The La Presse Headquarters
July 24, 2017 / Posted by Heritage Montreal - Collaborator
Letterings on buildings are no stranger to the urban eye, as is demonstrated on those spelling “La Presse” in red and grey atop the edifice on 7, Saint-Jacques Street. This building was built in 1899 for the headquarters of a new paper by the name of La Presse. A detailed observation of the decorative elements of this building and its adjacent structures reveal a plethora of clues pertaining to the identity and history of the newspaper printed within its walls. Here a few!
When La Presse printed its first edition in 1844 under the direction of its founder William Blumhart, there were many opinion papers at the time. However, since its inception, La Presse carved its own place as daily informative paper, designed for working class readers.
At the turn of the century, the importance of La Presse was cemented in the urban landscape by the construction of its renowned headquarters on Saint-Jacques Street by the architectural firm Hutchison and Wood. This location will prove to be chiefly noticeable as the street was a true artery in the midst of the city’s business district at the time, neighbouring not only the area’s biggest banks but also two other publication headquarters: those of The Montreal Star and La Patrie. The prestige of the paper bears inspiration from the monumentality of its entrance and its architectural décor developed on four floors adorning Doric and Ionic capitals, cornices and carvings of garlands reminiscent of the Italian Renaissance. The paper’s publication language is partially symbolized by the presence of the fleur de lys, enshrining its French identity.
As the first newspaper to pass the 100 000 sales mark in 1908, La Presse continues its rise to glory by carving its territory. Between 1958 and 1959, under the patronage of architect Jacques M. Morin, a new, modern building would be erected in order to house the printing equipment as well as the new offices needed to manage a fiercely growing publication. This building was built behind the original headquarters, as is linked to it by a multiple-storey skyway atop the Ruelle des Fortifications. Its architectural innovation reflected the prominence of its editorial prowess and its constantly modernized production methods.
In 2013, La Presse took a new turn and redesigned itself as La Presse + to adapt to an online readership. We don’t know what the future holds for its presence in Montréal’s urban landscape, but we can only think that they will evolve to new, even more modern structures!
This summer, let Héritage Montréal’s ArchitecTours accompany you across an architectural journey through time from August 12th to October 8th 2017. Don’t miss the occasion to discover or rediscover the city!
Inaugurated in June of 2017, the La Presse – Jardin de Paris is a green space which has been set up in Old Montreal, building a bridge between the French metropolis in North America and the one in Europe. In this park, you’ll find Les Touristes, a piece of art caricaturing a group of tourists – a gift from the city of Paris. This scene perfectly illustrates the concept of having people of all walks of life – tourists and residents – living in blissful harmony.