Place d’Youville’s Hidden Secret

April 21, 2016 / Posted by   Heritage Montreal - Collaborator 

Place d’Youville is the place to go to when you feel overwhelmed by Old Montreal’s fast-paced atmosphere. Residents, people who work in the district and tourists come together and all take a collective breather in this charming square, yet few are aware of the Place’s intricate history!


The Sainte-Anne Market’s Many Lives

People in Montreal adore public markets because they give them the chance to discover a wide array of the freshest produce supplied by local farmers and vendors. It is by no means a new trend though; the tradition has been alive and thriving in the Place d’Youville since the turn of the 19th century!

The Place d’Youville was indeed formerly known as the Sainte-Anne Market and was built following the plans of architects John Wells and John Thompson who wanted to build a large public market between the Place Royale and McGill Street which embodied a neoclassical style.  Though before their dreams could be made a reality, they had to revamp the square’s image as it was divided by a stream which was used as an open sewer. Public safety officers quickly shut it down since it was becoming a real hygiene concern for residents in the area. They then commissioned a project to build a large stone vault which would host aqueducts for future endeavours.

The market underwent its first transformation a couple years later in 1844 because the building that hosted it was to become the Parliament for the United Province of Canada. Fortunately, a second market beside the Parliament’s eastern wall was built in order to service the area’s residents who were quite fond of their access to a public market. Unfortunately, a fire in 1849 erupted and destroyed the entire site when a demonstration turned into a violent riot. Two years later, another project was commissioned to build the Sainte-Anne Market for the third (!) time after the ruins were cleared. After 50 years, the Market was finally demolished to create a public area: the Place d’Youville.

From a Public Area to a Public Square

The area had been used as a parking lot for more than 80 years when the City of Montreal decided to convert it into a public green space in the mid-1990s and give it a more inviting image. The City commissioned the Groupe Cardinal-Hardy and the Claude Cormier Architecture paysagistes Inc. architecture firm to proceed with the renovations. The end result subtly and harmoniously highlights the site’s many lives over the centuries.

An Ode to History for the City’s 375th Anniversary

In preparation for the City of Montreal’s 375th in 2017, the Place d’Youville will be revamped yet again. This time, Pointe-à-Callière will pay tribute to Montreal’s history by creating an archeological and historical site on the Place d’Youville which will be an ode to the former Sainte-Anne Market and Parliament of the Province of Canada. We can’t wait to see what they have in store for us!

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Heritage Montreal - Collaborator

Heritage Montreal has worked to promote and to protect the architectural, historic, natural and cultural heritage of Greater Montreal, its neighbourhoods and communities. This private non-profit organization is at the heart of an extensive network of partners, working through education and representation to celebrate, develop and preserve Montreal’s identity and uniqueness.

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