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Viger Station and Hotel

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By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca

 

Viger Gardens were named in memory of Denis Viger, whose widow Charlotte- Perrine Cherrier donated the original parcel of land in 1818.

Later, a cousin of Montreal’s first mayor Jacques Viger was one of many who donated additional land for the gardens and public square which eventually became Place Viger.

 

Viger Station in 1895  (Photo Wm Notman/McCord Museum Archives)
Viger Station in 1895 (Photo Wm Notman/McCord Museum Archives)

Viger Station was both a grand hotel and railway station in Montreal, constructed in 1898 and named after Jacques Viger, Montreal’s first mayor. Although combined stations and hotels were common in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century, the concept was unique to Canada.

The station was designed by Montreal architect Bruce Price for the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Price became associated with the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1886, a connection that would take him to Montreal, Banff (Alta), and Quebec City. Price was hired by CPR president William Cornelius Van Horne in 1887 to build Montreal’s Windsor Station, which officially opened in 1889.

Van Horne called on Price again in 1895 to replace Dalhousie Station in Montreal. Price began constructing in 1895.Completed in 1898, the station occupied the ground floor, and a luxurious hotel with a reception area, lounges, and dining-rooms on the upper floors.

 

Viger Station in 2012  (Photo: Dick Nieuwendyk)
Viger Station in 2012 (Photo: Dick Nieuwendyk)

The long arcade running the length of the façade, several steps up from the street, offered a shelter for waiting visitors or for those who simply wanted to linger a while for a look at the square and city in which they had just arrived. The building had the same orange brick as the Château Frontenac and displayed similar forms. The hotel and station were at a strategic location near what was then the central core of Montreal, in proximity to the financial district, city hall, the court house, and the Victoria Pier – the mooring point for Canadian Pacific steamships.The mayor of Montreal, Raymond Préfontaine, strongly encouraged its construction in the heart of the Montreal Francophone upper-class neighbourhood central to the French Canadian élites, in contrast to the rival Windsor Hotel to the west, which mainly catered to the city’s anglophone classes.

With its Loire Valley chateau-style architecture the hotel was famous for its elegant decor, and would accommodate business meetings and social gatherings.

 

The economic depression of the 1930s, proved disastrous for Place Viger. The hotel closed in 1935. In 1951, the railway station was also closed, and the building was sold to the City of Montreal. The interiors were gutted and transformed to office space for municipal services and departments. The building was renamed Édifice Jacques-Viger. Much of the Viger Gardens was destroyed in the 1970s allowing for the construction of the Autoroute Ville-Marie, and the remainder of the gardens was transformed into a little-travelled public square, named “Viger Square”. In 2003, the Montréal School Commission, the City of Montreal and the Quebec provincial government announced that Place Viger would house a new school of tourism. In 2004, the Borough of Ville-Marie announced that it would restore what remained of the nearby public gardens, by replacing much of the concrete in Viger Square with trees, paths and other soft landscaping.

 

In 2006 the property was sold to private investors who proposed to turn the old Viger station into a posh hotel plus a 17-storey office building.

 

Viger Station is located at 700-800 Rue St. Antoine East

 

Source: University of Toronto/Université Laval, McCord Museum/Archives, Heritage Montreal

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