Welcome to an exciting journey through the history and historical tourist attractions of Montreal, Canada. This article will uncover the rich heritage and captivating landmarks that have shaped the city’s identity over the centuries.
From its humble beginnings as a French fur trading post in the 17th century to its vibrant metropolis status today, Montreal’s journey is filled with fascinating stories waiting to be unveiled.
Let us embark on this enthralling voyage as we uncover Montreal’s past and present through its historical landmarks and cultural treasures. If you want to read about the museums of Montreal, or the historical churches, here are two separate articles.
A brief history of Montreal
Montreal, a vibrant and diverse city in the province of Quebec, Canada, boasts a history that dates back thousands of years. The region was originally inhabited by First Nations native people, who settled on the island of Montreal around 4,000 years ago. These early inhabitants cultivated maize and built fortified villages within a few centuries.
In the 14th century, the Saint Lawrence Iroquoians established the village of Hochelaga at the foot of Mount Royal, marking their presence in the area. French explorer Jacques Cartier visited Hochelaga in 1535 and estimated the population to be “over a thousand people.”
The significant historical events that followed shaped Montreal’s identity and development. In 1611, French explorer Samuel de Champlain established a fur trading post on the island, initially named La Place Royale, and later renamed Montreal. In 1642, Ville-Marie was founded on the southern shore, becoming an early settlement with a chapel and hospital.
Ville-Marie faced challenges in its early years, including Iroquois raids and a struggle to attract settlers. However, by 1685, the population had grown to around 600 colonists, making it a center for the fur trade and exploration.
In the 18th century, the Sulpician Order played a role in encouraging French settlement by establishing mission villages for the Mohawk people. The Canadian territory was a French colony until 1760 when Montreal fell to the British during the Seven Years’ War.
Montreal continued to evolve as a city and became the capital of the Province of Canada from 1844 to 1849. However, a riot in 1849 led to its loss of capital status. In the late 19th century, the Lachine Canal and the Victoria Bridge further solidified Montreal’s position as a major transportation hub.
The 20th century brought both prosperity and challenges to Montreal. It witnessed rapid population growth, becoming a city of over one million inhabitants by 1951. However, economic dominance waned as businesses moved to other areas, and Toronto emerged as a strong competitor.
The city also faced social and political changes, driven by concerns over the preservation of French language and culture. In 1976, Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics, which brought international attention but also resulted in significant debt.
Throughout the 21st century, Montreal has experienced a revitalization of its economic and cultural landscape. New skyscrapers, hospitals, subway line extensions, and major infrastructure projects have contributed to the city’s growth and development.
Montreal’s rich history, from its First Nations origins to its vibrant modernity, continues to shape its unique character and allure. As the city moves forward, it carries with it the echoes of its past, a testament to the resilience and spirit of its people.
The Old Port of Montreal
The Old Port of Montreal, holds a rich history dating back to 1611 when French fur traders used it as a trading post. While the port’s commercial activities shifted to the present Port of Montreal in 1976, it underwent redevelopment in the early 1990s, transforming into a vibrant recreational and historical area.
Drawing six million tourists annually, the Old Port offers a plethora of activities, including the Montréal Science Centre, the iconic Montreal Clock Tower, and access to the picturesque Saint Lawrence River for various water-based rentals and activities.
Cultural events like the Festival Montréal en lumière, Igloofest, and the Matsuri Japon festival add to the port’s vibrant atmosphere. In 2012, an urban beach, the Plage de l’Horloge, opened adjacent to the Clock Tower, offering visitors a relaxing spot to enjoy the waterfront. The Old Port, now known as The Quays of the Old Port of Montreal, is a popular launching site for Cirque du Soleil shows every two years.
Additionally, the Old Port has been renowned for its fishing opportunities, with Parc de la Cité-du-Havre providing a prime fishing spot with a diverse range of fish species. During the winter, ice fishing events were held on the frozen waters of the port.
As a testament to its ongoing evolution, the Old Port introduced the Grande roue de Montréal Ferris Wheel in 2017, now the tallest ferris wheel in Canada, further enhancing the allure of this iconic destination.
