Grand Trunk Railway
Named for its location on Saint Bonaventure Street, now Saint Jacques Street, the first Bonaventure Station was built in 1847 as the main terminal for the Montreal and Lachine Railway. The structure was leased by the Grand Trunk Railway in 1864 to provide access to the downtown for that company; GTR subsequently purchased the station and incorporated it as the railway's Montreal terminal.
Montreal was a city ripe with speculation from real estate developers during the railway boom from the 1880s to the early 1910s. The Canadian Pacific Railway constructed Windsor Station soon after the company was formed, with the Richardsonian structure opening in 1889.
Railways at the turn of the 20th century considered their terminal stations to be "prestige projects" and GTR was no different when the company began to seriously consider building a replacement for Bonaventure Station in 1900. A design for the new Bonaventure Station was commissioned by Chicago architects Charles S. Frost and Albert Hoyt Granger; however, in the end the new station was never built as the GTR began to focus on its Grand Trunk Pacific transcontinental railway project.
In 1910, the Canadian Northern Railway (CNoR) came to town and secretly purchased three entire blocks of downtown Montreal property for a major terminal and real estate development to coincide with the construction of its Mount Royal Tunnel. A temporary terminal facility was constructed to coincide with the tunnel project; however, financial difficulties at CNoR resulting from declining traffic levels following the commencement of World War I delayed completion.
On March 1, 1916, a fire broke out in the GTR's Bonaventure Station. Firemen from Fire Station No. 3 on Ottawa Street arrived fast enough to save most of the building from complete destruction. The GTR was in a dire financial situation and could only replace the original ornate roof with a flat one.
On August 23, 1948, an explosion followed by a massive fire destroyed most of the Bonaventure Station's freight yards.
Canadian National Railways
In September 1918 CNoR went bankrupt and was nationalized by the federal government, merging the company with Canadian Government Railways that December to form Canadian National Railways (CNR). GTR faced similar financial problems and by 1923 was also absorbed into the CNR.
CNR made use of the GTR's temporary second Bonaventure Station, as well as the temporary CNoR station at the southern end of the Mount Royal Tunnel line, however it soon became evident that the railway required a central railway terminal in Montreal's downtown. In 1929, six years after absorbing GTR, Parliament approved the "Canadian National Montreal Terminals Act, 1929" which began the process of consolidating and rationalizing terminal trackage in the Montreal area and almost 15 years later on July 14, 1943 CNR opened Central Station on the former CNoR lands.
The temporary CNoR station was closed after Central Station was opened and the temporary second Bonaventure Station was demolished in November 1952.
The railway lands that had been occupied by GTR for Bonaventure Station, as well as the lands acquired by CNoR in the early part of the 20th century for its real estate developments, had been inherited by CN and the federal government. During the post-war years, CN was directed to commission a major urban redevelopment of the city's downtown using these properties, focusing on its newly built Central Station.
In addition to Place Ville Marie, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, and the CN Headquarters, Montreal became home to one of the largest commercial retail/office developments in the world when Place Bonaventure was built above part of the Central Station terminal trackage, a few blocks northeast of the former location of Bonaventure Station. This development was built between 1966-1967, in advance of Expo 67, with the newly commissioned Montreal Planetarium constructed near the actual site of both Bonaventure Stations.
- Fuoco, Frank (August 25, 1948). "City Firemen Fight Sporadic Fires in Bonaventure Freight Yards". The Montreal Gazette. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
- "Bonaventure Metro Station: origin of station's name". Translated from Tour toponymique Les stations de métro, Communauté urbaine de Montréal, 1989. Société de transport de Montréal. Retrieved 2008-04-06.
- Bonaventure Station General Waiting Area circa 1890