One of Montreal’s peculiarities are the exterior staircases found throughout neighborhoods. These residential staircases, dubbed as Montreal’s iron icons, are an architectural anomaly — or to visitors, a work of craftmanship. We’ve explored quite a bit here on foot and each neighborhood has their own unique style in housing and exterior staircases. The stairs come in all shapes and sizes: They curve, twist, and climb up from the sidewalk. Some colorful, matching the window panes or other details of the houses. Theses stairs define the streets of Montreal, providing a unique look and feel to the artsy city.
Being a city that is annually coated with thick layers of snow or ice, I have no idea why there would be so many external stairs. Some of the stairways are steep winding steps that make it a safety hazard in wintry, ice-coated weather. It is thought that British builders imported similar patterns from Newcastle and Edinburgh, and in the late 1800s during the city’s population growth, newcomers had to move into multi-level buildings and preferred their own private entrances.
Whatever the reason, I enjoy seeing and discovering these exterior staircases. It’s an architectural bricolage of the city, and it’s what makes it so visually unique.