These stairways are pretty typical in parts of Montreal. There are two theories on why they were so popular in a city where winter takes hold for almost 5 months a year and shovelling would be essential to make them usable. The practical one is that rather than having staircases indoors which would take up usable space they were built outdoors and were thus not taxed as part of the building. The second theory has to do with the Catholic Church whose hold on the city lasted many years longer than winter. Having staircases outdoors meant that young lovers would not have places to loiter and more. The young women's modesty would be preserved. Whatever the reason, driving through parts of Montreal built on either side of the turn of the last century you will see many of these steep staircases winding their way up to second floor entrances.