Friday, July 2, 2010

100 Years od Digging up Montreal Streets

(More before and after shots below...)

Montreal is thinking about electrifying its bus system and bringing electric tramways back, both of which would require overhead wires on city streets.

It was 100 years ago this month -- June 27, 1910, to be exact -- that an organization, the Commission des services électriques de Montréal (CSEM), was created to rid Montreal of its tangle of overhead electric, telephone and telegraph wires. They were an eyesore and a fire hazard.

The CSEM's first customers: 17 electric companies, six telephone and telegraph companies, and four tramway companies.

The first task was to bury wires on Ste. Catherine St., between Atwater and Papineau, a project it completed in October 1915. 

Within 20 years of CSEM's creation, it had installed underground conduits for wires under most of downtown and Old Montreal, as well as five major thoroughfares (Sherbrooke, Mont Royal, Rachel, St. Laurent and St. Denis).

These days, the CSEM, a public-private agency, manages the island's underground electric, cable-TV, telephone and optical cable network. It works for about 80 companies and its network of underground conduits is 21,000 kilometres long.

To mark its 100th anniversary, the Pointe à Callière museum is presenting an exhibit, 100 ans sous terre, that will run from Jun 29 to Aug. 29.

The museum has dug through the archives of the CSEM, which has a wealth of photos of Montreal streets from the early 20th century. At the time, the CSEM hired professional photographers to take shots before and after it buried the wires.

The photos at the top of this post show Notre Dame St. West., looking toward McGill St. in 1907 and in 2010.

Here are a few more.

Notre Dame and St. Laurent, before 1907:

Notre Dame and St. Laurent, today:

Ontario and Orléans, 1929:

Ontario and Orléans, today:

Phillips Square, 1914:

Phillips Square, 1921:

Phillips Square, today:

St. Francois Xavier and Notre Dame, 1924:

St. Francois Xavier and Notre Dame, 1926:

St. Francois Xavier and Notre Dame, today:

The poster promoting the museum exhibit:

- Andy Riga