Rue St-Jacques


in Old Montréal

Known as the Wall St of Canada into the 1930s, Rue St-Jacques was lined with the head offices of insurance companies and banks that proclaimed Montréal’s prosperity for the best part of a century. In those days it was known as St James St. Some great edifices are veritable temples to capitalism.

The 1902 Guardian Trust Building has helmeted women guarding the entrance while lions and mermaids watch over on the 2nd floor. The Molson beer-brewing dynasty had its own bank, but the Molson Bank Building looks more like a royal residence; heads of founder William and his two sons grace the doorway.

The most glamorous of the lot is the Royal Bank Tower, the city’s tallest building (22 stories) when it was built in 1928. Pass under the royal coat of arms into a banking hall that resembles a Florentine palace; the coffered ceilings are of Wedgwood porcelain tiles and the walls display insignias of eight provinces, Montréal (St George’s Cross) and Halifax (a yellow bird).