The Montreal Science Centre
The Montreal Science Centre, located in the Old Port of Montreal, is a scientific museum operated by the Société immobilière du Canada. Its mission is to promote scientific understanding, knowledge, and cultural development, inviting visitors of all ages to discover and embrace science and technology for their future.
Situated at the King-Edward Quay in the Old Port of Montreal, the centre’s history dates back to 1982 when the Société du Vieux-Port de Montréal embarked on managing and developing a recreational urban park along the Saint Lawrence River. After years of development, the Centre des sciences de Montréal, initially known as Centre iSci, was inaugurated on May 1, 2000.
Today, it boasts a wide array of permanent and temporary exhibitions covering diverse themes such as material science, life sciences, and technology. These exhibits have captivated visitors since its opening, drawing them into interactive and immersive scientific experiences.
Furthermore, the Montreal Science Centre offers educational programs for students, aligned with the Quebec school curriculum. These programs aim to foster curiosity, active participation, and a deeper understanding of scientific and technical concepts. Students engage in challenges and workshops led by educators, creating a dynamic and enriching learning environment.
Beyond its exhibition spaces and educational initiatives, the Centre features a TELUS IMAX cinema that opened in 1988. As the first IMAX cinema in Quebec, it has been entertaining and educating countless audiences with a diverse selection of films. With its stunning view of Montreal, the centre also provides versatile rental spaces for events, including weddings and conferences.
Montreal Clock Tower
The Montreal Clock Tower, also known as the Sailor’s Memorial Clock, is a historic landmark located in the Old Port of Montreal. Constructed between 1919 and 1922, the tower stands at 45 meters (148 feet) tall and consists of a principal tower and a smaller, architecturally similar tower linked by a white 13-meter (42-foot) curtain wall.
The Clock Tower features four translucent clock faces, each 3.7 meters (12 feet) in diameter, designed by the English engineering firm Gillett & Johnston.
The Clock Tower was dedicated to the memory of seamen who lost their lives during World War I and served as the entrance to the Old Port of Montreal. Recognized as a Classified Federal Heritage Building, the Clock Tower holds significant historical, environmental, and visual value.
Its Beaux-Arts style showcases the beauty of fine art and detail, and its light masonry construction method ensures structural stability. The tower’s concrete base features memorial plaques, granite from the Prince of Wales, and cannons at the entrance.
With its rich history and architectural aesthetics, the Montreal Clock Tower remains a cherished Montreal landmark, contributing to the city’s maritime transportation and grain exportation legacy.
Visitors can enjoy stunning views from the observation deck, while nearby Clock Tower Beach offers a swim-free space spanning 1.3 hectares (3.2 acres). This iconic tower stands as a symbol of Montreal’s economic growth and seafaring heritage, preserving its significance for generations to come.
Habitat 67, a remarkable housing complex located at Cité du Havre, Montreal, is a masterpiece of Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie. Originally envisioned as part of Expo 67, this architectural landmark features 354 prefabricated concrete units arranged in three pyramids, offering 146 residences of various sizes and configurations, each with private landscaped garden terraces.
Designed to combine suburban comforts with the density of urban living, Habitat 67 aimed to depict the future lifestyle in crowded cities. While the project’s vision for affordable housing did not fully materialize, it gained worldwide acclaim and became a symbol of Expo 67’s success.
Though it faced challenges and did not revolutionize affordable housing as envisioned, Habitat 67 significantly contributed to Safdie’s prestigious career. As we embark on a journey through Montreal’s history, Habitat 67 stands as a testament to the city’s innovative spirit and architectural wonders.
Old Montreal district
Old Montreal (Vieux-Montréal), situated west of the Old Port of Montreal, is a historic neighborhood with deep roots dating back to the 17th century. Bordered by McGill Street to the west, Ruelle des Fortifications to the north, rue Saint-André to the east, and the Saint Lawrence River to the south, it has expanded to include the Rue des Soeurs Grises in the west, Saint Antoine Street in the north, and Saint Hubert Street in the east.
