Jacques Cartier Bridge Building

Jacques Cartier Bridge Building

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.

Bridge Building

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.

Jacques Cartier Bridge Building

Thanks to MICHAEL for additional information about this building

This entry was written by Patrick Donovan , posted on Wednesday August 18 2010at 12:08 am , filed under Architecture, Canada and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

6 Responses to “Jacques Cartier Bridge Building”

  • faiz imam says:

    do you know what the building is currently used for? is it abandoned?

    and while you mentionned ww2, do you know what it was initially built for and what other uses it’s had over the years?

  • Patrick Donovan says:

    The building is supposedly currently used as a sand warehouse.

    I don’t know what it was initially built for but welcome any information from anyone who knows something about it.

  • MICHAEL says:

    I read once, somewhere, that the building was originally meant to house a casino of some sort, but the moral puritans about town nixed the idea upon the building’s completion. I vaguely recall reading the factoid in an English-language bio of Drapeau, but obviously the Jacques Cartier bridge predates his mayoralty.

    Perhaps someone can elaborate?

  • MICHAEL says:

    Oh, it’s a bingo:


    See page eight. Turns out it was the Catholic Church, logically enough, that nixed the casino.

  • Patrick Donovan says:

    Nice find. Thanks! I will update the blog entry.

  • Heather says:

    Great shots and great story. I have always loved that building and wondered what its initial purpose was.