New York Life Insurance Building, Montreal
|New York Life Insurance Building|
|Location||Montreal, Quebec Canada|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Babb, Cook and Willard|
Montreal's New York Life Insurance Building (also known as the Quebec Bank Building) was erected in 1887-1889. Located at Place d'Armes in what is now known as Old Montreal, it was the tallest commercial building in Montreal at the time. The first eight floors were designed for retail office space, though were quickly rented by the city's best lawyers and financiers. As such, when the clock tower was completed, the 9th and 10th floors were occupied by the largest legal library in the entire country, a gift to the tenants from the owner.
The New York Life Insurance Building was built by architects Babb, Cook and Willard and contractor Peter Lyall for the New York Life Insurance Company as their offices in Canada. Sculptor Henry Beaumont enhanced the ornate exterior.
It is accessed via the Place-d'Armes Metro and is adjacent to other prominent Montreal landmarks, such as the Aldred Building (1931), the Bank of Montreal Building (1859/1901), the Place d'Armes Hotel, Notre-Dame Basilica and 500 Place D'Armes.
The building was constructed by New York Life in 1888 and was contracted to an American architecture firm Babb, Cook and Willard. The building was completed in 1889 with the total cost of $750,000. Another very important person in the making of the building is Henry Beaumont. He was the sculptor and he gave a Renaissance look to the building. New York Life Insurance Company decided to build the building on Place D’Armes because it was near the Montreal business center at that time. The lot before the construction was occupied by l’Hotel Compain and another 2 story buildings which were demolished in 1887 in order to construct this building. The building first appeared on 1890 insurance map. In 1952 reparation work was done on 3rd 4th and 5th floors and in 1970 more modification was done in the basement. Stairs between 5th floor and the roof were built in 1971. The building was renovated in 1980s and in 2006-2007 more restoration work was done. Also in 2007 the owner Bechara Helal added two residential penthouses on the roof and still lives in one them.
The New York life building was inspired by Italian Renaissance and buildings from New York. It was one of the first major Montreal buildings which did not use the local grey stone but instead used imported red sandstones from Scotland. The stones required cutting which was done in Lyall workshop located on Bishop Street. The building has a “hybrid structure combining a frame - iron beams, girders and two sets of columns per floor - and bearing walls brick.” Steel was used to construct the floors and the roof but masonry walls are used to support the structure. Significant external decorative elements, the arabesque in the doorway entrance sculpted by Henry Beaumont and the ornamental iron gate which was made in E. Chanteloup workshop in Montreal gives the building a prestige and distinguished look. The building has 8 floors and has a height of 152 foot including the clock tower. It has a quasi-rectangular shape and has a land area of 705 m2. Total floor area including all floors is 6,890 m2. Interior walls in the small vestibule and the hall are made up of marble and the celling has a decorative plaster which reminds us of Renaissance ornamentation. The staircase railing is made by ornamental iron and finished wood banister.
The office building is located on a corner lot and has façade on Place D’Armes as well as on rue Saint-Jacques. The original address was 13 Place d’Armes Hills but was later changed to its current address 511 Place D’Armes.
The building’s original name was New York Life building but in 1909 it was acquired by Quebec bank and their name was carved on the entrance. The building is also known as Bank of Quebec building and Montreal Trust building but still is famous for its original name. The building was occupied by many owners; some of the owners include the Montreal Real Trust Company, London and Lancashire Insurance Co., the National Bank of Canada and the Société de Fiducie du Quebec. The Société de Fiducie du Quebec occupied the building for six years and sold it to Les immeubles Bona Ltée who performed many modernizations to the building. Bechara Helal is the actual owner of the office.
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