Grand Trunk Railway Building originally built by Titanic passenger – Then & Now Montreal

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The Grand Trunk Railway building was constructed between 1899 and 1902 on land sold by the City of Montreal to the American owned GTR, to establish its Canadian head office there at the Grand Trunk Railway building. In exchange the Grand Trunk Railway building committed to hire only local workers and to keep its headquarters in this building for a minimum of 20 years.

 

Grand Trunk Railway Head Office – ca 1910
Édifice Gérald-Godin – 2016

The building was originally built by Titanic passenger Charles Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, as the company’s corporate headquarters. His office was in the building. Hays was aboard the Titanic that sank on 15 April 1912, with his wife, Clara, daughter Orian and son-in-law Thornton Davidson. They were returning to Canada for the official opening in Ottawa of a new hotel Hays had built – the Château Laurier. Hays commissioned Richard A. Waite, an English-born architect to design the building. Construction started in 1899. The materials used are grey granite, beige limestone and chamois sandstone from India. The building has five floors including the ground floor, with two additional

Charles Melville Hays
1856 – 1912

floors in the corner towers. The imposing dimensions of the building as well as the numerous generous windows, both in the back and front, reveal the importance of this office building. The monumental portal of the unique front entrance announces the headquarters of a major company. The inscription “Grand Trunk” and the accompanying GT monogram clearly recall the origins of the building. The clock added to the top of the center section shows that the building is related to transport. The inscription MDCCCC engraved in the stone above the clock dates the building. The winged lions on the upper part of the right tower symbolize the power of the Grand Trunk.

The building was inaugurated on June 3, 1902. Subsidiaries of the company, including the Canadian Express, were located on the ground floor and on the first floor, while the upper floors housed the administration and engineering departments of the company. In 1919 the Grand Trunk faced serious financial difficulties, and in 1920 the Government of Canada took possession of its assets and placed them under the control of the Canadian National Railway Company, a crown corporation. On January 20, 1923, GTR was fully absorbed into the CNR. CN occupied the building until 1961, when it moved its head office downtown and sold the building to the Government of Quebec. In 1987-88 restorations and renovations took place. Today the former head office building of the CNR, now known as the Édifice Gérald-Godin, houses the Department of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion, established in 1988.

The building is located at 360 McGill Street in Montreal

By: Dick Nieuwendyk – mtltimes.ca

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