Plaza Saint Hubert before the green awning

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

7 comments

  1. Pretty wild. I’ve seen shots of Ste Catherine street in the 1960’s as well and it is similar. Not to mention the pedestrian traffic of the main thoroughfares during that era. Imagine the sidewalks of Rene-Levesque Blvd. so jammed it resembles Tokyo.

  2. I once saw a short video about the street (I wish I could remember the site but for some reason I neglected to bookmark it) and apparently the second biggest Santa Clause parade in Quebec happened along Plaza St-Hubert.

  3. C’est certain que c’était des temps différent. I’m really not sure which one is worst, the awning or the neons.

  4. I remember the Plaza in the 1970s before the “semi-malling” (which I never liked). There were still some quality shops and I remember buying a beautiful coat there, and Mariette Clermont (upscale furniture) stayed on for a long time, but it was starting to get run-down and there were many vacant or crappy businesses.

    It has improved a bit in recent years with a couple of bookshops, some innovative young businesses in the southernmost block between Bellechasse and Beaubien, some “commerces de proximité” such as a greengrocer’s, the expanded Reitmans farther north and so forth, but it is still rather sad, and the awnings are an ugly solution to the weather, as they cut off the top parts of the buildings.

    My neighbourhood remains more interesting elsewhere – other than La Petite Italie, of course, the knot of Sino-Vietnamese businesses on St-Denis around Bélanger, some developments on St-Zotique, Bélanger and even Beaubien (also long a desolate street).

  5. Wow, that night shot with all the neon signs is amazing! I see a sign for Le Roi du Smoked Meat, which is still on St-Hubert, and my favourite smoked meat place in Montreal! Second last photo, is St-Hubert BBQ (I guess this is where the chicken chain began?). The bottom photo shows part of a Greenberg department store, no longer in business as far as I know. The awnings are a good idea as far as protecting the shopper from the cruel Montreal winters and rainstorms. What other way to compete with the advent of the enclosed suburban malls? But I still miss the neon from Montreal streets!

  6. Oh yeah, I think they also have speakers that pipe out music for the sidewalk shoppers.

  7. Ma mère a travaillé au Roi du Smoke Meat en 1962 et nous essayons de retrouver STEVE qui je crois, était le gérant. Il était d’origine Grèque. Elle a fait un anévrisme et est maintenant paralysée et en fauteuil roulant depuis maintenant 30 ans. Je voudrais juste le retrouver pour lui demander une question de ma mère parce qu’elle ne se souvient plus de rien.  Votre aide serait vraiment apprécié.

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