While most people are familiar with the Montreal downtown Bay store, the list of buildings and sites associated with HBC is surprisingly long. Here are a few highlights. .
Former HBC warehouse at 100 McGill Street
100 McGill Street
The building located at 100 McGill Street is situated at the corners of McGill and Wellington Streets in Old Montreal. It was built in 1877 by Jesse Joseph, a businessman and Belgium’s consul in Canada. A forward-thinking investor, he purchased stock in both railways and real estate. (In fact, it was his luxurious residence at the corner of McGill and McTavish Streets that Sir William Macdonald donated to McGill University in 1909.) The building at 100 McGill is one of a series of warehouses that Joseph built and he remained its proprietor until his death in 1904. Many mistakenly believe that this building was built by and for HBC in 1897, which is the year that HBC opened its raw fur business department there. It quickly became the warehouse used to store merchandise destined for the Northern Stores. Close to both the port of Montreal and the Lachine Canal, its strategic location in the city made it extremely important. The building was used as a warehouse until the end of the 1950s. This massive stone building still exists today and houses, among other things, a popular Old Montreal café. It is easy enough to identify this building, since the inscription ”Hudson’s Bay Company” still appears on the cornice.
A trace of the HBC coat of arms still visible above the Saint-Alexandre St. door.
Buildings are not the only things that change – street names do, too! Which is why today it is René‑Lévesque Boulevard West – formerly known as Dorchester Boulevard – that runs in front of Hudson’s Bay Company’s previous building, located in the heart of Montreal’s fur district. You need only get to the corner of Saint-Alexandre Street and René‑Lévesque Boulevard to step back in time and relive the grand and vibrant area that was Montreal’s fur district. This is where, in 1949, HBC built its first Canadian auction house since its founding in 1670, and where its fur sales department would be located. This building also housed the Raw Fur Department as well as the well-known Fur School where students were taught how to grade fur. Today, the location has been renovated and converted into office space. The curious among you will notice a concrete plaque atop the service entrance on Saint-Alexandre Street. Traces of the Company’s coat of arms are still visible above the door.
J.P. Laurier with fur, ca. 1943
Grave marker for Sir George Simpson
Sir George Simpson’s Tomb
Sir George Simpson headed the Hudson’s Bay Company during the time immediately following its merger with the North West Company. He passed away on September 7, 1860, merely days after playing host to the Prince of Wales during his Royal Visit to Lower Canada. He is buried in Mount Royal Cemetery on Mount Royal. In 1954 Hudson’s Bay Company entered into an agreement with The Mount Royal Cemetery Company to ensure the perpetual maintenance of Sir George’s tomb. For the nominal sum of $441, this contract guarantees upkeep of the mausoleum, the adjacent grounds and vegetation. The tomb is located at lot 101, section F.
Other Sites Associated with HBC
Many other Montreal sites are associated with the Hudson’s Bay Company and its divisions. These include Zellers’ former head offices, particularly the one at 5100 de Maisonneuve Street West, the fur storage warehouse in Lachine that Alexander Gordon of the North West Company built in 1803 (the old stone warehouse is now The Fur Trade at Lachine National Historic Site administered by Parks Canada) and the historical buildings on l’Île-des-Moulins in Terrebonne, built when Simon McTavish was seigneur of Terrebonne from 1802 to 1804. They are living testaments that still line Montreal’s urban landscape. There are many such sites and we invite you discover them all!