Celebrating 100 years of Montreal’s Solar Life constructing – Montreal

Montreal’s Sun Life building, on Metcalfe Street next to Dorchester Square, has a storied history that spans 100 years.

It all started in 1914, when the financial services company moved its operations from Montreal’s Old Port to what would eventually become the city’s downtown core.

By 1918, the first phase of the building’s construction was complete.

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Back then, it was six storeys and welcomed 750 employees.

There were two major expansions between 1923-1926 and 1928-1933. At its completion, the building could accommodate 10,000 people — became the tallest structure in Montreal.

“Nothing in the main lobby has changed over the years,” noted Yves-André Godon, senior vice-president of the Montreal region for Bentall Kennedy.

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Like many iconic landmarks, what lends to the lore and legend of the building is what the people inside were up to.

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During the Second World War, Montreal’s Sun Life building played an important role in what was known as “Operation Fish.”

The mission was to get wealth in the form of foreign, marketable securities in crates marked ‘fish’ from the U.K. to Canada.

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A $5 billion fortune traveled across the Atlantic to Halifax, N.S. before making its way to the Sun Life building — staunchly guarded by the RCMP.

The underground safe that housed the enormous fortune is now a parking lot.

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The Sun Life building is a “architectural and historical testimony to the City of Montreal,” explained Godon.

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The edifice was originally built solely for employees of the insurance company, but thanks to technological advances, the group would eventually need less space. So, tenants moved in.

At various points in time, the structure housed a shooting range, a bowling alley, a billiard room, a health clinic and a gym.

Some of the building’s most famous tenants were a series of peregrine falcons — two were seen flying around the building in 1936.

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A female, named Scarlett, even set up home on the 20th floor and laid eggs.

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A nesting box was built for Scarlett, who laid 50 eggs between 1940 and 1952.

In honour of its 100 years, Bentall Kennedy and the building’s co-owners decided to give $100,000 to Centraide of Greater Montreal.

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