The Story of Sainte-Catherine Street

2 minutes

Montreal centre-ville

  • © Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, 1964,VM94-A0144-029, Archives de la Ville de Montréal
In 1901, with some 325,000 inhabitants, Montreal was considered as the biggest city of Canada. Its development then generated changes in the urban landscape and in particular the development of the street which is today one of the most important commercial streets in Canada.

The origin of its name


The origin of the name of Sainte-Catherine Street is part of the Montrealer legend ! Indeed, this is one of the puzzles that has still not been solved : no official document refers to this designation. 

The name Sainte-Catherine would have appeared at the beginning of the 19th century and several hypotheses exist : the most likely would be that Jacques Viger, inspector of roads since 1813 and first mayor, would have chosen the name of one of his daughters-in-law, Catherine Élizabeth.

Shops on Sainte-Catherine Street

The heyday of this mythical street is the first half of the 20th century. Previously, most retail businesses were located in Old Montreal, on Notre-Dame Street or Saint-Jacques Street.

It was with the opening of the Morgan store in Phillips Square in 1891 that the movement of department stores to Sainte-Catherine Street began! In 1894 Morgan was imitated by Murphy who settled near Metcalfe and then in 1898 by Ogilvy near De la Montagne Street. The other department stores from this period are Scroogie, Hamilton and Goodwin.

In 1925, Eaton bought Goodwin and rebuilt the store until 1931.

Publicité du magasin Ogilvy, 1906,P98-01_030 24
Publicité du magasin Ogilvy, 1906,P98-01_030 24
Ste. Catherine street west at Union Avenue, Victory parade, 1945 1945 Photographie 3.5 cm x 3.5 cm McGill University Archives © McGill University Archives. PR001091 © Héritage Montréal

Entertainment and culture


From the 1920s and until the late 1950s, many restaurants, cabarets and night clubs were established on Sainte-Catherine Street, thus developing the street’s festive and trendy character.

It was in 1957 that Gratien Gélinas opened the Comédie canadienne and the Place des Arts was built. It was inaugurated in 1963.

Entertainment means also sport with the Forum de Montréal located at the corner of Sainte-Catherine and Atwater Streets.

Héritage Montréal

A street in the heart of downtown

The street will become the heart of downtown with the appearance of many office buildings such as the Dominion Square Building built in 1928 and 1929 to Place Ville Marie in the early 1960s.

It was with the decades 1970-1980 and 1990 that certain stores disappeared in favor of those we know today such as the complexe Desjardins in 1976, the Promenades de la Cathédrale in 1988 and the Place Montréal Trust also in 1988.

Find out more about the history of downtown shopping centers here !