Description of Historic Place
Located on Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Montréal, Quebec, the Monument National National Historic Site of Canada is an impressive, four-storey theatre and cultural centre constructed in an eclectic Renaissance style. Its ornate façade in grey cut ashlar stone features four distinct levels, distinguished by varied fenestration, stringcourses and cornices. The redbrick rear elevation is dominated by six semi-blind arches, and features two two-storey oriole windows and two square windows at the base. Official recognition refers to the building on its lot.
The Monument National was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1985 because:
- it is an example of a theatre incorporated into a multi-functional building.
In 1884, the association Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal announced the construction of a multi-faceted cultural centre on Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Montréal called the Monument National, designed to house the administration of the society and to promote French-Canadian culture. Construction of the building began in 1891 and was completed in 1894, with the main theatre being inaugurated on June 25, 1893. The Monument National was known as the “Heart of French America” and was a symbol of Quebec nationalism. In 1921, the Société canadienne d’opérette was founded by Honoré Vaillancourt at the Monument National. Among the many stars to grace the stages of the Monument National were Emma Albani, La Bolduc and Alys Robi.
The Monument National also served as a venue for political discussion in Montréal, hosting the likes of Honoré Mercier, Wilfrid Laurier and Henri Bourrassa. Important women’s rights activists, including Idola Saint-Jean and Marie Gérin-Lajoie, led the Quebec feminist movement from the Monument National, demanding revisions to the Civil Code of Quebec, the right to vote and the right to post-secondary education. Often called a “people’s university,” the Monument National allowed space for classrooms to provide equal access to education for men and women.
The Monument National also served the Jewish, Chinese and English communities in Montréal. The building housed religious offices between 1903 and 1935, it hosted the first meeting of the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1919, Yiddish productions were held there until the 1950s, and Chinese and English performances were held in the building. It was also one of the first venues in North America to feature cinematic projection.
The Monument National was purchased by the National Theatre School of Canada in 1978 and was renovated between 1991 and 1993.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes, November 1985.
Key elements contributing to the heritage value of this site include:
- its location on Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Montréal, Québec;
- its urban setting in an area that has served as an immigration corridor since the 19th century (notably for Jewish immigrants), and is now in close proximity to the Chinese quarter of Montréal;
- its eclectic Renaissance-style construction and four-story rectangular massing;
- its steel skeleton covered by the cut grey ashlar stone of the façade and the redbrick of the rear elevation;
- the four distinct levels of the ornate façade; clearly distinguished by Renaissance-style stringcourses, sills, decorative lintels, cornices, pilasters, colonnaded niches, intricate stone carvings and trims, and varied fenestration;
- its evenly-spaced multi-light windows that decrease in size with each storey, including large first-storey shop windows, large multi-light arched windows and single light arched transoms;
- the eight pilasters which divide the façade into seven vertical bays;
- the simple ornamentation of the rear elevation, including its six semi-blind arches, twin two-storey oriole windows, and regularly arranged fenestration in the first and last bay;
- the entranceway set in the right bay of the façade;
- the five public rooms: the Salle Ludger-Duvernay, the Studio Hydro-Québec, Le Café, the Salle Marie-Vincent, and La Balustrade;
- the entrances to the theatre rooms in marble with checked ceramic tile, with oak and metal ramps and sculpted woodwork;
- the features of the Salle Ludger-Duvernay that have been preserved during renovations, including its horseshoe balcony, cast iron benches, painted ceiling and ornate decoration;
- all surviving interior and exterior features associated with the original construction.