Historical Perspectives of Montréal

The Laurentian Hotel (1948-1978) and the old bus terminus - not the work of the author.

Facing East on Dorchester Boulevard, late 1950s, early 1960s. You’ll notice the recently completed Queen Elizabeth Hotel in the background and the bus depot in the foreground. Pic seems to have been taken either from Drummond or Mountain. What’s fascinating here is that the Laurentian Hotel, which at one point would have anchored Place du Canada much like the Sun Life Building or Windsor Hotel would have anchored Dominion Square immediately to the North. Further, up to the demolition of the Laurentian in 1978, this area would have had four major hotels facing the combined Dorchester Square – the Queen E, Windsor, Chateau Champlain and Laurentian, with the Sheraton nearby. The Laurentian wasn’t terribly attractive on the outside, as you might be able to see in this photograph, though the interiors were apparently quite well done.

It would take nine years for the Canadian Pacific project to re-develop their lands adjacent to Windsor Station, and by 1987 the Laurentian Bank/Lavalin project had been considerably scaled back. The CPR wasn’t nearly as successful at developing their lands as was CN; quite a pity too, given that some of the shelved CP plans called for major renovations and some epic construction in this area. Seems as if they got the shaft, and that may account for CP’s re-location to Calgary in 1997.

Phillips Square, late 1950s - early 1960s. Not the work of the author.

And this is Phillips Square around the same time, facing Northwest across the square from near the centre, with Christ Church Cathedral taking up most of the frame. Consider that this area isn’t nearly as green as it is today. Check this old Kondiaronk article for more percent pictures of the square. You can see that the cathedral now serves as a green space and urban park inasmuch as Phillips Square does. Notice as well the lack of concentrated vendors here (as street vendors were the norm back then), and the planters we have today were back then public toilets – those little towers are in fact ventilation shafts. Apparently you can still access the old toilets if you know what manhole cover to pry open. I wouldn’t recommend it, probably smells quite bad down there, and will doubtless quickly get you arrested.

Westmount Train Station, early 1970s - not the work of the author.

A view of Westmount Train Station and the Glen Yards, back before the Superhospital. With the closure of Westmount Train Station in the 1980s, Westmount’s public transit access dwindled to a handful of bus lines and a long tunnel to Atwater Métro. Vendome station, much like Atwater, is physically close to Westmount though still in the City of Montreal. It’s unfortunate that this station will almost assuredly never operate as intended again, lest there is sufficient traffic heading West from Westmount. Pity. To my knowledge it lies completely abandoned at Victoria and Saint Catherine’s West, almost within sight of Vendome Station. It’s bizarre that the commuter trains don’t disembark at Westmount Station – which is a proper train station, and have some sort of covered walkway to Vendome and the bus terminus there. It may be wise to try and reduce congestion so close to Vendome and give commuters the advantage of utilizing the train station.

Something tells me that this whole area will be the focal point of year’s worth of renovation work and re-design. Guess we’ll have to wait.

3 thoughts on “Historical Perspectives of Montréal”

  1. I agree, the current design is ideal for current conditions, but looking ahead we have to contend with additional strain on the bus/Métro terminus once the Superhospital is completed and that station becomes a veritable back-door to the hospital. That’s going to greatly increase traffic moving through the station. The MUHC said they’re considering several options vis-a-vis connecting the hospital to the station, though expanding on the existing access tunnel seems the obvious choice. Another potential pedestrian friendly access point to the hospital could be from Victoria Village in Westmount under the train station to the northeastern part of the hospital. Between the two stations is a distance of about 400m. Thus, why not simply make Westmount train station the AMT component of the Vendome Intermodal station? Yes people will have to walk more, but once the hospital is completed that whole area will change very quickly, and spreading things out across a larger space may be very advantageous. Moreover, as commuter rail develops in the urban core, the AMT will invariably have to return to providing more comprehensive services at some key stations than a mere concrete platform.

    Finally, there are office buildings and residential towers between the stations, and some open lots for future, likely medium-high density, residential and commercial construction. Having a small section of Réso in this sector makes sense, and connecting residential areas (and towers) directly to a transit hub of this magnitude would be value-added indeed.

    Expand it and they will come.

  2. Interesting entry. But I had to do a double take:
    “It’s bizarre that the commuter trains don’t disembark at Westmount Station”

    WTF?

    99.9% of the commuters are transferring to buses or the Metro. HTH would making them walk further help anyone?

  3. Yeah, nice picture. When I was a kid, moving with my family back from Vancouver, we took the train, and we booked passage from Vancouver to Westmount — not Montreal (Windsor Station, which was the next stop). That was 1971.

    I more or less like your blog. But I will stop visiting if you don’t stop your reprehensible habit of putting an accent on the first E of Montreal.

    It’s incomprehensible. Why would you do that? That letter (the e with an accent, which has its own name in French and is not considered the same as a regular E — they pronounce “e” euh; and “e-with-the-accent-aigu” eh.

    Stop and go back and delete the accents. It’s like we don’t belong in Montreal. You are on the wrong side with this evil habit of yours.

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