June 5th, 2019

Time 3 minutes

Heritage and Businesses: From Yesterday to Today series - Looking at warehouses differently

Heritage and Businesses: From Yesterday to Today series - Looking at warehouses differently


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.

Toward the end of the 19th century, development of port operations helped transform Montreal into a bustling, prosperous metropolis. That evolution can be seen even in Old Montreal’s commercial buildings. To keep pace with growing trade and the explosion in the import-export and wholesaling Industry, many of them were transformed into vast warehouse spaces.

Elizabeth Mittleberger-Platt store-house, 20–22 Saint-Paul Street East

Built in 1822–1823 by Elizabeth Mittleberger, the widow of George Platt, the store-house was originally the main retail site of Joseph Beckett & Company, chemists, druggists, and apothecaries. The ancestor of today’s drugstores, it was the place to go for all manner of remedies, medical texts, and instruments related to medicine and health. Some products sold were imported from London, England, but many were prepared in a laboratory at the rear of the store. The upper floors were for residential use; two of the partners in the company lived there. This type of building drew many of its features from the architectural language of the urban houses of New France, combining living quarters on the upper storeys with retail spaces on the ground floor. This model later gave way to buildings dedicated exclusively to retail business or storage.

Place d’Youville warehouses, 290 Place D'Youville

Youville Stables © Héritage Montréal

Built on the Grey Nuns’ hospital grounds in 1827–1828 for Jean Bouthillier and his son, the three warehouses facing Place d’Youville display the fine work of masons and a carpenter-joiner. Built in the horseshoe shape of monastic complexes, the warehouses display vernacular architecture born of the Neo-Classical tradition, with œil-de-bœuf windows, pediments and quoins. The cut-stone façade and large scale of the property are imbued with symbolism that reflects prosperity and modern construction methods (of the time!). The warehouses originally served to store potash, and later grain. A major restoration took place in 1967, under the direction of architect Janusz Warunklewicz. The project was named Écurie Youville / Youville Stables—oddly, since the property was never used to board horses. Today, the warehouses are home to Gibbys restaurant and a number of offices, among other tenants.

Charles Phillips store-warehouse, 464 McGill Street

Completed around 1870, this five-storey flat-roofed greystone building bears the name of its builder, Charles Phillips. Robert Wilkes, a Toronto wholesale jeweller and clock and watch importer, bought the property a year later. It was long home to retailers of luxury items, mainly jewels, and later furs, as indicated by the “ghost sign” painted on the north lateral façade. This svelte structure presents an elegantly symmetrical façade, with its arch-shaped door and window openings and classically inspired pilasters. LOV, a vegan restaurant, has welcomed patrons since 2017 in a sleek, light-filled ground-floor space created by designers Jean-Pierre Viau and Jacinthe Piotte.