Place Ville Marie: Icon of the 60s

It’s a good thing there are people with vision. Otherwise, Montreal would still have a giant pit as part of its central train hub, smack-dab in the middle of downtown. Instead, by 1962 we were given this:

Place Ville Marie
Our glorious Place Ville Marie.
Photo (cc) by Aidan Wakely-Mulroney

Records show that the building was completed in 1962, although I remember seeing construction workers still out there in September ’62, from my perch at the third-floor window of the Prudential Assurance office across the street. (I was working in that office at the corner of University and Dorchester. It was my first job.)

At 47 storeys, Place Ville Marie (PVM) is not all that tall anymore by world standards, but its unique cruciform design, huge underground shopping mall, and rotating beacon at the top whose beam can be seen from miles around, all contribute to its iconic status.

I have two strong memories of PVM in its early years. The first has to do with its former revolving rooftop restaurant, Altitude 737, that afforded patrons a 360-degree view of the city. Unfortunately, it’s associated with sad feelings (which I’ve since overcome, but will never forget). I wrote about it in my post, Time Capsule 1962.

My other memory is a fond one: there used to be a large theatre there – Cinema Place Ville Marie. It held 600 patrons and showed major first-run mainstream movies with big-name stars, and exotic foreign movies like Boccaccio ’70. It’s also where I saw our wonderful homegrown The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Too bad the theatre closed in 1985.

The 1960s sure put Montreal on the map: Place Ville Marie, our Métro, and perhaps best of all, Expo ’67. But that’s for another blog post. 🙂


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