[Note that none of these ideas came to pass. John Young remains in his place of honour, with a repaired Neptune, and the Place Royale was redone when the Pointe a Calliere Museum was constructed.]
Montreal Gazette, 9 December 1957, page 23
City Urged to Restore Historic Heart- Place Royale
Robillard Would Use Island for John Young Statue
By Bill Bantey
The spot where Maisonneuve first set foot when he discovered Montreal may get a face lifting to restore the historic heart of the city. The move would involve a new deal for Hon John Young and Neptune, who have been neglected by all but waterfront pigeons for many a year. The recommendations to create a park area in waterfront Place Royale to honour its historic past, and to move Young’s monument to Ile Ronde, near St Helen’s Island are contained in a report to the civic administration by Parks Director Claude Robillard.
The area contains a second monument, the sign, weather-scarred obelisk a memorial to Montreal’s first colonists. It would remain in its present setting. The condition of the monument to Young is a sorry tribute to the man “through whose foresight, public spirit and energy, Montreal has become the national port of Canada.”
Erected in 1906, with Neptune at its base, the monument was unveiled with much official fanfare. For several years the fountain at its base was filled with sparkling water which poured from a pitcher held by Neptune.
Neptune’s Leg Lost in Brawl
But as time wore on, upkeep of the monument was neglected until old newspapers and empty liquor bottles replaced the water, layers of grime crusted Young’s effigy and Neptune’s left leg was ripped off- in a waterfront brawl, the story goes.
The obelisk hasn’t fared much better. Its 65-year history has been one of practically nothing but trouble.
Robillard wants to change all this.
He has asked the administration to take over land and property to extend Place Royale because, he says, the site has “an historic value without equal in the entire territory of the Island of Montreal.”
The Young monument, Robillard noted, now stands on a “badly maintained parking lot,” which is the exact site of the oldest establishment on the island, the Place Royale de Champlain.
He calls for the moving of the Young monument to Ile Ronde where it would clearly show that “this hardy pioneer vanquished all the obstacles to free navigation below Montreal.”
Acquisition and development of Ile Ronde would be a first step in the project. The area between St Paul and Commissioner’s Streets was given the name of Place Royale in 1892 at the request of Archaeology and Numismatic Society, North of the Place, as it is now constituted, is the federally owned old customs building built in 1836 and extended in 1881. Since 1917, it has been used by the Federal Public Works Department.
Robillard maintains, however, that the federal property encroaches on homologated fines for Capitale St as well as on a city owned lot.
Began its Career in Wrong Place
The obelisk, tottering in front of the old customs building, began its unhappy career by being built in the wrong place.
There was no room for it in Place Royale so it was erected in Place d’Youville instead. As early as 1894, it was considered a traffic menace and became unpopular with all but tourists and historians.
Moved to its proper place in Place Royale in 1941, it became ignored. Historical societies, commemorating the birth of the city, celebrated at other shrines- in particular at the statue of Maisonneuve at Place d’Armes two blocks away.
On one of the obelisk’s four sides are the names of Montreal’s 1st original settlers. On another is a quotation there, a speech made to them at the monument’s present site in 1642 by RP Vimont.
“What you see here gentlemen as only the seed of a plant; but I have no doubt that this little seed will grow into a great tree which one day will marvelously progress and multiply and increase in every direction.
34,000 lb Obelisk Off Centre Twice
The obelisk 30 ft high and weighing 34,000 pounds has been out of plumb twice in its original site as well as at its present location.
Neptune, crouched at the feet of the Hon John Young in the second Place Royale monument, has not had a much happier life. Neptune’s broken leg was replaced by another, crudely fashioned in wood. But it, too, broke off, the paint disintegrated from the remaining portion. The Robillard plan would give the colonists’ memorial and the Young monument the respect they deserve.