During this self-guided tour of Old Montréal, you’ll discover ten buildings that have been remarkably well maintained and restored by their owners, respecting their original architectural traits. These contributions to the conservation of our built heritage have been highlighted in the Montréal Architectural Heritage Campaign over the last twenty years.
You can also take part in the quiz online. Have a great tour!
Participation deadline: December 15, 2010 at 5 p.m.
Draw: December 17th, 2010 at 10 a.m.
Life Association of Scotland Building
Current name: Hôtel Le Place d’Armes
Design: Hopkins & Wily, Architects
Recent renovations: around 2000
The first part of what would become the Life Association of Scotland Building was built with plans designed by the Montreal firm of Hopkins & Wily, in1869-1879, by the insurance company of the same name. The four-storey building, with an attic space floor was initially occupied in large part by that company, as well as other tenants. The building had a succession of owners: the National Bank (in 1891), the Canadian National Bank (1924, the La Prévoyance insurance company (in 1926). Around 1909, the building underwent expansion works designed by the architectural firm of Marchand & Huskell.
The building, with its buff sandstone facing, is of classical design; it was declared a heritage monument in 1975. Renamed Hôtel Le Place d’Armes in 2000, it now has seven storeys, giving it the appearance of a miniature skyscraper. Bouquets of thistles and the company’s coat-of-arms, reminders of its Scottish origins, are found over the door of the main entrance.
The building stands on a prestigious site facing both the Place d’Armes Square and Saint-Jacques Street. The original building was a 4-storey structure build in 1869-70; in 1909, three storeys were added to the building. This significant change can be detected in the fourth floor, lower in height than the floors below because it was previously the attic, and in the floors above. The uniform facing, of buff Ohio sandstone, entirely covers the façades built in 1869-70 and in 1909.
The building appears on first sight like a miniature skyscraper, slightly higher than it is wide. The horizontal divisions created by the successive entablatures, and the overhanging cornice, lessen the impression of verticality. The progressive reduction of the height of the lower floors and the monumentality of the next two are classically inspired; the return to high ceilings from the fifth floor up and the relative lack of symmetry of the whole building respond to constraints of the site and of the later 3-storey addition.
At once classic and complex, the architectural vocabulary is derived principally from Italian Renaissance traits (particularly Venetian); this is most evidenced by the arched windows between the pilasters and the entablatures. Nonetheless, the older, squat, attic level, with its segmented windows, reveals a French influence that suggest the earlier mansard roof with dormer windows. This original composition, combining Italian Renaissance and French Second Empire traits, corresponds with a fashion imported from London. For the floors added later, the architects returned to Italian Renaissance as their main period of reference, although using different models than in 1869. The 1909 addition thereby reflects the academic training of Paris’s École des beaux-arts.
Around 1870, in Montreal as in London or New York, such a façade could indicate the presence of a financial institution, although commercial and office buildings of the period sometimes shared the same traits. The two differentiated entrances –the one at the rounded corner being more important- suggest the combined presence of a financial establishment on the ground floor, and offices above. Such a combination of uses encourages generous window space. The building as a whole, with its additions and enlargement, underlines its different uses.
Significant decorative elements
The exterior architectural decor explicitly underlines the early presence of the Life Association of Scotland, despite the disappearance of the name and foundation date previously inscribed on the crowning frieze. Over the door of the main entrance, one can observe the coat-of-arms of the company, as well as bouquets of thistles (symbolic flower of Scotland), richly sculpted in the buff sandstone. Thistles are also sculpted on the window arches of the entire second floor.
As for the rest, the capitals –of the expanded Corinthian family- and the other sculpted elements seem to have no particular significance beyond that of a rich classical tradition whose roots are found in antiquity.
Reference: Ville de Montréal, grand répertoire Inventaire, fiche bâtiment.