What’s being celebrated this year is the name itself. Even The Main is only a street name. There’s been a major thoroughfare there for about 270 years. It’s always a lively place but the celebrations will keep it humming even more this year. You can read all about it at the official website. That’s where I picked up some of the history mileposts, courtesy of Mr. Pierre Anctil.
- In 1717 it was decided to construct a highway, a grand chemin du roy, linking Montreal to C?te Saint-Laurent in the northern part of the island. The new road would follow the exact route of what later become Saint-Laurent (or St. Lawrence) Road, Street and then Boulevard. In 1733, the highway was finished.
- By 1825, St. Lawrence Street was the most important north-south commercial thoroughfare on the Island of Montreal. The name “The Main” or “la Main? dates back to this period.
- In 1905, St. Lawrence and Saint-Lambert streets in Old Montreal were merged, and the street was officially named Saint-Laurent Boulevard. At the same time, the city established its east-west civic-numbering system with Saint-Laurent Boulevard dividing the two sides.
- In 1996, Heritage Canada officially recognized the importance of Saint-Laurent Boulevard as a major hub of immigration to the country and designated it a National Historic District.
There are many dimensions to what The Main represents. Among other things, it is a mini-version of how the business life of Montreal continues to evolve. You can get a better sense of that from information on the website of the Pointe-?-Calli?re Museum in the Old Port.
The story of Saint-Laurent Boulevard is the story of the people and the different ethnic communities who lived, worked and celebrated there. Themes such as the waves of immigration, industrialization, trade unionism, the outside world and avant-garde artistic movements are all part of the tale. It is an exceptional commercial street, serving as an incubator for businesses like those of the Villeneuve, Rossy, Schwartz, Florkivitch (Warshaw), Shreter and Steinberg families.
In 1986, a young company called Softimage opened on Saint-Laurent Boulevard at the corner of Milton. The firm revolutionized the world of digital media. Multimedia-production tools were now to be accessible to all artists. Softimage software has garnered international success and record sales. Other cutting-edge companies, such as Kaydara, Ex-Centris, Syst?mes R?flexe, and E-World Music.com have opened on Saint-Laurent. The Saint-Laurent area is home for 20% of the new media companies in the center of Montreal.
From low-tech to high-tech. As Saint-Laurent goes, so goes the whole of Montreal.