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Twenty years after the founding of Ville-Marie (Montreal) by Paul Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve in 1642, he granted an area on the pointe Saint-Charles, extending into the St. Lawrence, to St. Marguerite Bourgeoys for agricultural use by the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. The sisters operated a sharecropping farm (métairie) on the land. From an area of about 30 arpents (about 10 hectares), the farm reached an area of 200 arpents (about 68 hectares) by the mid-18th century. The nuns built the Maison Saint-Gabriel, the only remaining trace of their farm and one of the oldest buildings in Montreal, on their property in 1698. Their farming activity only ceased altogether in the 1950s.
Until the mid-19th century, the area was chiefly agricultural. Urbanization began with the enlargement of the Lachine Canal (completed in 1848), as the transportation access and water power attracted industry to the whole of what is now the Sud-Ouest borough. The installation of railways and the construction of the Victoria Bridge (1854–1860) also attracted workers and spurred development. The then-owners, the Sulpician Order, divided the area into lots and auctioned them off starting in 1853, with the Grand Trunk Railway purchasing a large area for use as a railyard.
Located southwest of downtown Montreal, it is bounded on the north by the Bonaventure Expressway, the east and southeast by the Saint Lawrence River, the southwest by the Décarie Expressway and Atwater Avenue, and the west and northwest by the Lachine Canal.
Adjacent neighbourhoods are Little Burgundy (across the canal to the north Montreal directions), Griffintown to the northeast, the wharves of the Old Port to the east, and the borough of Verdun to the west.
The residential part of the neighbourhood is bisected by the CN Rail line running through its centre on an elevated structure. A large industrial area, including the former CN rail yards, lies on landfill to the east; on the riverside, the Montreal Technoparc is home to film studios.
The point for which the area was named, located south of the modern area around Parc Le Ber, has long since disappeared under landfill. The name was reassigned to a new point at the southeastern tip of the area, opposite the northern point of Nuns’ Island.