Originally founded as Fort Ville-Marie by French settlers in 1642, Old Montreal boasts numerous structures from the era of New France. Designated as a historic district in 1964 by the Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec, this neighborhood showcases its rich heritage through well-preserved landmarks.
A major tourist attraction, Old Montreal captivates visitors with its charming cobblestone streets and historic buildings. In the eastern part of the old city, near Place Jacques-Cartier, visitors can explore notable structures like Montreal City Hall, Bonsecours Market, Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, and colonial mansions such as Château Ramezay and the Sir George-Étienne Cartier National Historic Site of Canada.
Heading west, Place d’Armes stands out, featuring the majestic Notre-Dame Basilica and the Saint-Sulpice Seminary. The area is also dotted with old bank buildings, harking back to its days as Canada’s financial center. In the southwest, around Place d’Youville and Place Royale, important archaeological remains of Montreal’s first settlement can be found at the Pointe-à-Callière museum.
Preserving its historic charm, Old Montreal maintains its cobblestone streets and architecture, complemented by horse-drawn calèches that evoke its earliest days as a settlement. This timeless neighborhood captivates visitors with its enchanting blend of history and modern attractions.
Bonsecours Market (French: Marché Bonsecours) is a historic two-story domed public market located at 350 rue Saint-Paul in Old Montreal. Designed by British architect William Footner and completed in 1847, the Neoclassical building was influenced by Dublin’s Customs House.
Originally serving as the main public market in the Montreal area for over a century, it also briefly hosted the Parliament of United Canada in 1849.
Named after the nearby Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, the market played multiple roles over the years. It housed the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada in 1849 and served as Montreal City Hall between 1852 and 1878. Later, it became a venue for banquets, exhibitions, festivals, and a farmer’s central market.
After facing demolition in 1963, the building was fortunately transformed into a versatile space. Today, it features a mall with outdoor cafés, restaurants, and boutiques on the main and second floors, as well as rental halls, banquet rooms, and municipal office space on the lower and upper floors.
The Bonsecours Market’s historical significance is recognized by a stamp issued by Canada Post in 1990, featuring an image of the iconic building. It remains a vibrant and cherished landmark in Old Montreal, attracting locals and visitors alike.
Place Jacques-Cartier (Jacques Cartier square)
Place Jacques-Cartier, nestled in Old Montreal, is a captivating square serving as an entrance to the Old Port of Montreal. Its origins trace back to 1723 when the Château Vaudreuil graced the space with its formal gardens. However, the chateau burned down in 1803, prompting the transformation of the area into a public square, initially named New Market Place.
In 1809, Nelson’s Column, Montreal’s oldest public monument, was erected there. Eventually, in 1847, the square was renamed to honor Jacques Cartier, the famed explorer who claimed Canada for France in 1535.
The street leading to Place Jacques-Cartier slopes steeply downhill, creating a picturesque setting from Montreal City Hall to the waterfront. During the bustling tourist season, the street comes alive with street artists and kiosks, while the Christmas season adorns it with charmingly lit trees. Throughout the year, restaurants on both sides of the street and the surrounding streets of Vieux Port offer a delightful array of dining options, evoking a classic Parisian atmosphere.
During the summer, Place Jacques-Cartier becomes a car-free zone, allowing visitors to leisurely explore the area. Notably, Jardin Nelson offers a charming garden restaurant, and other establishments provide inviting open-air terraces. The renowned Saint-Amable restaurant, with its crooner jazz ambiance, attracts local celebrities and Montrealers alike.
Close to Place Jacques-Cartier, on rue de la Commune, a piece of the old fortified city’s wall can still be seen in the basement restaurant of the Auberge du Vieux-Port, adding to the area’s historical charm.
The Nelson Column is one of Quebec’s oldest historical monuments, situated in the heart of Montreal, near Marché Neuf and the seat of government. It stands north of Place Jacques-Cartier, centered in the square, as a memorial to Admiral Horatio Nelson.
