Montreal – July 2019 – Vieux (Old) Montreal

Montreal is a very old city for North America, and as such has many outstanding vintage buildings. Most are in the Vieux (Old) Montreal section, but some, like the Mary Queen of the World Cathedral, is downtown.





The main train station has reliefs depicting Canada culture with the words of the National Anthem ‘Oh Canada’ written underneath.



There are numerous vintage buildings throughout the area, with the usual cool details.











The Old Montreal tourist area has numerous shops.



Some very narrow passages.



The Port of Montreal Clock Tower dates from the 1920s. It is also known as the Sailors Memorial Clock, dedicated to World War I Canadian Sailors.



The original sections of Bonsecours Market date from the 1840s. In addition to serving as a market, it also housed government functions.



Place Jacques-Cartier is the center of Old Montreal tourist activities.









Finally a stop at Notre Dame Cathedral, and an amazing (but brief) light show.








Montreal – July 2019 – Botanical Gardens

The Montreal Botanical Gardens is one of the finest, if not the finest, botanical gardens in North America. It has a large number of specialty gardens, such as a Chinese Gardens (covered in a separate posting), as well as numerous thematic gardens – including one dedicated to poisonous plants!

Overall the gardens are amazingly beautiful, and well kept.


























































Montreal – July 2019 – Olympic Park

The city of Montreal was the host of the 1976 Summer Olympics. The area that most events were held still exist in the east side Olympic Park.



A number of the venues are still used for sporting events.



While it has recently been remodeled, the pool complex dates from the 1976 games. It is used for competitive events, with seating for 3,000, but is also used as the neighborhood pool when not in competitive use.




The Montreal Olympics are the poster child for cost overruns often associated with hosting the games. It is estimated it cost 720% (not a typo) more than originally planned.

Much of the cost overruns was due to the construction of Olympic Stadium.

Today there is a small museum dedicated to the games and the construction of the stadium.





The stadium looks like a 1970s sci-fi movie space ship. The large tower on the left was originally built to remove what was to be the first retractable stadium roof in history. Unfortunately it was not completed in time for the games, and when it was eventually completed it didn’t work.

So for the first 12 years or so of the stadium it was open air, and after that a permanently closed dome.



Walking around the large concrete plaza on this day with very few people gives one the feel of desolation in the middle of a large city.

Many North American stadiums used to sit in the middle of large concrete plazas like this – the newer generation of stadium more integrated into the cities are far nice, even if one can question the cost for holding so few events a year.



After the Olympics the stadium became home of the Montreal Expos baseball team. Unfortunately in 2004 they left town, moving to Washington DC. leaving the stadium largely quiet, except for a few concerts and other events like monster truck racing.



The cavernous domes stadium echos with the smallest noises. I did have the opportunity to attend a couple of baseball games here (one with the open stadium, the other with the roof in place). It was a great experience, baseball in French, with passionate fans using their own unique to Montreal style of cheering on their team.

Hopefully some day major league baseball returns to Montreal (but to a more appropriate venue).



The tower is now a tourist attraction. The inclined elevator is billed as the longest in the world.



The top of the tower offers panoramic views of Montreal.



The view of the Olympic Pool, and other venues in the park.



The Olympic Village apartments are still used. The soccer stadium is a recent addition.



The day was a bit hazy, but made the views towards downtown interesting.



Montreal’s east side is a working class neighborhood with numerous row houses.



The view of the islands in the middle of the St Lawrence River, as well as some of the bridges crossing the river.



Because much of Europe is fairly far north, the port of Montreal is the shortest route between a European port and North America.

Olympic Stadium cost the city of Montreal and all of Canada significant money, but as with most things Canadian, they have made the most of it.





Toronto – July 2019 – An Emphasis on Modern Architecture

The Toronto postings end with a more focused modern architecture tour. With more than 70 new skyscrapers more than 150m (500 feet) high built since 2000 (second in North America to New York), there are plenty to choose from, although a few of the more interesting buildings downtown are not skyscrapers.

Not all of the buildings below were built after 2000, but all have the modern architecture look.
































Toronto – July 2019 – For This Collection You Need a Large Garden

In the 1960s Spencer and Rosa Clark started a collection that required a very large garden – they acquired architectural artifacts from large buildings in downtown Toronto that were being torn down and replaced with even larger ones.

This garden is located in suburban Scarborough, in what is now Guild Park and Gardens.



The archway from a long gone building leads you into the park.



What were once decorative pieces on the Toronto Star newspaper building are now giant building blocks.



Remnants from a Music Hall.



Smaller pieces are integrated directly into the gardens.



While others are added together to make a new sculpture.



Toronto’s second fire hall was located at Richmond and Portland Streets. Dating from 1871 it was torn down in 1968. In the background is a brand new events center.



The Greek Theater (also the featured photo for this posting). What was once the Bank of Toronto Building is now a theater in a park.




The grounds are immaculate, with the artifacts well spaced throughout.





The facing from the Quebec Bank Building has porcelain lions.



Additional random artifacts.












Easily the largest collection is from the former Bank of Montreal Building at King and Bay Streets in downtown Toronto. With this many fantastic items, this must have been an amazing building!



















Toronto – July 2019 – An Impressive Skyline with Architectural Variety

The city of Toronto has the 3rd best skyline in North America, according to the building website Emporis. There are more than 60 buildings at least 500′ high.


We had the opportunity to take an architectural tour with Daniel, from the Toronto Society of Architects. If there was someone you wanted to wander downtown Toronto with to learn about the history of the city, and the buildings, it is Daniel, as he has over 40 years of experience designing many of them.



Not all the buildings on this posting were seen on Daniel’s tour, but with the knowledge from him we were able to seek out more than what he had time to cover.

Included in these is (to me) the Mecca of Hockey – Maple Leaf Gardens. The Gardens were closed to NHL hockey more than 20 years ago, but the good folks of Toronto had the sense to retain the building and re-purpose it.

Most of the 1st level is a large grocery store, while Ryerson University uses the remainder of the building for athletics.



The highlight is on the current 3rd level – the ‘original ice’, as well as the exposed original ceiling!



Since the 1970s Toronto has had a near continual skyscraper building boom.



There are pockets of historic buildings scattered throughout downtown. In the distance is the clock tower of the ‘old’ city hall.

Completed in 1899 it was used as city hall until 1966 when the new city hall (feature photo for this posting) was completed.



E J Lennox was the primary architect for the old city hall in the 1890s. As was custom at the time he expected to have his name engraved on the building. When city council told him no – he got his revenge – by doing a ‘grotesque’ of himself. He is in the center with the mustache.

Even better was his revenge on his bosses in the city council – he included them as goofy looking people in grotesques, which means 120 years later he is still getting his revenge.



If you look enough you find many art deco touches, including these nice skylights in the Toronto Coach Lines building. Not bad for a bus station.



Another art deco entrance along Yonge Street.



All around you get glimpses of old and new.







The Bank of Nova Scotia building is one of the better art deco examples.





As is the Canadian Bank of Commerce.



A portion of the Hockey Hall of Fame is in the ornate lobby of an old bank.



Union Station is another example, and will shine even more when the renovations are completed in a few years.



Not downtown, and not a skyscraper the ‘Palace of Purification’ is the R C Harris Water Treatment Facility in Scarborough. It is an art deco masterpiece with a great setting along Lake Ontario.



Toronto is a city on the move, and their architecture shows it.