Square Victoria is a public square in the so-called Quartier international, a high-rise neighborhood in Montreal’s business district. The highlight of the square is an authentic Art Nouveau metro entrance from around 1900.
The square was created in 1811 right outside the then just demolished defensive wall around Montreal. It was originally named ‘Place des Commissaires’ in honor of those responsible for demolishing the wall.
After a hay market opened here in 1813 the square became known as the ‘Place du Marché-à-Foin’ (Hay Market Square). In 1860, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Victoria Jubilee Bridge by the Prince of Wales, the square was named in honor of Queen Victoria. In 1872 a statue of the queen was unveiled here.
Victorian Age Heyday
By then the hay market had long moved out, and the square was redeveloped into a public garden with parterres and a central basin. At the time the area was at the heart of an upscale neighborhood and the garden was enclosed by grand Second Empire buildings.
The low point of the square was in the 1950s, when it was partially used as a parking lot. Meanwhile, the area was being transformed into a business district, culminating in the construction of the Tour de la Bourse, a 47-story tower built in 1964 on the south side of Square Victoria. The iconic metro station entrance, a present from Paris, was installed here in 1967.
In the early 2000s, a redevelopment plan was launched to rejuvenate the square and the surrounding area. Encroaching streets were reconfigured so that the square could obtain its late nineteenth-century shape again. The statue of Queen Elisabeth and the metro entrance were thoroughly restored and modern fountains and benches were installed. New trees were also planted.
The Square Today
The Rue Saint-Antoine divides the square into two halves. The south-east part, which features the statue of Queen Victoria, is planted with dense rows of trees. The other half is more open and features basins with water jets, lots of pavements, lawns, and, at its center, the Art Nouveau metro entrance. The square is surrounded by modern office towers and in summertime you can see many office workers spend their lunch break on one of the many benches.
Square Victoria is a pretty low-key square, but it nonetheless features some interesting sights.
Right below the square is a metro station that serves the orange line. The Saint-Antoine entrance to the station, on the north side of Victoria Square, is an authentic Art Nouveau entrance from the Paris Metro. It was created around the year 1900 by Hector Guimard and was a 1966 gift from the RATP (the transport authority of Paris) to Montreal to celebrate the collaboration of French and Canadian engineers on the construction of the Montreal metro. To this day, it is still the only authentic Parisian Art Nouveau station outside Paris.
The bronze statue of Queen Victoria rises high above the namesake square. The statue, which stands on a tall pedestal, was the work of the English sculptor Marshall Wood.
It shows a young queen standing with a laurel wreath in her left hand. She wears a crown with Fleur-de-lis motifs, a reference to the French ancestry of British monarchs. The statue was unveiled on November 21, 1872, by Lord Dufferin, the governor-general of Canada.
Tai Chi Sculpture
At its highest point, Square Victoria is embellished with a modern sculpture entitled ‘Tai Chi Single Whip’. It was created in 1985 by the Taiwanese sculptor Ju Ming and depicts a person performing Tai Chi.
The sculpture was installed here in 2006 as part of a temporary exhibition that brought 19 of the sculptor’s works to Montreal.