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.

3 thoughts on “Demolishing Burnside Place to build Boul. de Maisonneuve”

  1. Hello just came across these 2 pictures and I believe the top photo was taken from atop 1500 stanley (stanley apts)
    The reason behind it is that I have a map of 1936 and burnside finished at stanely,you had to turn left to go south.I have some beautiful pictures of Mcgill college near st Catherin in high def 8×10.
    Hope this helped

  2. i’d give anything to come across a few hours of just walking in the city at some point in the immediate post-years. strolling the square mile, wandering this area, walking the length of craig st, exploring the faubourg de melasse, drinking a beer in the hood that became the habitations-jeanne mance, riding a street car. it’s a terrible shame so much of it had to go.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

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