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Royal Trust Company Building – Then and Now Montréal


Royal Trust Company Building – The Royal Trust Company, founded in 1899, initially operated out of the basement of the Bank of Montreal building at 109 St. Jacques Street. Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, President of the Bank of Montreal and co-founder the Canadian Pacific Railway, became the first President of the Royal Trust Company in 1899.

In 1908, the Trust purchased the Imperial Building from the Alliance Insurance Company next door at 107 St. Jacques, which was built around 1890, replacing an earlier building, constructed in 1846 for the City Bank. The Imperial building was demolished and in 1911 a contract for the construction of a new building was awarded to Montreal architect Ernest Isabell Barott, and the prominent New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White.

Place d’Armes 2015 – 107 St. Jacques St. (Royal Trust Building) Photo: Dick Nieuwendyk

Construction started in 1912, and the building was completed in 1913. The nine storey building is a good example of a Montreal skyscraper of the early 20th century. It has a steel frame and the neo-classsic facade is of gray granite from Stanstead, Quebec. The building was constructed after the 1901 municipal bill limiting skyscraper heights at 10 storeys or 130 feet. This law was in force until the late 1920s, when construction up to 33 storeys was allowed, but setbacks over the 10th floor was a regulation. Today, no skyscraper can be higher than 232 meters, the height of the top of Mount Royal.

(Alliance Insurance Company). Left building is 109 St. Jacques St. (Bank of Montreal)

Rental space in the new building was expensive, bringing only wealthy tenants. The Royal Trust occupied the ground floor and the second floor, the Bank of Montreal had the fourth floor, and Dominion Glass, occupied the fifth. Office space was rented to lawyers and other professionals. Over time, the Trust appropriated the premises of the other floors. Before the Royal Trust moved to Dorchester Blvd (now René-Lévesque Blvd) in the late 1960s, it almost completely occupied the building. In 1983, the Bank of Montreal became owner of the building and an internal link was created between the two buildings.

The main face of the building features six commemorative stone plaques. One of them states: “This building is erected on part of the original concession to Urbain Tessier dit Lavigne being the 8th grant made to an individual in the island of Montreal”. Another one writes: “Near this square afterwards named La Place d’Armes the founders of Ville-Marie first encountered the Iroquois whom they defeated. Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve killing the chief with his own hands, March 1644.”  

To see the article in the Montreal Times 22.74 June 10, 2017 edition please click on the above image
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