The Sun Life Building & Other Quebec Curios

The Sun Life building seen from Dorchester Square. Photo courtesy of the author. The Sun Life building seen from Dorchester Square. Photo courtesy of the author.

The Sun Life Building is one of few important buildings that are not connected to the Underground City despite being across the street from Place Ville-Marie. However, it is understandable for a building of its age not to have made provisions: completed in 1918 by architectural firm Darling, Pearson and Cleveland, the same gang that would eventually bring Complexe Desjardins to life, it is a fine example of the Beaux-Arts style that was popular in North America starting towards the turn of the century with its flat roof and towering balustrades. Its main floor covers over sixty thousand square feet alone, and before Place Ville-Marie and other fellow architectural feats were built, it was the largest construction, square-foot wise, in the British Empire. It has a height of 122 m and counts twenty-four storeys.

Current tenants of the Sun Life Building include none other than its original intended tenant, Sun Life Financial. The building also hosts a number of other tenants such as the Association de l’industrie électrique du Québec, a non-profit organisation that speaks for the electrical industry of Quebec, as well as the J. Armand Bombardier Foundation, a society dedicated to commemorate the life and mission of the founder of Bombardier. Curiously enough, the Sun Life Building also has an interesting connection to World War II: its underground vaults were used by Winston Churchill to house fifty-five billion dollars that would help finance the British war effort!

Like many previous buildings in this series, the Sun Life building has won the prestigious BOMA award recognising architecture in Montreal. In particular, Sun Life won the category for Historical Building of the Year in 2011. It has also won the 2013 Prix de patrimoine commercial, an award presented jointly by the city of Montreal and Héritage Montréal, an interest group that promotes Great Montreal’s culture.

Visit the Sun Life Building at 1155 rue Metcalfe, or visit their website here.