In the early 20th century, the section of St. Denis between Dorchester (now René Lévesque) Blvd and Sherbrooke St. became the center of Montreal’s francophone intellectual elite. Located in the area were the Université Laval à Montréal, the École Polytechnique de Montréal, the Saint-Sulpice Library and many bookstores.
The first engineering school in French Canada was founded in 1873 by Urgel-Eugène Archambault in a converted residence, and offered courses in civil engineering, mining and metallurgy, mechanical engineering, metal working and industry and production. Archambault, who was the principal of the Académie commerciale catholique de Montréal convinced the school commissioners and the Minister of Public Instruction to set up a polytechnic school within the Académie. Originally known as the School of Applied Arts and Industry, it was renamed the École Polytechnique de Montréal in 1875, and moved into a building of the Montreal Catholic School Commission. The institution became affiliated with Université Laval in 1887. It was only in 1905 that it could afford its first building, which was to be erected on St. Denis Street. The construction of the new building was made possible through a gift of $25,000. from the estate of Joseph-Octave Villeneuve, a businessman, politician, senator, and the Mayor of Montreal from 1894 to 1896, and from a $13,000. contribution from the provincial government.
The building contract was awarded to Joseph-Émile Vanier, a Montreal architect, who studied civil engineering at the École Polytechnique, and who held the distinction of being the first engineer to graduate from this institution in 1877, an honour that wouldlead to his commission to build the new school in 1903. In 1905, the Art Deco style building with its neo-classical elements opened its doors, and became home to the École Polytechnique from 1905 to 1958. In 1920, the École Polytechnique became affiliated with the University of Montreal. The Polytechnique left its building on St. Denis Street in 1958 and settled on the campus of the University of Montreal located on the northern slope of Mount Royal in the Outremont and Côte-des-Neiges boroughs.
The building on St. Denis became the Institute of Applied Arts in Montreal from 1958 to 1969. From 1969 to 1976 it became the Cégep du Vieux-Montreal, who renamed it the Athanase-David Pavilion. UQAM acquired the building and some adjacent lots in 1973. Highlighting the concern for conservation and architectural integration, major restorations were undertaken in 1989 which has given the building a special place in the history of urban development of Montreal. Featuring an outdoor garden and
attached to a park, Place Pasteur, the building houses since 1992 the management and administrative services of the University.
Source: UQAM / McCord Museum / Dictionary of architects in Canada
By: Dick NIeuwendyk – mtltimes.ca