Saturday, June 7, 2014


here's another post that almost didn't happen... 
Not because I lack ideas or material; 
quite the contrary!! 
I will not bore you with the details of my life 
but let's just say 
it came very close for me to not post this... 
This said, 
this week on Sepia Saturday
it is "open theme", 
and I will use this opening to take you to an open house [sort of], 
if only you'll keep an open mind about it. 
While we will not go inside a certain building, 
because I've done it before here... 
We will instead look at it from the outside, 
and its surrounding, 
and see how things evolved over not quite yet a century and a half. 
And I'll obviously share with you my memories and impressions 
that cover the last 50 years or so...


Wood engraving done by John Henry Walker 
depicting Montreal's new City Hall that was built between 1872 and 1878. 
You can see the building was done in a classic Second Empire style. 
The architects in charge of this project were 
Henri-Maurice Perrault and Alexander Cowper Hutchison. 
If municipal affairs had been managed from the Bonsecours Market previously, 
it would now be handled within these walls.


Behind City Hall, 
a huge parking lot... 
shared by cars and horses. 
What I find interesting here is the general urban landscape 
as so much has disappeared since then. 
So much... 
I see what appears to be a large market [or something...] 
that is totally unknown to me. 
I'll have to look into that [eventually]. 
It is almost scary to see how much a city can change over time. 
There may have been questionable choices as to what had to go and what could stay, 
but one can't deny the city has gone through a few mutations to re-invent itself.


A splendid building 
and I do like the man leaning against that pole, 
wearing a hat and walking [presumably] his dog, 
even though those poles and electric cables drive me nuts as a photographer... 
I find that they pollute the scene. 


A fire caused great damages to the building, 
leaving basically the outer walls, 
and destroying much of the records and such that the building contained. 
Time to turn a new leaf!!


Rebuilding City Hall, 
supervised by the architect Louis Parant, 
who decided to have a built-in self-supporting steel structure within the shell of the building. 
He added one floor and things were done into the much favored Beaux Arts style back then 
as many of the most prestigious buildings in the city were done this way, 
thus altering the profile of the building for ever more. 
But who could fault him for having good taste?!?


I look at the City Hall sitting there, 
noticing the ever present parking lot behind it, 
(more about that later on...), 
the Place Jacques Cartier to the left looking fairly quiet 
when I know that it was very active as a market before.... 
and that it is now milling with tourists!! 
I should know: 
only this last week, 
I've directed on 3 occasions tourists who were looking for Old Montreal
It's pretty hard to miss: 
Just head for the [St Lawrence] river!!! 
The first couple I came across one day were looking at their map, 
looking puzzled, 
standing in front of Radio-Canada, 
our national TV station, 
looking [they told me] for the Notre-Dame Basilica... 
Oh boy!! 
Were they going the wrong way, 
or what?!? 
I set them on their way. 
I think I missed my calling here!! 
I should have worked for the tourism board... 

Just below the City Hall, 
the Chateau Ramezay
previously discussed here
surrounded back then by a parking lot... 
but now surrounded by gardens as they were originally, 
It only took a "few" decades to restore some dignity to the place... 
I did mention there were a few poor choices made in the past. 
Nice to see our heritage now offered at its best, 
for locals and tourists alike to enjoy.


Cars, cars, cars!!! 
A sheer nightmare!! 
I also see somewhere in the background where I would work a few decades later... 
Who knew?!? 
Building the subway and the Ville-Marie express way will change drastically the look of the place. 
Over time, 
people will eventually learn to use public transportation 
and more spaces will be restored to their previous glory 
in respect to our heritage 
as tourism became a preoccupation, 
foreigners finding Montreal a delightful destination 
as Montreal proved the most European destination in North America.


Modern buildings and historical ones merging together to offer a vibrant city 
that never stops evolving. 
If this picture was taken now, 
it would look even more different 
as the new mega hospital is rising, 
its research center already completed. 
Everything is on the move 
as there is talk of how to modify the Ville-Marie express way 
to make the Old Montreal more accessible. 
And that is only one tiny piece of the puzzle to rebuild the district. 
I contacted someone about the Viger Park last year 
and that too should benefit of this revival... 


I took that picture
I could have taken the same in 2009
and 2011. 
The renovations took F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!


I must learn to understand better how panoramic software works. 
I don't much care for that curved line... 
But I wanted to offer you the full scope of the building.


The clock and the cupola.


What used to be a humongous parking lot is now a showcase piece 
featuring the old walls of Ville Marie
the old French colony, 
when these walls were all that stood between those French immigrants 
and the natives who tried to eradicate the presence of those pale faces... 
Can't blame them for trying!! 
I like to see the city's old bones.


Of course, 
I just had to do some crazy stuff here, 
"shaking the house down"
Possibly influenced by our political situation, 
amidst scandals and discord...

Thank you for attending my open house. 
Tylenols anyone?!? 
Time for you to head back to 
Just keep your mind open to all of the possibilities!!

