December 2010

Sainte-Catherine Street Makes the Headlines!

For immediate release

Montréal’s history seen through its main commercial artery
December 7, 2010 to April 24, 2011

Montréal, December 6, 2010 – Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History, presents Sainte-Catherine Street Makes the Headlines!, a must-see exhibition for anyone interested in this historic artery so symbolic of Montréal’s downtown, and the way it has witnessed so many events that have shaped the city. Visitors will see newspaper articles, souvenir items, photographs and films, all of them telling the story of Sainte-Catherine Street’s different roles and the stories behind its growth.

The exhibition revolves around signal events in the city’s past, divided up into six thematic zones. It features over 250 intriguing objects from private and public collections, ranging from the costumes created by Alfred Pellan for the La Nuit des rois at Place des Arts in 1968 to the mask worn by Canadiens goalie Jacques Plante in 1963 and a superb dress from Morgan’s department store in 1900.

“Sainte-Catherine is a vital artery and a valuable witness to Montréal life, as well as one of its most faithful reflections. This is a wonderful opportunity to salute the 250-year history of such a symbolic thoroughfare, in the first exhibition on the subject, based on original research. It is a gift for Montrealers who knew the Sainte-Catherine Street of yesteryear and still stroll along it today, but also for visitors and tourists who will get a chance to discover its vibrant character,” notes Francine Lelièvre, the Museum’s Executive Director.

Over 250 years of history
The exhibition examines a number of milestones, as covered by the newspapers of the day: the terrible fire that ravaged the city in July 1852, the opening of Morgan’s department store in 1891, the reopening of the Ouimetoscope movie theatre in 1907, Lili St. Cyr’s controversial shows at the Gayety theatre in 1944 and, more recently, the construction of Complexe Desjardins in 1976 and the huge ovation for “Rocket” Richard in 1996, the year the Forum closed. These different events, artifacts, films and archival images remind visitors of how Sainte-Catherine has changed over the years.

The many roles of Sainte-Catherine Street
When it was first laid out in 1760, Sainte-Catherine Street was nothing more than fields, orchards and a few houses along a dirt road. It soon developed on either side of Saint-Laurent Street, as the town flourished and its population grew. Over the years and along its 11 kilometres, the street has had many different roles, holding up a mirror to Quebec’s changing society. At first it was primarily a residential street, but became increasingly commercial as department stores opened around 1890. It quickly turned into a hotspot for sports and culture, a major business centre, and the nerve centre of public transit and city life. Visitors explore the street’s colourful history through these many incarnations.

From Morgan’s to the Quartier des spectacles, from Alys Robi to Kurt Cobain
The exhibition offers a condensed history of Montréal itself. The new Morgan’s department store changed the face of Sainte-Catherine Street, followed by the Dupuis et Frères, Ogilvy, Eaton’s and Simpson’s stores. The exhibition also brings to life the golden years of movie theatres: the first Ouimetoscope theatre in 1896, the Princess and its famous Candy Bar, and the first Montréal film festival, at the Loews theatre in 1960.

The street’s many theatres and performance venues saw some memorable performances: from Alys Robi at the Casa Loma in the 1950s to Kurt Cobain at the Foufounes électriques in 1991. Sainte-Catherine has always been a nighttime hotspot, too: the red light district developed between Bleury and Saint-Denis.

Sainte-Catherine is also a sports street, and a hockey shrine in particular. Montréal was wild about professional wrestling, but also about Maurice “The Rocket” Richard. Office buildings and highrises went up, and the metro opened in 1966, launching the city’s underground network. Complexe Desjardins, centre of the French business community, was erected in 1976. And to think it all started with a simple horse-drawn tramway …

Today’s Montrealers have made the street their own, turning it into a key civic space. Over the years, they have flooded into the street to celebrate the end of World War II, to groove to the Montréal International Jazz Festival since the mid-1980s, and to express their joy when “their” Canadiens won the Stanley Cup in 1993.

Sainte-Catherine is still making news. The Quartier des spectacles, alternative public transit approaches, renewal plans … the street remains a mirror on the development of Montréal society.

Sainte-Catherine Street. At the Heart of Montréal Life, by Paul-André Linteau
To accompany this exhibition in style, Pointe-à-Callière asked Paul-André Linteau, an expert on Montréal history, to combine the research done for Sainte-Catherine Street Makes the Headlines! and the visuals and artifacts displayed in the exhibition into a book that would enrich and complement visitors’ experience. The result was Sainte-Catherine Street - At the Heart of Montréal Life. Published in partnership with Les Éditions de l'Homme, the 256-page volume, with plenty of colour illustrations and archival photos, explains the impact of this legendary artery on Montréal’s economic, social and urban development. It is available in French and English at the Museum Shop, or online from

Presented from December 7, 2010 to April 24, 2011, Sainte-Catherine Street Makes the Headlines! was produced by Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Museum of Archaeology and History. The Museum wishes to thank its partners: Sun Life Financial, Ivanhoe Cambridge, Centre Eaton de Montréal, Complexe Les Ailes, Place Montréal Trust, BUSAC Immobilier, Archambault, La Presse and The Gazette.

The Museum is subsidized by the City of Montréal.