Inspired by the ancient Trajan’s Column, it was erected in 1809 primarily by influential figures of British origin. The design was entrusted to architect Robert Mitchell, and the column and its ornaments were constructed by Coade and Sealy’s Lambeth in London.
Due to deterioration, the monument has been restored multiple times, with the current elements being replicas: the ornaments were replaced in 1900, and the statue in 1999. It predates London’s Nelson’s Column at Trafalgar Square, which was erected in the 1840s.
The column features a Tuscan-inspired design, standing 19 meters tall, with the statue of the admiral in uniform, holding a telescope in his left hand. The pedestal is adorned with bas-reliefs depicting Nelson’s battles, and a crocodile crowns the cornice, symbolizing the famous Battle of the Nile. The shaft itself is solid and has a diameter of 1.5 meters.
Nelson’s gaze is not directed towards the St. Lawrence River but rather towards the buildings of prominent British civil and military institutions, such as the prison or the governor’s Château Ramezay.
The monument is one of the city’s most controversial because it commemorates France’s defeat in the Battle of Trafalgar and the intentions of British expansion in North America.
Montreal City Hall
The Montreal City Hall, a five-story building located in Old Montreal, serves as the seat of local government. It was designed in the Second Empire style by architects Henri-Maurice Perrault and Alexander Cowper Hutchison and constructed between 1872 and 1878.
Situated at 275 Notre-Dame Street East, between Place Jacques-Cartier and the Champ de Mars, the City Hall’s closest Metro station is Champ-de-Mars on the Orange Line.
The building underwent significant changes over the years. A fire in March 1922 destroyed much of the original structure, leading to its reconstruction by architect Louis Parant, who created a new building with a self-supporting steel structure inside the shell of the ruins. Modeled after the city hall of Tours, France, the new building opened on February 15, 1926, featuring a Beaux-Arts inspired design and a copper roof.
Montreal City Hall holds historical significance as one of Canada’s best examples of the Second Empire style and the country’s first city hall constructed solely for municipal administration. Due to its architectural importance, it was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984.
Constructed of gray limestone, the building’s main façade, facing Rue Notre-Dame, exhibits symmetrical sections and a central jutting risalit with a portico. The structure showcases a combination of Italian Renaissance and French-influenced Beaux-Arts styles, emphasizing its grandeur with a mansard roof, chimneys, a bell tower, and a clock tower. The City Hall’s elevated position on a terraced site allows it to be prominently seen from a distance.
The Ernest-Cormier Building is a heritage building located in the Old Montreal district. Constructed between 1922 and 1925 and designed by architects Ernest Cormier and Louis-Auguste Amos, it served as Montreal’s third courthouse.
From 1925 to the 1970s, it was primarily used for handling criminal cases. Then, from 1975 to 2001, the building housed the Quebec Conservatory of Music and Dramatic Art in Montreal. Restored between 2002 and 2005, it now houses the Quebec Court of Appeal. The Société immobilière du Québec also occupies space in the basement.
The Ernest-Cormier Building was officially classified as a heritage site on November 13, 2014, by the Ministry of Culture and Communications.
Its architectural style is characterized by classical simplicity, featuring an imposing colonnade. The architrave bears the inscription in Roman letters: “FRVSTRA LEGIS AUXILIVM QVAERIT QVI IN LEGEM COMMITTIT” (which translates to “He who breaks the law seeks his aid in vain”).
With its historical significance and architectural grandeur, the Ernest-Cormier Building stands as a notable landmark in the heart of Montreal’s historic district.
The Lucien-Saulnier Building (also known as the “Old Courthouse”) is Montreal’s second courthouse, located at 155 Notre-Dame Street East. Inaugurated in 1856, it follows the very understated Neoclassical tradition of the first half of the 19th century. The building was designed by architects John Ostell and Henri-Maurice Perrault.
Built with ashlar stone at a cost of $400,000, the building measures 295 feet in length and 106 feet at its widest point. This Ionic-style structure was a perfect example of Victorian architecture.
