Then & Now Montreal – Victoria Square
By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca
The square has existed since 1813. Originally it was known as the Place du Marché-à-Foin (Haymarket Square) and Place des Commissaires ( Police Plaza). On October 10, 1860, a few months after the inauguration of the Victoria Bridge by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), the square was renamed Victoria in honor of the Queen of England.
A large bronze statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled in 1872 by Lord Dufferin, the Governor General of Canada. Created by sculptor Marshall Wood it was cast by Holbrook & Company, Chelsea, England in 1869. It was a donation from a citizens’ committee, on the occasion of Prince Arthur’s (later Duke of Connaught) visit to Montreal in 1870.
Victoria Square has undergone many changes over the years. It was once a hay market from 1813 until the City moved it in the 1860s, following complaints of property owners near the area north of the Rue Saint-Antoine. From that time, the square and its surroundings became a prestigious neighbourhood, even after suffering two fires in 1869 and 1872 and a flood in 1886.
A major redevelopment project begun around the year 2000. Construction of the Metro station and various office towers surrounding the square have greatly changed the appearance of the square. It is today the site of many local and international institutions, such as the IATA (Air Transport Association), the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization), the Tour de la Bourse, a 48-storey skyscraper, designed by Italian architect Luigi Moretti, and home to the Montreal Stock Exchange, as well as the Montreal World Trade Centre. From the outside the Montreal WTC appears as a late 19th century business block with several Victoria-era commercial buildings.
These buildings, which include the historic Bank of Nova Scotia building (originally constructed by the Eastern Townships Bank in 1909) and the Canada Steamship Lines building (1899), have been linked together, by encasing them in a huge glassed-in 180 metres long atrium running the length of what was once Fortification Lane, one of Montreal’s earliest and most important streets, being the site of the city’s colonial defense walls. Until 1850, the lane provided access to the back of elegant townhouses. It now serves as the main thoroughfare of the Montreal World Trade Center which features a reflecting pool, boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and the 357 air-conditioned room InterContinental Hotel.
Victoria Square is located at the intersection of Beaver Hall Hill and McGill Street.
Source: MWTC / Heritage Montreal / Picture on top : Victoria Square – 1952