Mountain View of Montreal – Then & Now
By Dick Nieuwendyk –mtltimes.ca
Mount Royal Park is one of Montreal’s largest green spaces, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also co-designed New York’s Central Park. It contains two belvederes and was inaugurated in 1876. The largest belvedere is the Kondiaronk Belvedere, a semicircular plaza with a chalet. Built in 1906, it is named for the Petun chief Kondiaronk, one of the architects of the peace accord between the French, Iroquois and other Indian tribes in 1701. From here visitors have a beautiful view of the downtown core of the city.
By 1860 Montreal was the undisputed economic and cultural centre of Canada and the largest city in British North America. As with the rest of the world, the Great Depression of the 1930s brought unemployment to the city, international trade plunged, and construction virtually halted but by the mid-1930s the economy started to recover and skyscrapers began to be built. In 1941 Dorval International Airport opened, in 1943,
Dorchester (today boul. René-Lévesque) was widened, and CNR’s Central station opened, as was the Pepsi Forum near Atwater. Montreal’s population surpassed one million in the early 1950s. Montreal’s harbour was expanded and the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened during this time. More skyscrapers – now higher than the maximum allowed 10 stories, were built. 1958 saw the opening of the 21-floor Queen Elizabeth Hotel built by CNR and with its1039 rooms being the largest hotel in the Province of Quebec and the 2nd largest in Canada. From 1962 to 1964, four of Montreal’s ten tallest buildings were completed: Tour de la Bourse, Place Ville-Marie, the CIBC Building and CIL House. The head office of Hydro-Québec opened in 1964.
Under the administration of Mayor Jean Drapeau infrastructure was upgraded throughout the city, such as the opening of the Montreal metro system in 1966, making it easier to get to the downtown core of the city. Montreal’s underground city was developed with a network of pedestrian tunnels linking buildings, terminals, offices, restaurants, cultural institutions, and downtown metro stations stretching from the Bell Centre to Place des Arts. Complexe Desjardins, housing offices of the Quebec Government and other companies opened in 1976.
During the 1980s, after Montreal experienced a brief slowdown, new projects surrounding McGill College Avenue, Complexe Guy-Favreau, and the office towers occupied by the National Bank and Bell Canada began to take place. In 1992, construction began on two new skyscrapers: 1000 de La Gauchetière and 1250 René-Lévesque. Montreal’s improving economy allowed further enhancements of the city’s infrastructure, with the expansion of the metro system, construction of new skyscrapers, and the development of new highways, including the start of a ring road around the island.
The city attracted several international organisations that moved their secretariats into Montreal’s Quartier International: International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid), International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda), International Bureau for Children’s Rights (IBCR), International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC) and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).
With developments such as the World Trade Centre, Quartier International, Square Cartier, and proposed revitalization of the harbourfront, Montreal is regaining its international position as a world-class city.