By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca
Built in the neo-classic style, the old edifice of Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC) of Montreal is situated opposite of what was once one of the most beautiful city squares in an area of the French-Canadian elite. During the late 19th century local French business leaders saw a need for an institution of higher learning. Among them were Nazaire Dupuis, founder of the Dupuis department store, and Charles-Theodore Viau, who owned the bakery that invented the Empire cookie – better known as the Whippet.
Based on the plans by architects Louis-Zéphirin Gauthier and Joseph-Égilde-Césaire Daoust, construction started with the laying of the cornerstone on October 22, 1908, in the presence of Sir Lomer Gouin, the 13th premier of the province of Quebec. The Commerce School, was considered a critical investment in helping francophones compete on an equal footing in the mostly English speaking world of business. When it opened, the institution of higher learning had 32 students. HEC offered students everything from chemistry and physics labs, to a replicated business office that taught practical hands-on experience. In 1960 HEC was the first school in North America that owned an IBM 1620 computer, which was the size of a kitchen stove. After HEC moved to its new home on the Decelles street in 1970, the building hosted Dawson College until 1988 and afterwards by various departments and agencies.
HEC is a business school of the University of Montreal, and historically the oldest in commerce and administration in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The language of instruction is French, although courses and programs are also offered in English and Spanish.
Today, re-named the Édifice Gilles-Hocquart, in honor of Gilles Hocquart, fourteenth Intendant of New France who played an important role in safeguarding documents concerning the French regime of New France, it is home to the Montreal branch of the Quebec Archives (BAnQ – Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec). BAnQ Vieux-Montréal preserves documents dating back to the 17th century and is open to the public for research and presents themed exhibits year round. Since May 11, 2000, it is also a meeting place of genealogists and family historians.
The building is located at 535, avenue Viger East, Montréal
Source: HEC / Mtl Gazette / BAnQ