Photo : St. Lawrence Street, at the intersection of Pine Avenue, 1904.
At the end of the 19th century, the Préfontaine Building (3628-3658) and Baxter Block (3660-3666), as well as the Larivière hardware store (3715) opposite, were elements of a newly created prestigious commercial strip on St. Lawrence Street between Milton Street and Pine Avenue. Starting in 1888, the Main was gradually widened along the western side, incidentally allowing plenty of space for electric streetcars (1893) running in both directions; the rails can be seen in the photo. The new buildings transformed the streetscape by eliminating the old texture of bourgeois villas, gardens and orchards interspersed with small faubourg houses, of which a few examples are still visible on the east side in the centre of the photo.
The Baxter Block and neighboring Préfontaine Building (at right in the photo) were built on the former back garden of Durham House, the villa of the late entrepreneur Stanley Bagg converted into a private school. To the north had lain the site of the Guilbault Gardens, a popular amusement park closed in 1869. The Baxter Block, a row of terrace houses with a Romanesque Revival stone façade, was designed by architect Théodore Daoust in 1892 for developer James Baxter, also known as a diamond merchant and banker. The Préfontaine Building (1890), immediately to its south, was probably designed by the same architect for a certain Napoléon Préfontaine. It is marked by a façade of Romanesque arches decorated with ceramic tiles and bay windows. Originally, both buildings were crowned with onion domes, turrets and fantastical fleurons, unfortunately no longer existing. Their ground floors were occupied by shops and the upper floors housed offices and workshops.
Opposite (at left of the photo), the hardware company Amiot, Lecourt & Larivière constructed in 1895 another prestigious building designed by architect Joseph Perrault. The ground floor served as a showroom and retail space, while the upper floors were used for administration and warehousing. Through its monumental character and its elegant composition, the building – also in the Romanesque Revival style – gave its owners a forceful presence on St. Lawrence Street. The street’s commercial prestige was confirmed when it received the designation of Boulevard in 1905.
This photo is displayed over the entire surface of the shop window at 3660-3662 Saint-Laurent Boulevard as part of the project « La Main en histoire(s) », a collaboration between the Friends of Saint-Laurent Boulevard and the Société de développement du boulevard Saint-Laurent, 2020-2021.
(Text by Bernard Vallée. Translated by Justin Bur)