FEATURE: Sainte-Catherine did…what?

During a drunken night out on the town, no one thinks to question the political affiliation of his or her favourite street. Enjoying the bars on St-Denis? You might be promoting a military regime. Walking along Stanley? You could be a potential colonizing bastard.

Like the city itself, Montreal’s streets have a complicated history of politics, evolutions and crisis. To satisfy the natural curiosity of those interested in Montreal’s past, here are the origins of the names of some famous Montreal rues:

RUE PEEL: Named after the infamous Robert Peel (1788-1850), former English Prime Minister. In 1846, Peel instigated a law that repealed dues on all cereals, a measure that had great economic consequences in Canada. Peel Flakes, anyone?

RUE SAINTE-CATHERINE: No one knows the true origin of the name. However, historians claim that the street underwent a name change, as well as a sex change. Before 1817, Rue Sainte-Catherine was originally named Rue Saint-Jacques.

ATWATER AVENUE: Although this street was once descriptively titled Pipe Track Avenue, it is now named after Edwin Atwater (1808-1884), president of the high-profile Montreal Aqueduct Commission.

RUE de BLEURY: This quaint little street past Avenue du Parc was formerly known as Rue Saint-Pierre. It was once a part of Jean-Clement de Bleury’s charming farm. Aww.

RUE de la MONTAGNE: Dating back to 1761, this street used to be an old “Indian” road leading to the mountain. Thought geographic names were politically neutral? Not if their origins are politically incorrect.

AVENUE de PINS: Home to the McGill gym, this road was named after a specific pine tree, which, due to the construction of buildings and roads, probably no longer exists.

RUE SAINT-DENIS: Opened around 1818, this street was named after the handsome Denis-Benjamin Viger, barrister, publicist and politician of Montreal. Apparently, he was also a captain in the War of 1812.

MCGILL COLLEGE AVENUE: Always suspected McGill of being a totalitarian regime? Perhaps you’re right. Once called Sainte-Monique Street, the avenue’s name was usurped and altered by the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning.

RUE McTAVISH: “I always thought that Shatner was haunted!” The street’s namesake, the honourable Simon McTavish (1750-1804), was a so-called “boss” of the well known grocery chain, the Northwest Company. A wealthy proprietor, McTavish died before completing the construction of his lordly residence at the foot of the mountain. Later on, the house was nicknamed “McTavish’s Haunted Castle.”

RUE STANLEY: Yes, that’s right, this street is christened after the charming Lord Stanley (1799-1869), English statesman and Minister of Colonies under Sir Robert Peel.

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