Victoria Hall – Westmount Then & Now Montreal
By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca
Victoria Hall, designed by Robert Findlay, a well-known architect and Westmount resident in the early 20th century, opened in 1899. Findlay used the same style and materials as he did for the Westmount Library just east of the Victoria Hall in Victoria Park (today Westmount Park).
Victoria Hall was the first municipal auditorium known to have been built in Canada. It housed a public meeting room, a lodge room, a drill hall, a bowling alley, billiard room, gymnasium, and a swimming pool. Westmount Park, the Public Library and Victoria Hall were all planned as Westmount’s commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897. A fire on March 8, 1924 completely destroyed the Victoria Jubilee Hall.
In 1925 the architects firm of Hutchison & Wood was entrusted to design and build a new community centre on the same site. The second community centre was a stone building in Neo-Tudor style with Gothic detailing in sandstone – the central square tower, flanked by four turrets and a bay window above a pair of ogival doors. The centre features a large hall with a balcony and a stage for performances. The building was the home of regular weekly big-band dancesduring the 30s and 40s, widely attended by Westmounters and Montrealers alike. Johnny Holmes and his orchestra played on Saturday Top Hat nights, attracting large crowds and beginning the careers of such legendary musicians as trumpeter Maynard Ferguson, and pianist Oscar Peterson, who grew up in St. Henri, and attended Montreal High School.
In 1998, Victoria Hall was completely restored and renovated, including the installation of an elevator and the addition of a Gallery. It now offers space for meetings, concerts, and social events. It hosts nine exhibitions each year, where local artists can display their work. The second floor houses a theatre for local productions. There are also special events and classes for children from the age of three years, such as music, ballet, tap dance, martial arts and sports.
While visiting Victoria Hall during summer months, take a look at the floral clock in front of the hall on Sherbrooke Street. The clock was renovated recently and was the first of its kind since its installation in 1926.
Victoria Hall is located at 4626 Sherbrooke Street West in Westmount
Sources: Montreal Plus / City of Westmount / Wikipedia