Starting in 1890, under the supervision of architect Maurice Perrault, son of Henri-Maurice, expansion work was undertaken, adding an additional floor and a dome. In 1905, an annex was also added at 85 Notre-Dame Street East.
These transformations did not affect the main entrance, which retains its unique original character. Access is through two stone landing staircases leading to a portico surmounted by a pediment resting on six Ionic columns, forming an impressive peristyle. Several other architectural features are notable, such as the rectangular windows and the gable roof.
From 1925 to 1970, the Old Courthouse handled civil cases. Today, it is used by the City of Montreal’s Finance and Budget Control Service. The Lucien-Saulnier Building stands as a historical landmark and a reminder of Montreal’s rich architectural heritage.
The Ramparts of Montreal
The Ramparts of Montreal were defensive structures during the French Regime, replacing the outdated wooden palisades. After the Great Peace of Montreal, the city faced more threats from European-style warfare than from Iroquois attacks. In 1713, Intendant Michel Bégon de la Picardière issued an ordinance for the construction of stone walls at the king’s behest.
Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros de Léry arrived in 1716 to revise the plans of military engineer Josué Dubois Berthelot de Beaucours, which the Marine Council did not approve. The new project got the council’s approval in 1718.
Under Chaussegros de Léry’s supervision, the walls were completed in 1744 and remained intact until 1801 when an act was passed to dismantle the old walls and fortifications. From 1804 to 1817, the walls were torn down, allowing the city to expand and grow.
The upper part of the walls was largely demolished, but the foundations were left in the ground, visible today at Champ-de-Mars and the Musée de la Pointe-à-Callière. Old Montreal’s layout follows the path of the former fortifications, with many houses built on their ancient foundations. A lane south of Saint-Antoine Street, called Ruelle des Fortifications, still bears the memory of these historic walls.
The city has made efforts to include outlines highlighting where the walls once stood, preserving the legacy of Montreal’s defensive past.
The Saint-Sulpice Seminary (Vieux Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice) in Montreal, is a historic building, declared a National Historic Site of Canada in 1980. Located in Old Montreal next to Notre-Dame Basilica, it was founded in 1657 by the Society of Priests of Saint Sulpice and remains under their ownership.
Construction started in 1684 and was completed in 1687, with later additions finished by 1713. The U-shaped building boasts a palatial style and includes an annex. The seminary was dedicated to educating secular priests and conducting mission work among native peoples in New France.
The façade showcases a clock installed in 1701, one of the oldest of its kind in North America. Additionally, the Sulpicians built a garden in the 17th century, following a monastic tradition, to grow fruits and vegetables. These gardens, featuring geometrical arrangements, are among the oldest of their kind in North America.
The Archives Department of the Cultural Universe of Saint-Sulpice holds rare books from the 16th century to contemporary times, along with archives reflecting the social, religious, economic, educational, and cultural development of Montreal.
It includes dictionaries of Mohawk, Huron, and Algonquin. The archival heritage comprises approximately 1 km of textual documents, 75,000 visual documents, 8,000 maps, and sound and film recordings.
The Aldred Building
The Aldred Building, also known as Édifice La Prévoyance, is a remarkable Art Deco structure situated on the historic Place d’Armes square in the Old Montreal quarter. Designed by Ernest Isbell Barott of the firm Barott and Blackader, it was completed in 1931, reaching a height of 96 meters (316 ft) with 23 storeys.
Barott’s vision was to create a modern building that harmoniously blended with the square’s historic ambiance. Notably, setbacks at the 8th, 13th, and 16th floors allow more natural light, contributing to a cathedral-like appearance that mirrors the nearby Notre-Dame Basilica. The use of limestone, common in the area’s architecture, adds to the building’s elegance.
Drawing inspiration from New York’s iconic Empire State Building, constructed the same year, the Aldred Building was commissioned for Aldred and Company Limited, an international finance company based in New York City.
Barott started the project in 1927 with an original design of only 12 storeys, adhering to height restrictions in Montreal at that time. However, the bylaw changed in 1929, allowing buildings on public squares to exceed maximum height, subject to specific conditions. Thus, the Aldred Building reached its impressive 96-meter height.
