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Place d'Armes: 1916

Place d'Armes: 1916

Circa 1916. "Place d'Armes and Notre Dame Cathedral, Montreal, Quebec." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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A striking difference

Except for the addition of a small Art Deco highrise to the left and a massive 1960s block on the right, Place d'Armes has been preserved pretty well. But there's been one striking addition: the the concrete pavement of this photo has long since been replaced by cobblestones, in order to bolster the square's quaintness. Nowadays it's a cliche to rave at how "European" Place d'Armes looks.

It's a bit sad to contrast this view with some of the other photoscapes you see on Shorpy, especially of cities such as Cleveland and Buffalo. A hundred years ago the cityscapes weren't that different. I would argue that a lot of the American cities were even more fantastic than Place d'Armes. The trajectories of these cities echoed each other - although Montreal hasn't had the same economic trouble as the Midwest, this area of the city also fell into hard times and was pretty decrepit during the mid-century. But the revitalizers in the Midwest and Montreal had different ideas, and that's made the difference. In Montreal, they installed cobblestones; in Buffalo they built parking lots, and their former downtown is almost abandoned.

Radio or Lightning?

Given the year, I am assuming the towers on top of the spires are lightning rods, not radio towers. Eh?

[Wireless telegraphy masts started being placed atop tall urban buildings before the turn of the century. -tterrace]


At the time it was built there weren't very many stone-carvers in Montréal, so the decoration is a bit plain. These days the cathedral is Mary, Queen of the World, which is a short distance away.

Great Old Stuff

The building slightly visible on the extreme left -- you can just make out part of the clock tower -- was built by the New York Life Insurance Company in 1887 and at 8 floors was the tallest building in Montreal when it opened. The building next to Notre Dame is the Saint-Sulpice Seminary, part of which dates back to 1684. And in the middle of the square we find the statue of Paul Chomedy de Maisonneuve erected in 1895. All of these, and much more, are still there.

Place d'Armes

The statue, lower center, erected in 1895, is of the founder of Montreal, Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve. On the nearby Bank of Montreal is a plaque which reads: "Near this square afterwards named La Place d’Armes the founders of Ville-Marie first encountered the Iroquois whom they defeated, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve killing the chief with his own hands. March 1644.” At the base of the monument itself is another plaque with a more shocking message by de Maisonneuve: "Il est de mon honneur d'accomplir ma mission. Tous les arbres de l'île de Montréal devraient-ils se changer en autant d'Iroquois." Which translates: "Upon my honour I am bound to accomplish my mission; even if all of Montreal’s trees should transform into as many Iroquois."

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