Heritage gas station needs a new vocation

Mies gas station Photo by Kate McDonnell

Yesterday the ever-vigilant Montreal City Weblog noted that a unique gas station on Nun’s Island, designed by Mies van der Rohe, is now boarded up. Mies van der Rohe is the architect behind the Seagram Building in NYC, among other monuments of modernist architecture. He was also a design consultant on Toronto’s TD Centre.

Built in 1968, the gas station in question was operated by Esso until last December. Today’s edition of Le Devoir reports that the Conseil du Patrimoine is beginning an official process to recognize the building, which could facilitate its preservation.

Great architecture should last for centuries but our dependence on gasoline should not. So I figure that if we want to preserve this architecturally notable gas station (and there can’t be many in North America, although apparently Frank Lloyd Wright designed one in Minnesota) it’s going to need a new vocation.

Perhaps it could be re-opened as a bike shop, with air pumps instead of gasoline? Anybody have another idea?


  1. Sort of a shame. However, I agree that our dependence on gasoline should not be something we’d want to preserve.

    Should the station be restored, I would hope they would find some original vintage 1960’s gas pumps, to replace the “high-tech” ones currently in place. Also, please eliminate the car wash in there.

  2. Bike shop is a nice idea. It’s very small, there’s not enough space even for a very small gallery, which is what I was thinking of.

    I’m afraid that real estate on the island is getting so valuable that the notion of preserving a barely one-storey building may seem ludicrous and it may lose out to the pressure for development.

  3. fritas stand with daily disrtibutions of veggie oil dispensed from the old gas pumps to applicable motorists. great blog!

  4. this gas station was the subject of a documentary film “regular or super” that looked at Mies’ legacy, and at this gas station too!

    It is worth noting that we saw this film at the late-winter FIFA film festival(roughly… festival of films on Art), which I think is the best film festival in town.

    Mies other legacy in Montreal is the three-tower complex at Westmount Square, and a nearby apartment block on nun’s island.

  5. With the recent slew of new towers on Nun’s Island it would seem mighty ironic that there could possibly be a closed gas station over there. If there was actually good transit service there it would be tempting to consider the island as a model of sustainability, but, no, it’s just incredibly ironic, some sort of inexplicable cosmic coincidence.

  6. Losing a gas station by one of the best architects of the era would be quite the shame. After all, cars represented modernity in that age. It ought to remain a gas station.

    “Should the station be restored, I would hope they would find some original vintage 1960’s gas pumps, to replace the “high-tech” ones currently in place.”

    I don’t know about vintage pumps. After all, it’s not like Mies designed them, and I’m sure he’d appreciate our high tech pumps pushing modernity forward.

  7. Also, why would you not be for keeping it as a gas station? It’s not like we’ll ideally banish the cars, just decrease our dependence.

  8. Wow! Nostalgia. I lived on Berlioz on Nun’s Island in the early 70’s and gassed up many times at that station. Am now in Windsor ON. Never thought it would become famous.
    Thanks for the memory.

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