Externally, the building showcases Indiana limestone set on a granite base, complemented by aluminum spandrels. The interior features beautifully inlaid doors, bronze gates, and a variety of marbles adorning the walls and floors of the entrance lobby.
Supported by a solid concrete mat two floors below street level, the steel structure allows for a striking 840 windows, covering about 20 percent of the building’s surface area. The Aldred Building boasts numerous modern amenities, including conditioned ventilation, central vacuum, high-speed elevators, and advanced electrical systems, reflecting its status as a forward-looking architectural marvel.
New York Life Insurance Building
The New York Life Insurance Building, also known as the Quebec Bank Building, stands as an iconic office building in Old Montreal, constructed between 1887 and 1889. Once completed, it proudly held the title of the tallest commercial building in Montreal. This remarkable building is located at Place d’Armes, neighboring the historic Aldred Building, another iconic office tower.
This eight-floor building, including the clock tower, stands 46.3 meters (152 ft) tall and boasts a quasi-rectangular shape on a land area of 705 m2 (7,590 sq ft). Its total floor area across all levels spans 6,890 m2 (74,200 sq ft).
The first eight floors were thoughtfully designed for retail office space, quickly attracting the city’s elite lawyers and financiers. Upon the clock tower’s completion, the owner generously filled the ninth and tenth floors with the largest legal library in the entire country, serving as a thoughtful gift to the building’s tenants.
Inspired by Italian Renaissance and New York architecture, the New York Life Building stands out as one of the earliest significant Montreal structures not constructed from the typical local grey stone. Instead, imported red sandstone was used, carefully cut at the Lyall workshop on Bishop Street.
The building showcases a hybrid structure, combining iron beams, girders, and two sets of columns per floor with bearing walls made of brick. Steel was utilized for the floors and roof, while masonry walls provide sturdy support for the entire structure.
Its exterior is adorned with exquisite decorative elements, meticulously carved by Henry Beaumont, including arabesque designs in the entrance archway, spandrel panels, and pilaster capitals. The ornamental iron gate, a masterpiece crafted by the E. Chanteloup workshop in Montreal, adds to the building’s charm.
Inside, the small vestibule and halls are adorned with marble, while the ceiling is intricately decorated with plaster in Renaissance-style ornamentation. The staircase railing features ornamental iron and a finished wood banister, adding to its elegance.
Over the years, the New York Life Insurance Building has undergone modernizations and renovations to keep it in top-notch condition. From 1952 to 1971, the third, fourth, and fifth floors were modernized, the basement renovated, and stairs were added between the fifth floor and the roof.
Subsequent owners further renovated the building in the 1980s and undertook a significant restoration project in 2006-2007. During this project, two residential penthouses were added on the roof, one of which is now occupied by the current building owner.
The Royal Bank Tower
The Royal Bank Tower stands proudly at 360 Saint-Jacques Street in Montreal. Designed by the firm of York and Sawyer, along with the bank’s Chief Architect Sumner Godfrey Davenport of Montreal, this 22-storey neo-classical tower reaches a height of 121 meters (397 ft).
Its completion in 1928 marked an extraordinary milestone as it became the tallest building in the entire British Empire, the tallest in Canada, and the first in Montreal to surpass the height of the historic Notre-Dame Basilica built nearly a century prior.
Originally, the Royal Bank of Canada’s official head office was located at Hollis and George in Halifax back in 1879. In 1907, the bank made a significant move, relocating its head office from Halifax to Montreal. As the original building on Saint-Jacques Street proved to be insufficient, the bank’s board of directors decided to commission New York architects, York and Sawyer, to construct a prestigious new building just a short distance westward.
In preparation for the construction of the 22-storey tower, the bank acquired all the property between Saint-Jacques, Saint-Pierre, Notre-Dame, and Dollard Streets, including the old Mechanics’ Institute and the ten-storey Bank of Ottawa building, which were subsequently demolished.
