1852 and 1856 lured wealthy anglophones to build summer homes along or near the waterfront. The lakeside areas became resort communities, and eventually became sufficiently attractive that many families decided to winterize their summer homes and move permanently to the suburbs. The construction of McGill's Macdondald Campus during the early years of the twentieth century gave a stable employment base to the village of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue at the island's western tip. After the first World War, Autoroute 20 was built parallel to the CP tracks to supplement congested Lakeshore Boulevard with a more modern highway connection to Ontario. Development pulled inland to agricultural areas of Pointe-Claire somewhat, but it was not until the period after the second world war that a surge of suburban development radically transformed the sleepy towns (Friedman et al 2002: ch. 1). The construction of Autoroute 40 in the 1960s brought a wholesale reconfiguration of the West Island that is still going on today. Municipalities and the provincial government widened connecting roads and zonedswaths of land flanking the highway for substantial industrial and commercialuse. With the growth of jet travel, Dorval Airport began to expand and drawaviation industries to its periphery. Thousands of new residents filled,and continue to fill, single-family homes. Regarded as the heart of Quebec'sanglophone community, the cities of the West Island (now boroughs of theCity of Montreal) form a national and international hub for the pharmaceutical,aerospace, and electronics industries.

The physical development of the West Island, in all of its historical phases, been closely tied to the development of its transportation networks. This project is concerned more specifically with the effects of transportation networks on residential development after the second world war. The research presented below identifies and displays chronological trends in population growth and building permit value and number, as well as their geographic distribution. This allows us to establish an age profile of a municipality's housing stock, compare the pace and type of development in each,and group municipalities around roughly similar patterns of historicaldevelopment. Given the age profile of the housing stock and its relianceon a relative monoculture of low-density single-family homes (Friedman etal 2002: ch. 5), some aspects of these trends and clusters are clearlytied to the development of Autoroutes 20 and 40. The current proejct stemsfrom a desire to achieve a more sophisticated understanding of the scopeof that influence. Potential avenues by which that research programcould enable such an understanding are discussed in the Conclusion below.

An earlier version of this site was prepared for a GIS course taught in the School of Urban Planning in the winter term of 2002. The research was supervised by Professor David Brown, who taught the course with Professor Madhav Badami. The author coordinated research into the history, pattern, and potential future of suburban development in the West Island for Professor Avi Friedman of the School of Architecture during the summer of 2002. The historical material added to the document is based on the research conducted by the author and his teammates and supervised by Professor Friedman. Professors Brown and Friedman are, with Professor Thom Meredith of the Department of Geography, engaged in a multi-year research effort to study built and natural environments in the West Island, funded by the Woodcock Foundation. The author's current project, adding additional historical informationon and analysis of the development of the road network, is supervised byProfessor Murtaza Haider.


Data sources

Building permits are recorded monthly by Statistics Canada, starting in 1922, as publication 64-002. Later on, annual totals were published as 64-203. These cover the number of residential building permits in selected municipalities, their value, and the values of industrial, commerical, and institutional permits. These figures are obtained directly from the relevant municipalities; there is no guarantee of uniformity in valuation among the different jurisdictions. Comlicating things somewhat, Statistics Canada did not publish this data between March 1947 and December 1956. Figuresfor some cities are available for the years 1951-1956, in publication64-501.

Dwelling and population information was published in the Census of Canada. Limited statistics are available at the level of individual municipalities, census tracts, or census subdivisions, and not all are provided for allyears. Total population, percentage of the population under fourteen,and the decade of construction of dwelling units can be obtained, however, and are displayed below.

A complete list of all data sources can be found below .


Data processing and display

Statistics Canada housing publications and Census tables are available in paper copies or on microfilm; individual figures had to be entered by hand and analyzed using Microsoft Access andExcel (the poor quality of the originals made the use of optical character recognition software unsuitable). Figures for permit value by sector, average permit value, and totals for various time periods were obtained by processing the raw data, also with Access and Excel. Permit values were adjusted to 2002 dollars using Bank of Canada figures and theconvenient inflation calculator . Graphs were generated with Excel, maps with ESRI ArcMap. Graphics files were formatted and cleaned up with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and this site was built using Netscape Composer.

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