My award for the most underlooked gem in Montreal goes to the Jacques Cartier Bridge Building. Built around 1930, it looks like an art deco take on a Moroccan kasbah. The windows are laid out under arches, in straight lines of narrow arrow slits, and some in diagonals. There are even traditional rub el hizb, or Islamic eight-pointed stars, around the circular windows at the top of the four corner towers. All of this is enlivened by the fact that building supports the bridge itself and twisting flyovers jut out from all sides, creating some dramatic panoramas at its base.
What is it used for? This monumental building is now used rather unbefittingly as a storage area for de-icing salt and sand. Its unusual design is probably due to the fact that it was originally built to serve as a casino, but the Catholic Church would not allow such an immoral institution in Montreal. Instead, the government used it as reception halls for several years. Apparently, it also has an interesting past as a Japanese and Italian internment facility during WWII.
Why do I claim this building is underlooked? Despite its considerable size and architectural merit, there is no mention of it on the Parc Jean Drapeau website or even the Jacques Cartier Bridge history page. There’s little about it in print as well. The structure is looking a little worn around the edges these days, with lots of broken windows. Here’s a building that could be spruced up and serve as much more than a warehouse but, like many areas on Ile Sainte-Hélène, it feels abandoned and uncared for.
Thanks to MICHAEL for additional information about this building
Tags: Architecture, Bridges, Montreal