Over the years, the Royal Bank moved its main office to the renowned Place Ville-Marie in 1962. However, they retained a branch in the impressive main hall of the old building in Old Montreal. The branch later moved to the nearby Tour de la Bourse in July 2012, while the iconic Royal Bank Tower continues to stand as a historic landmark, representing a pivotal era in Montreal’s architectural heritage.
Downtown Montreal, located in the Ville-Marie borough, is the central business district of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Situated on the southern slope of Mount Royal, it is surrounded by various neighborhoods and areas, including Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, the Quartier Latin, Old Montreal, and Griffintown.
The district is known for its corporate headquarters and numerous skyscrapers, with height restrictions to preserve Mount Royal’s aesthetic prominence.
The bustling Saint Catherine Street serves as the central axis for downtown, housing various high-end retail stores and shopping centers. The area is home to prestigious institutions like McGill University, UQAM, and Concordia University’s Sir George Williams campus.
Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the skyline from Mount Royal’s lookouts, with sights extending to the river, Monteregian Hills, and even the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York on clear days.
Dominion Square Building
The Dominion Square Building (Édifice Dominion Square) is a prominent office building and shopping mall in Downtown Montreal, facing Dorchester Square. Situated at 1010 Sainte-Catherine Street West, the building is a significant landmark of the city, offering a blend of historical elegance and practicality.
Completed in 1930 in the Beaux Arts style, it cleverly navigated height regulations by offering two levels of interior shopping and underground parking with the city’s first escalators. Designed by Ross and Macdonald, the 12-floor building features an innovative ‘T’ shaped shopping concourse and a limestone facade with unconventional Italianate decor.
Named after the old name of the Square, the Dominion Square Building was an important commercial office tower before the era of Modernist Skyscrapers, providing modern conveniences and attracting prestigious clients.
The main entrance serves the Montreal Gazette, leading to a mezzanine with access to the ground floor shopping arcade. The facade has two setbacks, creating a double comb shape to maximize sunlight and rental space. The building’s renovations in 1989 added a protective arcade with a green-glass solarium on the southern side.
Les Cours Mont-Royal
Les Cours Mont-Royal, located in downtown Montreal, is a high-end shopping mall that was once the Mount Royal Hotel, designed by Ross and Macdonald. Erected in 1922, the ten-story hotel with 1036 rooms was the largest in the British Empire, showcasing the Beaux-Arts architectural style.
In 1988, the building underwent a $140 million renovation, transforming it into a mixed-use complex with a shopping mall, offices, and luxury condos.
Retaining the original lobby with a grand chandelier from the Monte Carlo casino, the shopping area is organized around four large courts, earning its French name “Les Cours.” The mall features fashion retailers, Montreal’s largest spa (Spa Diva), a medical clinic (Les Cours Medical Centre), and a catwalk for fashion events.
The building’s top floors house luxury condos with separate elevators and entrances from the mall. In between, several floors serve as office space. The mall is connected to the Peel metro station through the underground city, providing easy access for visitors and shoppers.
Le Plateau and Mont-Royal
Mount Royal, the mountain west of downtown Montreal, is more than just a geographical landmark; it is at the heart of the city’s name’s origin. The mountain forms part of the Monteregian Hills, nestled between the Laurentians and the Appalachian Mountains. It encompasses three peaks, including Colline de la Croix, Colline d’Outremont, and Westmount Summit.
Mount Royal Park, a vast green oasis designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, graces the mountain’s landscape and offers respite for residents and visitors alike. Beyond the park, the slopes of Mount Royal are home to significant landmarks, such as Saint Joseph’s Oratory, McGill University, the Montreal General Hospital, and esteemed residential neighborhoods like Upper Westmount and Upper Outremont.
Northeast of Mount Royal is Le Plateau-Mont-Royal, a vibrant borough known for its artistic flair and dense population. It sits on a plateau, providing a scenic view of downtown Montreal.
The area is a major arts center, housing various artistic institutions and parks like Jeanne-Mance Park and Mont-Royal Park. Due to an influx of French immigrants in recent years, it has earned nicknames like “Le Petit Paris” or “La Nouvelle-France.”
