Place d’Armes
Parade Ground

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This old square in the center of Montreal reflects styles from more than one hundred years of French Canadian history.

Its Origins

Place d'Armes, Montreal

Place d’Armes

The area known as the Place d’Armes (French for “parade ground”) dates back to the seventeenth century. Locals would come to this part of town, near the Rue Notre-Dame, to watch the members of the military engage in maneuvers. That accounts for the name eventually given to the square, which was established in the 1800s after the old Notre-Dame church was torn down and replaced with a new basilica.

Around the Square

Aldred Building, Place d'Armes, Montreal

Aldred Building

Notre Dame Basilica at the Place d'Armes

Notre Dame Basilica

Statue of Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve, Place d'Armes, Montreal

Paul Chomedey
de Maisonneuve

The beauty of the area around the Place d’Armes is that the buildings surrounding the square are representative of so many different eras.

Montreal’s first skyscraper sprung up along this square. The New York Life Building, completed in 1888, was a whopping eight stories tall and boasted the city’s first elevator. Designed by architects Babb, Cook and Willard, an ornate clock tower added another three stories to the building. Sculptor Henry Beaumont enhanced the ornate exterior.

Steel skyscrapers appeared around the Place d’Armes in the second decade of the twentieth century. The Royal Trust Bank and Duluth skyscrapers were clad in stone and both boasted ten stories.

In 1929, the Aldred Building was built on the square. This Art Deco gem is an excellent example of its style and reflects one of Montreal’s interesting architectural rules of the time, which stated that skyscrapers should all have “setbacks”, designed to ensure natural lighting for the streets below. In 1967, yet another skyscraper – this one indicative of post-war architecture – rose along the Place d’Armes. The National Bank of Canada Tower remains the only example of this style of architecture in the entire city.

Of course, the focal point of the square is the stunning Notre Dame Basilica. Built during the nineteenth century, this neo-Gothic masterpiece was said to have so moved its Protestant creator that he converted to Catholicism before he died.

The Monument

The many historic buildings surrounding the square draws the attention from the monument prominently situated in the center of the Place d’Armes. Erected in 1895, it honors the founder of Montreal, Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve. Designed by Louis-Philippe Hébert, the work consists of several bronze figures indicative of the period during which they were created.

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