World of French: New England

Written by Jasmine Grace, High School intern

Boys sitting on the sidewalk in a Canadian neighborhood of Manchester, NH

Today, nearly 2 million New England residents are descendants of those who came to the US in the Great Diaspora, when nearly a third of the population of Québec migrated south to the United States in the years between 1840 and 1930.



The Journey

The majority of the migrants were from large farm families struggling to find jobs or unable to make a profit from their crops. The population of Québec had been steadily growing for decades, and that meant it was difficult for many to find work.

Workers leaving their shift at the mills

They came to the US largely to work in the enormous textile mills, such as those in Lowell, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire. The textile industry in New England had been growing, and the influx of French Canadian migrants meant they now had workers to power their factories. 

Not all came to stay. Nearly half returned home with the money they made in New England. And others lived most of their time in the US, but returned to Québec each spring and fall to sough and harvest crops on their farms back home. 

The Daily Life of a French Canadian Mill Worker

Arial view of the textile mills

On the surface, it appeared as though everyone benefited from the migration of French-Canadians to New England. The mills now had the workers they needed, and the migrants had found the employment they were searching for. However, life was difficult for the French-Canadian mill worker. They faced persecution from the Irish, among other groups, and often earned less than other mill workers. They worked long hours at the mill every day, and lived in crowded neighborhoods. 

These ‘Little Canadas’ were populated almost entirely by French-Canadians. They were often very crowded, in tenements owned by the textile companies. However, their inhabitants made the most of their conditions. The neighborhoods often had their own schools, and French language newspapers.

Since Catholicism was a very strong belief shared by nearly all of the migrants, residents of Little Canadas frequently built their own churches. Life revolved around family, work in the mills, and worship. Often after folks built a Church in their area, more French-Canadians would move south to the area. Migration also increased with the establishment of French-Canadian-owned businesses, which in turn contributed to the growth and development of the Little Canada they lived in. 

Manchester, NH today

Although the tide of migration slowed during and after the Great Depression, there are still many in New England today who share French Canadian heritage. One can still feel the influence of their culture  in many of the cities with the old mills, such as in Manchester.

Architecture: Beneath Montréal

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – high school Intern

What is the RÉSO?

RÉSO Entrance

The RÉSO, which is also referred to as the Underground City, is a network of underground tunnels located in Montréal, Canada. These interconnected tunnels contain shopping centers, restaurants, hotels, and even office buildings! The underground system spans 32 kilometers and is the largest of its kind in the world. Visitors often remark that it feels like a second city under the city of Montreal itself. 



Montréal 1960

Construction of the RÉSO began in the 1960s, when Montreal hosted the World Exposition. Urban architectural planners imaged a space that would connect different parts of the city via underground alleyways. The purpose of this effort was to offer shelter from the harsh winters of Canada and provide reduced street congestion. Originally, the system was designed solely to connect the Expo’s pavilions and buildings. However, over time, the RÉSO grew and became a critical part of the urban landscape in Montreal. 

During construction, the RÉSO proved to be a difficult undertaking. Millions of cubic meters of earth and rock were removed in order to instal pipes and electrical wiring that extended miles under the city. Furthermore, space for buildings and facilities was carved out of the earth, often using explosives and heavy machinery. The tunnels are constructed of concrete that is up to two feet thick in some areas. Lining the concrete are cables that cary water, electricity, and other services throughout the underground complex. Throughout construction, workers were on three shifts a day in order to ensure that the project remained on schedule. 

One of the most difficult components of construction was not the labor, however, but getting people to agree on the viability of the project. Initially, some business owners and contractors were skeptical of the success that could be achieved with this project. Additionally, the size of the project required that dozens of different entities and groups worked in tandem in order to achieve a smooth and flawless execution and aesthetic. Throughout all of this, the RÉSO was completed in 1966, just in time for the World Expo and right on schedule!

Modern RÉSO

In the RÉSO

Today, over 2,000 business thrive in the RÉSO where upwards of 500,000 visitors travel through each day. The business range from high-end fashion outlets to fast-food restaurant chains and movie theaters. Several cultural attractions also found a home in the RÉSO, including the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art, the Place des Arts, and the Bell Centre (where the city hockey team plays). 

The tunnels have also been beautified over the decades. Now, visitors are greeted with colorful light displays, mosaic walls, and art pieces. The ceilings sport murals, and sculptures can be found scattered throughout the city. Energy-efficient lighting and green spaces have also been incorporated into the underground city in order bring the natural world into the enclosed space. Many consider the RÉSO not only a city under the Earth, but as a work of art itself. 


The Many Levels of the RÉSO

The RÉSO contributes incredibly to the economic prosperity of Montreal. The underground city creates hundred of thousands of jobs and generates billions of dollars in revenue each year. Millions of visitors pass through the shops and tunnels every year an experience the architectural wonder of the RÉSO. Should you ever find yourself in the city of Montreal, the RÉSO is a critical cultural experience.