Old Montreal’s heritage is far from frozen in time; it is diverse, alive, and can be experienced every day. Discover portraits of timeless buildings, each one a page of history proposed by Heritage Montreal as part of a special collaboration with the SDC Old Montreal.
Since 1975, International Women’s Year, International Women’s Day has been observed on March 8th of every year. To mark the occasion, this month’s instalment of Heritage and Businesses features three Old Montreal buildings celebrating the work of women.
In 1880–1881 Margaret Benny, widow of merchant and industrialist Thomas Peck, had three four-storey store-warehouses built on McGill Street. They housed tenants including a hats-and-furs wholesaler, a grocery store, and a papermaker. The family business Peck, Benny & Co. has been named after both husband and wife since 1870 and Mrs. Benny is more than just the owner of 420 McGill Street: she is a bonafide entrepreneur who also owns a nail factory on Mill Street. This property, sporting a false mansard roof and pediment dormers, was restored in 1991 and includes the three former store-warehouses, which now houses various offices and retail spaces.
“Fur will always be in style as long as we can keep bringing in new ideas while continuing to protect nature,” says Mariouche Gagné, founder of Harricana, a company that creates clothing and accessories using recycled furs. Founded in 1994, the brand’s headquarter has been at 416 McGill Street since 2016, which was originally one of three store-warehouses built by businessman and banker Jacob DeWitt. This building stands out compared to its two neighbours in the original ensemble: it is the only one whose original pitched roof has been replaced with an extra floor, which includes a mansard above the roof break on the facade. A further distinguishing feature is the mullions, which have been painted a burgundy hue. With a more sustainable and ecological fashion sense, Ms. Gagné’s initiative offers a new alternative to fashionistas of all stripes, seeking modern treasures.
The building at 110 Sainte-Thérèse Street was completed in 1912 by the architect Joseph-Ovide Turgeon, for the company Hudon & Orsali who was a wholesale grocer. Though it underwent a series of renovations in the early 1990s, it retains its original exterior appearance: five floors, a flat roof and cladding that combines Montreal’s greystone and red brick.
In 2001, Maison Parent-Roback, named in tribute to noted activists Madeleine Parent and Léa Roback, moved into the entire property. It includes 11 member organizations all dedicated to advancing women’s causes. Encompassing education, training, research, analysis, and outreach, Maison Parent-Roback is an indispensable part of Quebec’s feminist movement.