Now aren't you glad I wasn't in the mood to post?!? 
I dare not imagine myself what it would have been like, 
should I have been in the mood...



  1. Splendid post! A trip down memory lane for me. Who knew in the 1960s that I would spend so much time working in that area and spending lunch hours walking around there?

    1. Glad you liked it Jackie!!
      You'd find much has changed since those days.

  2. It's always fun and interesting to see how time changes things - buildings, parks, cars, people, what have you. I enjoyed this post very much. My only disappointment came when I viewed the video. Since your last words had been "in the mood", I assumed that was the old song coming up and since I love all that good ol' music, I was looking forward to hearing "In The Mood". Oh well. :))

    1. Some other time perhaps,
      you'll get your wish!!!...

  3. Interesting last photo! Not sure why you almost didn't post but happy you did! I've posted this week too! An interesting job indeed but besides that you could make splendidly marvelous documentaries as well!

    1. Let's just say I felt drained back then...
      But it doesn't mean the brain is not working....
      I just wish I could switch it off sometimes...

    2. Question, although you can tell me to mind my own business, but have I missed something? Each week, okay mostly on those weeks that I post at SS (things have been quite busy and my blogging is way down from what it normally is) but I miss seeing your posts. I thought it was my long blog roll of so many blogs I like to visit. BUT! I see your last post was in JUNE. Okay enough said, just know that you are always in my thoughts still, even if you aren't visible in my blog roll!

  4. Glad you posted in spite of not being in the mood. You do more with "nothing".

  5. Glad you were openhearted and posted.

    1. I often prepared things but never published them, sadly...

  6. Yet another interesting post from multiple urban perspectives, Bruno. This decorative ornate architecture is gone in modern building styles which seem to be only variations on repetitive square angles. Very few have any distinctive artistic quality that would be worthy of preservation 100 years from now.

    1. Indeed, it seems to be the case over here too.
      I doubt many newer buildings will ever be considered heritage pieces.

  7. What an interesting history of a building and its environs. It's nice your city hall has managed to survive. The photo that caught my eye was the one with both automobiles and horses with carriages in the parking lot. What a time that must have been for horses, adjusting to the speed of cars (even if it was only 20 miles/hour), exhaust, horns, etc. Of course, it was probably a challenge for new drivers of cars, too.

    1. Yes, I suspect it was challenging for everyone involved back then.

  8. Beautiful photos but what really blew my mind was that parking lot for horses and carts or carriages. I have never made that sideways step to wonder where the drivers would park those horses and yet I accept the ever increasing number of car parking spaces without blinking an eye. Thanks.

    1. In many old districts here, you can see those doors in houses and buildings that were reserved for horses and carriages,
      now mostly decorative.

  9. A fascinating history of a building with wonderful photographs. When I saw the first image it immediately reminded me of the Bowes Museum near the market town of Barnard Castle, north east England, which was built in 1869 in the style of a French chateau by John Bowes, an art collector and member of a wealthy mining family.

    1. Thanks for mentioning the Bowes Museum. Splendid building!!
      There are a few similarities indeed...

  10. First: Thanks for the music. I love this song and haven't listened to it for ages!
    And then: I love all the photos. Makes me really want to get back to Montreal, but I don't know when that will ever happen! That 1966 photo? That's what it looked like the last time I was there!

    1. Much has changed since then!!!
      And for the better, in some cases...

  11. Great Pictures. Glad you decided to go ahead and post.

    1. Thank you!!
      I just couldn't resist the idea of an "open theme"...

  12. Some fantastic photographs - both old and new. Under your guidance, the story of a building becomes not just the story of a city but almost the story of a civilisation. One photograph stands out and that is the early photograph of the parking lot of horses and carriages - one forgets that they had to park somewhere.

    1. It would prove problematic nowadays,
      but back then, it was still a common thing,
      I presume...

  13. I love your city old and new and even photoshopped beyond recognition. I often think about the evolution of my own city whenever I check Google Maps for where an ancestor once lived only to find the street no longer exists. Quite a few ancestors lived where a local tv station and amphitheater are presently located. Other streets are cut short by foundations of bypasses.

    1. Revisiting the past can be disappointing
      as some things will have disappear to be replace by something new and of no significance to us.
      Or it still stands but has been repurposed, like my elementary school.
      And even so, the scale of things seem off as it all looks diminished in some way.
      What was once large appears small in comparison to what one remembers...

  14. A great interpretation of the building's long history. I visited Montreal in 2005 but somehow don't seem to have taken a photo of the Town Hall, but we definitely went into Old Montreal so surely we could not have missed it - or could we?

    1. Maybe it was under renovation,
      hidden by scaffolding that wrapped itself around the building for many years...
      That was an eyesore!!!

  15. I enjoy seeing a building evolve in this way, but isn’t it strange that something like a fire, earthquake or a disaster of some kind can often result in an improvement?

    1. Indeed!!
      I'm only glad they were able [and willing] to preserve what they could of the old structure.


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