On the evening of April 12, 1956, the Canada Life Weather Beacon lit up, when Mayor Jean Drapeau pressed a switch to start it off for the first time. The illuminated tower, which stood 102 feet above the Canada Life Assurance building on Dorchester West (now boul. René Lévesque ), opposite St. Patrick’s Basilica, would bring the Montreal area a six-hour weather forecast on a round-the-clock basis. The weather forecast was supplied by the Meteorological Division of the Department of Transport in Dorval.
The Montreal beacon was the third if its kind in Canada, after Toronto and Vancouver. With over 2600 lights, and 650 feet each of green and red neon tubing and covered with protective plexiglass, it would flash the weather forecast day and night.
At 6 a.m. the lights would indicate the weather for the morning, and at 11:30 a.m. they would indicate the weather for the afternoon At 5:30 p.m., they would forecast the weather for the evening, and finally, at 11:30 p.m. the lights would predict the weather for the following day.
The beacon featured two indicators – a coloured box at the very top, and running lights on the shaft of the tower. When the top light showed a solid green, the weather would be clear; a solid red meant cloudy; a flashing red indicated rain, and a flashing white predicted snow. When the lights on the shaft were running up, the temperature would be climbing, if they were running down, it would be cooler, and when they were steady, no change.
In January 1976, Trizec Corporation, which owned the building, had the weather beacon demolished.
Today, the 15-story office building still stands at 505 boul. René Lévesque, but no traces are left of the colourful Montreal weather beacon, which once lit up the skies over Montreal.