VIEW-20563 | Phillip's Square, Montreal, QC, 1922

Phillip's Square, Montreal, QC, 1922
Wm. Notman & Son
1922, 20th century
Silver salts on film - Gelatin silver process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cityscape (3948) , Photograph (77678) , streetscape (1737)
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Keys to History

A Means of Modernizing the Cityscape

In the late 1800s, telephone companies liked to claim that the architectural innovation known as the skyscraper would not have been possible without the telephone. How else could thousands of messages circulate without overloading the elevators in these tall buildings? The telephone's promoters claimed that delivery by messengers would make big modern buildings economically unfeasible because the number of elevators they would need would take up too much room! Telephones solved that problem. They transmitted thousands of messages throughout the big cities. The telephone truly modernized the cityscape and facilitated the concentration of economic activities downtown.

  • What

    This photo shows new buildings that went up at the turn of the 20th century in Montreal's new business district. From left to right, you can see the Canada Cement Building (1921-22), the New Birks Building (1912) and Birks jewellers (1894 and 1906).

  • Where

    Built between 1842 and 1844, Phillips Square in Montreal was first surrounded by houses. It attracted a number of prestigious buildings, such as the head offices of big companies, or well-known retailers like Birks jewellers and Morgan's department store (now The Bay).

  • When

    This picture was taken in 1922, shortly after the inauguration of the Canada Cement Building, which had the first underground car park in Montreal.

  • Who

    Several hundred people worked in each of these big buildings. Office work expanded in the early 1900s and the tertiary (service) sector of the economy drove downtown development in the 20th century. Beginning in the 1920s, over 50 percent of Montreal workers were employed in the service sector.