Architectural/Culture (Old and New), Montreal
These attractive stone building on a prominent quay-side "triangle" was the headquarters of the Edmonstrone - Allan shipping empire. It was one of the their ships which was the first to reach the survivors of the "Titanic" after their little icecube collision in the North Atlantic.
The Building now serves as an information center and tourism center for the Old Port of Montreal.
Favorite thing: This old stone building on the western end of the Rue St. Paul stands much as it did when it was constructed 170 years ago. Moreover, this spot (Place Royale) was also the location of the first fort in the region, Ville-Marie. Appropriately, perhaps, the Customs House now serves as offices and gift shop for the nearby Archeological Museum "Pointe-a-Calliere".
Montreal's attractive City Hall is modelled upon a similarly classic structure in Tours, France. Well proportioned for its site, the structure dominates the square without seeming overwhelmingly bombastic.
It's a historic site, too: in 1967, the French President Charles de Gaulle gave a stirring speech from the balcony which heated up the sentiments of Quebec nationalists.
275 Rue Notre dame est (east)
Favorite thing: Neo-classical architecture runs strong in old Montreal, making this one of the most "traditional" looking big cities in North America. One of the grandest buildings in the city center is the 1926 "Edifice Ernest-Cormier," named after its hard-working architect. The structure was originally a major civic courthouse for the city, was later turned into a music school, and is presently the home of the Quebec Court of Appeals. This massive Doric colonnade is at the intersection of Notre-Dame and Rue St. Gabriel, just a short stroll from Place d'Armes.
The main branch of the Bank of Montreal has a commanding place in the Places d'Armes, on Rue St. Jacques (St. James Street), the city's version of Wall Street. The original structure, designed by John Wells, features a Pantheon-like dome and was opened all the way back in 1849.
Subsequent changes at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century were supervised by Stanford White (1853-1906), of the pre-eminent New York firm of Mead, McKim & White.
Molson Bank was founded in Montreal by two brothers who made a fortune in brewing and later diversified into high finance. Their institution became one of the most respected in Canada before being folded into the Bank of Montreal early in the 20th century. The Headquarters of the bank was located in the heart of the city's financial district, in what was known as the Canadian Wall Street, "old St. James Street".
When it was built, it was the first structure in the "French Empire" style in Montreal - and it is still one of the most impressive!
Wonderful relic of late 19th century Romanesque Revival architect, Gare Windsor Station was the headquarters of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and was opened in 1889. It's the work of New York architect Bruce Price (1845-1903), who became the "house architect" of CPR stations and hotels, and also happened to be the father of etiquette-writer Emily Post.
Trains no longer come here, although it is still owned by the CPR. Portions of the structure have been redeveloped as an office/shopping/restaurant complex. In the summer 2008, I enjoyed the Mondial de la Biere here!
The Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier is the main music hall/concert stage of the Place des Arts. Capable of accommodating either symphonic music or operas, the hall was dedicated in 1963.
Wilfried Pelletier (1896-1982) was a much-loved conductor the Montreal Symphony, one of the main occupants of the hall - along with the Opera de Montreal.
Favorite thing: A vital part of the Place des Arts is the large scale building that houses the Theatre Maisonneuve. The theatre seats 1500 people with a classic proscenium stage format. It was designed by the local architectural firm of David, Barott & Boulva, and opened in 1967 - in time for the famous "Expo" of that year. The structure certainly presents a facade in keeping the stark brutalism of so much 1960s design - although I've read that inside the theatre, the acoustics and sight-lines are excellent. Stll, it's not exactly an inviting structure!
My favorite memory of this lovely city is walking the streets and seeing the old buildings with my husband Michael. We walked and took the Metro to get from one place to another. We did take a taxi once to get to the casino. We ate lunch at open window cafes two days while we were there. It is an easy city to navigate and I would recommend this trip.
Fondest memory: The photo below is of Michael and I at 3 Brasseurs restaurant.
1658 St-Denis St.
Fondest memory: The rowhouses in the Plateau area are so colourful. Many have detailed carvings, iron staircases, and balconies. This has become an expensive part of Montreal to live in, with so many cafes and restaurants within walking distance.
Upon his first visit to Montreal, Mark Twain said: "This is the first time I was ever in a city where you couldn't throw a brick without breaking a church window." So it is no wonder that Montreal has been nicknamed "the city of hundred churches." But these days church is not what it used to be. In an era of declining Mass attendance and the rising cost of repairing worn buildings, the Catholic Church in Montreal has downsized.
Fondest memory: While entering Little Italy (Petite Italie), a visitor will undoubtably notice the old Saint-Jean-de-la-Croix church. This towering building is rather massive and cathedral-like. At first glance, the imposing stone building still resembles a church, but a discerning eye will notice the latest Montreal real estate trend "church gone condo". On the side of the church, where once stained glass windows used be, now stand small metal balconies. In 1999, the Catholic Church allowed a residential developer to redesign the inside of the church and turn it into condominums. Needless to say this event was controversial. Long time residents of Little Italy frowned upon the idea of turning the neighbourhood church into a residential building. Despite the neighbourhood disapproval, the opportunity to live in an elegant, older building with modern plumbing and deluxe interior was difficult to pass up for those who could afford it. Most units sold quickly, despite steep prices. Then again, a hefty mortgage is a small price to pay for ensuring that you will always be in church on Sunday mornings.
I have to admit that most "public" art leaves me cold, particularly the corporate variety. It often seems the sort of thing that warrants an "oh, isn't that interesting (what ever it was)..." but doesn't necessarily entice you to slow your pace as you pass by. This stunning sculpture, on the other hand, caused me to stop dead in my tracks.
Located at 1981 McGill College Avenue in front of the BNP Tower this intricate piece of public art demands study. It is "The Illuminated Crowd" by Raymond Mason. A plaque in front describes the work in the artist's words:
A crowd has gathered, facing a light, an illumination brought about by a fire, an event, an ideology - or an ideal. The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man. Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence, murder and death - the flow of man's emotion through space.
It was not until I was home and could examine my photograph that I realized that I could identify the emotions on the faces in the crowd.
Located on Sherbrooke, this museum is do-able in about an hour, maybe a little more. Among the collections you will find art by local Canadians, as well as local artifacts. I thought the carvings from whalebone were incredible!
I also counted about one or two paintings by the masters~Monet, Renoir, you get the idea~but the Dali was missing! Yep, just a gaping hole where it used to be, no explanation!
P.S. I stumbled upon a painting by an Italian artist from my family's hometown of Molfetta, the Renaissance artist Corrado Giaquinto (you wouldn't know him!). What are the chances of that?
Fondest memory: I was speechless when we arrived~~well, for a couple of reasons~~standing at the bottom it really is a magnificent sight. Then you have to start climbing the steps! This was especially treacherous on our visit because it had snowed and it was slippery and icy. (Well if the devoted can climb on their knees, we sure can handle this!)