By Mackay L. Smith
In 1862, a graceful house with verandas wrapping completely around its first and second floors, was built on the corner of Sherbrooke and University streets. The house changed hands several times over the ensuing years, eventually coming into the possession of Charles Moyse, who became McGill’s Dean of Arts in 1900. Moyse soon sold the house the home to K. D. Doswell.
In 1933, Alliance Insurance acquired the house, and immediately demolished it in order to build a square seven-storey mausoleum-type building for their offices at 680. This building was torn down in 1975, and the company built a triangular twenty-one-storey building that was inaugurated in 1976. This Class “A” building has a semi-reflective glass exterior — one of the first of its kind in Canada.
In 1998, McGill became a co-owner of the building and acquired a separate entrance for its students and staff. Today, there are administrative offices, classrooms and language departments scattered over fifteen floors including such units as the Centre for Continuing Education, Learning in Retirement, and Information Systems and Technology.
Between the Alliance building and the McCord Museum is a gigantic statue of rock, an Inukshuk, a sacred welcome symbol of the Inuit. It was created by Jusipi Nalulskurk of Nunavik. The monument has over 200 stones and weighs over 8500 kilos.
McGill Memories is a regular feature based upon Mackay L. Smith’s 2009 book, Memories and Profiles of McGill University. The book is available at the McGill bookstore.