McCord Museum (formerly Student Union Building)
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Student Union Building -- McGill Archives

In 1919, David M. McCord bequeathed his extensive collection of Canadian artifacts to McGill because it had long since overflowed his estate and because he desired to ensure the perpetuation of his work. Mcgill was at first uncertain as to how the collection, really a small museum, could be properly displayed, but room was found for it in the old Jesse Joseph mansion on the northeast corner of Sherbrooke and McTavish Streets. This Square Mile style abode, named Dilcoosha, a Hindustani word meaning "The Heart's Delight", had been used during World War I as McGill's COTC headquarters; its long upstairs hall had even been used as a range for target practice. In 1921 the house opened as the McCord Museum and the collection began to expand from donation. Unfortunately, in 1936 Dilcoosha was in desperate need of repair. One of its walls had begun to buckle and it was deemed too structurally unstable to be opened to the public.

In 1955, the McCord Museum was moved from Dilcoosha to the Hodgeson house, located on the northeast corner of Dr. Penfield and Drummond Streets, later the site of the Stewart Biological Sciences Building. After this move, Dilcoosha was demolished because it was structurally unsound; its site was chosen for the new McLennan Library, built in 1969. The McCord Museum was quite cramped in its new quarters and was kept closed to the public for lack of display rooms. Yet, in the 1950s, a series of articles was published on the subject of the Notman Photograph archive, a fascinating record of life at the turn of the century, which was part of the McCord's holdings. Because of this, the McCord opened a small part of the museum to the public. Shortly after this the National Gallery of Ottawa asked permission to borrow and display some of the rare paintings from the McCord. Public interest began to grow and soon the McCord was once again being offered donations and had soon far outgrown the Hodgeson house. At this point McGill was faced with the choice of giving the Museum its independence, or finding suitable quarters for it on campus.

In 1965, it was decided that the old Student Union Building would be the new home of the McCord Museum. This English Palazzo style edifice, located on Sherbrooke Street just west of University Street, had been donated to McGill in 1905 by Sir William Macdonald, a major benefactor of the University. It was designed by Percy Erskine Nobbs, Director of the School of Architecture at the time, and his associates Hutchison and Wood. When it was opened in 1905, it was declared one of the finest clubs in Montreal. Membership in the Union was offered to any male student in the University willing to pay $5.00 a year, but the Union had much to offer. The structure, built of Montreal limestone, was elegant, but was not overly ornamented. The basement contained an exercise room, baths, showers, the kitchen, and storage areas. The entrance hall, on the first floor, led into the dining room and the luncheon room where students could get a hot meal after class. The second floor contained a spacious, comfortable lounge furnished with chairs and tables designed by Nobbs and heated, in part, by a large fireplace. The great hall, with frescoed tympanums above the windows, stretched the length of the third floor. By 1965, McGill's enrolment had increased to the extent that the Student Union, although very posh, was not large enough to serve the needs of the student body, both male and female. At this time, McGill decided to construct a new University Centre on McTavish Street, leaving the old Student Union vacant for occupancy by the McCord Museum. Renovations, paid for in great part by the John W. McConnell Foundation, were begun and, in 1971, the McCord Museum opened in its new, spacious home.

After 1971, the McCord Museum once again began to receive increasing numbers of donations until, in 1987, it was decided to expand Nobbs' structure to give the Museum more room, and state-of-the-art preservation labs and climate control. This extension, paid for by the John W. McConnell Foundation, was constructed of limestone to match the original building. The McCord Museum was reopened to the public, in what is now its permanent home, after the extension was finished in 1991.

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Built 1904
Architect - Percy Erskine Nobbs
Donor - Sir William Macdonald
Current use - McCord Museum

-- McGill Archives

Student Union Building
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Union & Strathcona Hall from East
-- McGill Archives

Door to Union
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Ice rink with Strathcona Hall & Union
-- McGill Archives

-- McGill Archives

Cigarette seller
-- McGill Archives

McCord Museum
-- McGill Archives