Bonaventure Building Montreal

(by Roger Guitar)

 Built on the location of The Original Bonaventure Station, Located at 600 Windsor Street in Montreal, actually had 3 addresses at its 3 entrances of 580, 600 and 650 Windsor (which became Peel Street).  Between Notre Dame and St. James Streets it stood for 59 years, now demolished to be replaced by condominiums.  (See photo)

 Its inauguration plaque located at the St. James Street end of the building was round with a steam locomotive and diesel surrounded by maple leaves, reading in both French and English; (See photo)



 Not particularly notable or of any great architectural design, it served its purpose as the terminus of the Turcot Yards.  Originally erected in 1947 as an edifice for the Canadian National Railway Express and Freight offices, replacing those facilities then housed in various viaducts of Notre Dame, St. James, St. Antoine, University, Inspector and Dalhousie Streets, replacing the original Bonaventure Station located on the site that was demolished in the mid 40s after the construction of Central Station.

 In its later days, the Bonaventure Station was used as a terminus for troops returning from Europe at the close of the Second World War.

 A four storey building, and not by any means spectacular or a memorable landmark, the Bonaventure Building had some interesting neighbours.

 In front of the building, across Peel Street was Chaboillez Square, then a parking lot until the 60s when the Dow Planetarium, now the Montreal Planetarium was built on the location.  Across the parking lot stood the Russell Hotel, not considered a five star facility.  Next Budge Carbon and Ribbon, manufacturer of carbon paper and typewriter ribbons.

 At the 580 end of the building (adjacent to Notre Dame Street) was the Dow Brewery bottling shed, across Notre Dame Street the bottling works and the Dow Museum where the ETS (École de Technologie Supérieure) is now located, and on the opposite corner the Dow Brewery.  Next to the Dow Brewery was Alex Pesner’s store, a specialty store that handled, among other things, fine biscuits, fancy cookies and special breads.

 At the 650 end of the building (St. James Street) stood the Queens Hotel where Queen Victoria stayed on her visit to Canada.  Next was the Weston Bakery and Crane Canada.  Just behind the Bonaventure Building, on St. James Street was the CN Piggy Back Terminus before it moved to near the CN Hump Yard in St. Laurent.  Directly behind the Building were the tracks of the Turcot Yards.  Diagonally across St. James Street the Main Post Office, still there.

  Since the CN Express and Freight did not completely fill the building, and the CN Telegraphs was looking for a new headquarters office where it was cramped for space on St. Francois Xavier Street, it was moved into the Bonaventure Building in the early 50’s.

 The Manager’s Office, Revenue Accounting Center, Telegraph Automatic Departments, Service and Telephone Department’s occupied the third floor.  The Equipment Departments, Stock Ticker and Wire Chief Department occupied the 4th floor.  The Superintendent’s Office occupied part of the second floor, and the Delivery Department and Money Order Desk were located at the 650 entrance.

 This was a step up from the St. Francois Xavier Streets facilities, with all new modern equipment.

 The Teletype Department, Morse Department and Desk Fax and eventually in the mid 50s the Telex Departments were on the third floor.

 The Equipment Technical Department was first located on the fourth floor next to the Canadian National Railway Morse Department.  Later moved to the 2nd floor to make place for the installation of the newer and more modern telegraphic equipment called Plan 23. 

The Telephone Department was located on the third floor where operators would receive Telegrams from the public by telephone, type them out and forward them to the Automatic Department to have them sent by Teletype to their various destinations.   The telephone operators would also call customers to read the text of telegrams over the phone.  Not all were delivered by Messenger boys or girls.

 Located next to the Telephone Department was the Service Department whose purpose was to handle customer’s concerns and complaints relating to telegrams.

 In its day as the Headquarters of the CNT, the Bonaventure Building witnessed many people come and go, and many of us met and married our sweethearts while working in the building.  In the 50s, if a woman got married she had to leave her job.

 The Bonaventure Building also stood silent witness to some major events such as the death of US President John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and had access to the backup communications for military and government purposes.

 The reason The Bonaventure Building has meaning to me is that my first job was as a telegraphic messenger boy for the CNT at the Bonaventure Building.  Also along with many other people employed there, I met my wife while working for the CNT.

 When I arrive at the Bonaventure Building in the mid 50s, Desk Fax (the forerunner of today’s fax) had already arrived, and I witnessed the arrival of Telex where customers had their own teletype directly connected to the telegraph company, a recent modern innovation in technology, now replaced by e-mail.

 Eventually the telegraph business became a thing of the past, the Express, Freight and Piggy Back terminal moved out and the building finally sold.

 There was no air conditioning in the building, and it is noteworthy that the new modern condominiums to be erected on the site will de air conditioned.  The dedication plaque on the wall at the 650 Windsor (Peel) entrance is to be mounted in a prominent location on the new site, giving it a good home, and become part of Le Jardin Windsor, under the control of True North Properties.

 At least the Bonaventure Building will be turned into something useful and practical.



Page was last edited  04/09/2008 02:44:35 PM -0400

By Bryant Freeman