Arms' Square (Place d'Armes), Montreal

Arms' Square (Place d'Armes), Montreal

One of the oldest public sites in Montreal, Arms' Square (Place d'Armes) has a rather epic history to it, dating back over 300 years. This is the third location in Montreal to bear such a name, which is a French term long used to denote an assembly point for city defenders. In line with this, the square is anchored by a monument of Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, the French officer and founder of Montreal. Erected in 1895, the statue commemorates Chomedey's defense of the young Ville-Marie settlement against the Iroquois Indians.

Originally, when first built in 1693, the place was called Factory Square (Place de la Fabrique) and was renamed Arms' Square only in 1721 when it became a stage for military drills, parades, and suchlike events. From 1781 to 1813, the site was used as a hay and wood market and later developed as a Victorian garden, after being acquired by the city in 1836. The square took its current shape in 1850 when Notre Dame Street was completed.

However, its real significance comes not so much from the spot itself as from what surrounds it. The structures bordering Arms' Square on all sides define Montreal's diverse heritage and represent major periods of the city's development. Primarily, these are the Notre Dame Basilica and the Saint Sulpice Seminary, Montréal's oldest building, constructed in the 1680s.

Other structures of note include the Bank of Montreal head office – Canada's first bank – opened in 1859, and the New York Life Building – Montreal's first skyscraper – constructed in 1887 and furnished with an elevator that was quite a novelty at that time. Across the way, the Royal Trust and the Duluth Building (to the left of the basilica) are the two early-20th-century high-risers that mark a distinct architectural shift, cemented with the arrival, in 1931, of the Art-Deco-style Aldred Building, designed to ensure maximum natural lighting for the streets below. Another landmark, a post-war glass and steel structure, the only one of its kind in the city, now known as the National Bank Tower, completed the square's architectural timeline in 1968.

Directly in front of it, you will find two sculptures: a caricature of a haughty Englishman with a pug, and one of a French woman with a poodle. While the dogs eye each other with eagerness to play, the lady gives an evident look of disdain towards the symbol of English power (that is the old Bank of Montreal), while the gentleman looks down his nose at the Notre Dame Basilica, symbolizing historical French influence in the region.

The pedestrian-friendly square is also a departure point for horse-drawn tours of Old Montreal. Fitted with sprawling benches which offer relief from the surrounding concrete, it is a beautiful place to stop, have a coffee or snack and marvel at the historical surroundings.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Montreal. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Arms' Square (Place d'Armes) on Map

Sight Name: Arms' Square (Place d'Armes)
Sight Location: Montreal, Canada (See walking tours in Montreal)
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Montreal, Canada

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