To celebrate Concordia's 25th anniversary, we present a series on the past, present and future of our buildings, and next term, on the life within them and how it has changed. Last issue, we took a look at the Loyola Campus. Here, we head downtown to the buildings of the Sir George Williams Campus. We are indebted to Archives for their excellent research.
The Henry F. Hall Building is a 1960s-style high-rise made of prefabricated stressed concrete, an innovation at the time. Designed to maximize space and accessibility and minimize cost, it contained many classrooms, a 700-seat amphitheatre, the D.B. Clarke Theatre (below ground level), a computer centre, TV studio, science laboratories and language labs. Over the years, the exterior became badly pitted, and it was cleaned and painted in 1998-99.
At the time of its construction, the Hall Building was the tallest structure around. Between 4,000 and 5,000 Montrealers visited the Hall Building on its opening day, October 14, 1966. It was the same day the Montreal métro was inaugurated, with free rides for all. The building was named for Dr. Henry Foss Hall (1897-1971). When he was appointed student counsellor at Sir George Williams College in 1926, he was the first in Canada. A much-loved teacher, he became dean (1935-1957), then principal (1957-1962).
The annexes along Mackay and Bishop Sts. are built of limestone and red Scottish sandstone. Early in the century, they were private residences, and many were also doctors' offices, but they declined as the neighborhood became more commercial. In 1968, SGW started to buy them up with a view to building an arts and library building to go with the new Hall Building. However, this was vetoed by the City of Montreal on the grounds that it would spoil the view from Sherbrooke St. In 1978, some of the houses were painted in bright colours, a controversial experiment. Over the years, these grand old houses, with their balky plumbing and creaky staircases, have become a precious home to small units and colleges.
The Faubourg Tower, home of Continuing Education and the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, is a newcomer to the Concordia family, but the site has a rich heritage. The complex sits on land leased from the Grey Nuns in 1925. It has seen a car showroom, a bowling alley, a pool room, and the legendary Toe Blake's Tavern (1952-1983). The adjoining three-storey food court and underground cinema are where a big Pascal's hardware store once thrived. The new office tower, bought by Concordia in 1997, was originally intended to be a hotel.
Bishop Court, at 1463 Bishop St., houses much of the senior administration. Built in 1904 for about $50,000 and designed by Saxe & Archibald, it was one of the very early luxury apartment buildings in Montreal. The exterior is rough-hewn red Scottish sandstone, which was sometimes brought over as ballast in ships and left on the docks for the first taker. The building is U-shaped, with an open courtyard (a handy site for networking) and an impressive Tudor-style stone archway. A metal grill was added in the 1970s for security reasons. The interior still has vestiges of the original apartments, with thick oak doors, dark beams, built-in bookcases, leaded windows, a white marble vestibule in each of the three wings, and fireplaces (now bricked in). The courtyard fountain, unfortunately, was replaced with a flower box. The conversion from apartments to offices in 1975 was hotly contested at the time, but probably saved this unique building from demolition.
The J.W. McConnell Building, often called the Library Building, was built for $65 million and opened in 1992, nearly 30 years after planning began for a separate library building on the campus. It ranges in height from two to 10 storeys with a step-like roof, and integrates the white glazed terracotta faŤade of the Royal George Apartments, built in 1913. A tunnel under de Maisonneuve Blvd. connects it to the Hall Building. The interior features a soaring six-storey atrium and 150 special anti-seismic crossbars, some of them left exposed. The Howard Webster Library, which has designated elevators for security reasons, occupies the second, third and fourth floors, and is scheduled to take over the fifth. On the ground floor, there are the Bookstore, the Computer Store, the elegant Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery, the 173-seat Alexandre de SŹve Cinema, and a Tim Horton's restaurant.
The Visual Arts Building was built in 1923 not
for artists, but for cars. It was first the Labelle Garage, then
Mid-Town Motors. The abandoned building was gutted and renovated
over several years, and re-opened as the VA Building in 1980. The
aim was for open spaces with natural light and floor loading to
accommodate heavy equipment.
Across Bishop St. is the CB Building, containing various Fine Arts offices. On this site stood the former residence of the Anglican bishop of Montreal. In 1926, the house was torn down to make way for the Ford Hotel (1926-1949), which then became the Montreal headquarters of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (1949-1981), after which it was gutted and made into an office complex. Concordia started renting space here in 1986.
The Guy Métro Building is home to the Faculty of Commerce and Administration, the Vice-Rector Services, Financial Services and Physical Resources. Commerce started using this building in 1979, and it was bought by Concordia last year.
Other buildings at Sir George:
* The Norris Building, at 1435 Drummond St., was the first building built especially for Sir George Williams University. It was built alongside the YMCA building, where SGW started as evening classes, and was inaugurated in 1956. Never a handsome structure, it was nevertheless functional, full of student life, and a source of great pride. After the Hall Building opened in 1966, academic and administrative offices shifted further west. When the McConnell Building was opened in 1992, the Library left, marking the move with a ceremonial walk down de Maisonneuve Blvd. The Norris Building is now empty, and the site awaits new development.
* The ER Building, at 2155 Guy St., between de Maisonneuve Blvd. and Sherbrooke St., contains rented facilities for Health Services, Engineering offices and labs, and Human Resources.
* Académie Bourget, or the MF annex, at 1230 de la Montagne St., just below Ste. Catherine St., houses several Fine Arts graduate programs. This solidly constructed school was built around 1915 for the Congrégation de Notre Dame; the nuns lived in the attached residence. SGW began renting it in 1973. By coincidence, Loyola College had used the building with several other institutions for a school of sociology and social work around 1918-1922.
* The Victoria School and Gym, or the CE and GY annexes, are at 1822 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., just west of St. Mathieu St. They were first leased from the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal in 1979, when SGW lost the use of the YMCA gym on Drummond St. A fine building in its time, the Victoria School is now considered inadequate for the current recreational needs of the downtown campus.
* The Daycare (Centre Petite Enfance Concordia) rents part of a striking building at the corner of St. Marc and Sherbrooke Sts. It was built by the Brotherhood of Free Masons as a memorial to members who had died in World War I. It was designed by John Smith Archibald, who collaborated on the Bishop Court Apartment Building, and designed the original Montreal Forum, Baron Byng High School, the Manoir Richelieu in Murray Bay, and the Hotel Vancouver.
Next issue: The future of Concordia's buildings