Mount Royal Cross
The Mount Royal Cross is a prominent monument atop Mount Royal in Montreal. Erected in 1643 by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, founder of Fort Ville-Marie, it overlooks the eastern part of the Island of Montreal.
The current illuminated cross was installed in 1924 and stands at 31.4 meters tall, with arms spanning 11 meters, and weighing 26 tons. The cross is made of steel, consisting of 1,830 pieces joined by 6,000 rivets.
The city of Montreal assumed responsibility for the cross in 1929 and conducted a renovation in 2004, costing Can$2 million. The cross is usually illuminated in white but can change colors due to its LED lighting system. It has been turned red for AIDS awareness and blue for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day. By law, no buildings in Montreal can be taller than the Mount Royal Cross.
Next to the cross, a time capsule buried in 1992 during Montreal’s 350th birthday contains messages and drawings from 12,000 children, to be opened in the year 2142. The Mount Royal Cross is not only a symbol of faith but also an iconic landmark representing the city’s rich history and vibrant community.
Arts Building of McGill University
The McCall MacBain Arts Building, situated at 853 Sherbrooke Street West in Montreal’s McGill University downtown campus, is a significant Classical-style landmark. Designed by John Ostell in 1839, it consists of three wings – Dawson Hall, Molson Hall, and Moyse Hall – surrounding a central block.
Completed at different times by various architects, including Alexander Francis Dunlop and Harold Lea Fetherstonhaugh, the Arts Building is the university’s oldest existing structure. It currently houses departments such as French Language and Literature, English, and Art History and Communication Studies, and hosts lectures for other Arts Faculty departments.
In April 2019, the building received the name McCall MacBain Arts Building after a generous donation of C$200 million from the McCall MacBain Foundation, the most significant single gift to a Canadian university.
The building’s design incorporates Classical elements, including a front portico supported by Tuscan columns, while the Latin motto, Grandescunt Aucta Labore (“By work, we believe all things increase and grow”), reflects the university’s commitment to classical and liberal education. Inside, the lobby boasts black marble columns, a pink marble floor, oak furnishings, and Greek Revival architecture, showcasing the British Empire’s rich culture.
The McCall MacBain Arts Building’s iconic wooden cupola, flying the McGill flag, is a recognizable symbol of the university, visible from the Roddick Gates. Additionally, visitors can observe the tomb of James McGill situated in front of the Arts Building.
Saint-Louis Square with Victorian houses
The Saint-Louis Square is located in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough in Montreal. It lies between Sherbrooke Street and Avenue des Pins, with Saint-Denis Street and Avenue Laval bounding it to the east and west. The pedestrian section of Prince-Arthur Street connects to Boulevard Saint-Laurent on the west side. The square is often referred to as Carré Saint-Louis.
The square may have been named after two prominent entrepreneurs in the area, the Saint-Louis brothers, Emmanuel, and Jean-Baptiste. Another possibility is that the name originates from the neighborhood, which is named after Coteau Saint-Louis (citadel) in the old town.
Initially acquired by the City of Montreal on September 2, 1848, the land was used for a water reservoir for the aqueduct system. It was first known as “Square Saint-Jean-Baptiste” when inaugurated in June 1851. However, the reservoir became obsolete after the construction of the McTavish Reservoir in 1856. In 1880, it was transformed into a public park, with the reservoir demolished to create a large basin and a fountain surrounded by promenades.
Today, the Saint-Louis Square and its surrounding streets retain their charming Victorian architectural appeal. Many tourists visit the colorful houses along Square-Saint-Louis Street. The area was once home to the elite of French-Canadian society.
The square is one of Montreal’s grand Victorian squares, with a blend of houses and workers’ dwellings from its early development, as well as bourgeois houses and significant institutional buildings.
The renowned Quebecois author, Dany Laferrière, featured the square in the cover image of his book “Comment faire l’amour avec un nègre sans se fatiguer.” Numerous Quebecois artists, including Michel Tremblay, Émile Nelligan, and Pauline Julien, have resided near the square, enriching its cultural history.