Plaza Saint Hubert, the shopping district on St. Hubert St. between Bellechasse and Jean Talon, is notorious for its chintzy stores and green-trimmed glass awning. It’s one of my favourite Montreal streets, even in its somewhat ragtag state, but I was absolutely astonished when I saw these photos of it in the 1960s. Forget Ste. Catherine St.: the place to be in sixties Montreal was the Plaza Saint Hubert!
Back then, traffic flowed in both directions and the street was lined by a seemingly endless procession of neon signs. It was a quintessentially middle-class street, with plenty of ho-hum stores selling furniture, hardware and that sort of thing, but it had style. Expo Lounge has more on the history of the Plaza Saint Hubert:
The Plaza has not always been the destination of the bargain hunter. Founded in 1954, the merchant’s association was created to protect small businesses on Saint Hubert street from surrounding competitors. The Plaza’s popularity shot up in the early 60’s with the game show “Dix sur Dix”, which frequently broadcasted from the Plaza, giving away fabulous prizes such as cars, fur coats, and… houses!
In the 1960’s, local celebrities promoted and associated themeselves to the then-posh Plaza Saint Hubert. These celebrities included people I never heard of (Jean Duceppe, Suzanne Lapointe, Jean Grimaldi) as well as one I do know: Michèle Richard!
Michèle promoted a boutique called “Brigitte”. She apparently wasn’t aware at the time she could ask for free clothing by being the boutique’s spokesperson (it’s a sore spot of her’s, to this day!).
It makes me sad to think that all of those fabulous signs were junked a long time ago. The street’s 1984 renovation, which included the installation of the awnings, makes it look dull and homogeneous. There are some positive things happening on St. Hubert, including the emergence of new businesses that deal in more than just discount bridal ware — a blogger who goes by the name of “le Prof Maudit” did a nice tour of the street earlier this year — but little can be done to give the street back some of its old verve.
Photos: Ville de Montréal and bilan.usherbrooke.ca; compiled by Expo Lounge