Montréal Kitsch: the Kon-Tiki Polynesian Restaurant

Illustrated advertisement for the Kon-Tiki - located at what is currently the Cours Mont-Royal; not the work of the author

When my parents were growing up, the Kon-Tiki was a top-flight Montréal resto and a true local institution. Apparently it was known far and wide and outlived the 1960s Polynesian fad by a considerable margin. It certainly helped that they were located in one of the most fashionable hotels in the city at that time, not to mention a stellar decor. Kinda wish resurrecting restaurants was a thing.

Is it me or is dude all crazy-eyed looking at that green drink?


Disused rail line, Port of Montréal near Moreau Street, facing West - 1954: credit to Vicky Robinson

When I first came across this photograph I thought instinctively that was from a very early period, 1890s or thereabouts. Closer inspection revealed the Jacques-Cartier Bridge in the background… and then I realized the date included with the rest of the pertinent info. Oh well, only spent ten minutes trying to figure out how old it was.

I can’t tell whether it’s a power line or a telephone line, but either way it was clear rail was hardly the priority. I suppose I could have just shown you a recent picture of the Bell Centre to indicate my personal malaise at the state of rail transit in the city from which once all rail led.

What do you think about rail access in Montréal? Will the Train-de-l’Est spurn additional AMT development? Will we ever build a high-speed link from here to anywhere else? And what about the long-talked about high-speed train to NYC? It’s been on the books for twenty some-odd years!

Is this picture an appropriate metaphor for how our city deal with new technologies? How apt is it?

The longer I look at this picture the more it seems to mean to me…

Demolishing Burnside Place to build Boul. de Maisonneuve

Here’s something to think about. The above photo was indicated as taken in 1959 and is pointed East along the street which would eventually become Boul. de Maisonneuve (which was largely carved out of the existing cityscape while the Métro was being constructed in the mid-1960s).

On the right side of the picture (which was taken from about Stanley Street; we’ll use Burnside as our left/right dividing line) we can see two large buildings. The one in the foreground is the Hermes Building, where Copacabana Night Club is located. Behind it, hugging the right side of the image is what was once the Mount Royal Hotel, today the Cours Mont-Royal. The intersections, as you proceed up the street is, alleyway, Peel, Metcalfe, Mansfield, McGill College, Victoria, University at which point there seems to be row houses either at Union or Aylmer. The whitish building on the right is probably the Eaton’s Dept. Store with the darker building behind it being was is today the Bay.

Just past the Mount Royal Hotel, home of Montréal’s once-famous Kon-Tiki Polynesian restaurant, is another former culinary institution, Ben’s Delicatessen, visible to the right of the street, about half way up the centre of the pic. Everything else in this picture, including everything to the left of Burnside, has been demolished. What was developed in its place was an entirely new financial core known at the time as Place du Centre, a massive development scheme which used Maissoneuve and McGill College as its focal point. Beginning with the demolition of Burnside, the creation of Boul. de Maisonneuve and the development of the Métro in the mid-late 1960s, this sector was then transformed by new commercial real-estate construction which lasted up until the major renovation of McGill College in the late 1980s. Twenty years of sustained development, based off a master plan, and almost all residential housing in this area completely erased.

I’m not sure if this is a cautionary tale – city’s need to build, and the area looks great. Still, it gives one moment to pause. If almost everything in this picture can be erased and replaced within twenty years, how will other parts of the city look twenty years from now?

And by the way, it took me the better part of an hour to figure out exactly where this picture was taken and which way it’s looking. Look at it and ask yourself where else in the city this picture might fit.

This picture shows the demolitions necessary to create Boul. de Maisonneuve to the West of Stanley, where Burnside terminated. Note that this picture, much like the last one, was taken from the roof of the Drummond Court building, in the middle of the street. As you can see here, the building stood up until about ten years ago when it was demolished, along with the old YMCA building, to make way for the Lepine Condo Towers. The city punched a hole through the building’s main floor to allow thru-traffic on Boul. de Maisonneuve.

There’s a lot more in this photo which was saved from destruction, but then again the downtown can only have so many ‘cores’ right? Two buildings stand out here, namely, the Royal George Apartments at top left (now integrated into the Concordia Library Building) and Guy Tower, before its 1990 renovation at top right (both are noticeably white on a grey background). I’d date this picture about the same time as the last one, late-1950s, though likely early 1960s.