Murphy's, Hamilton's and Ogilvy's


In 1869, John Murphy established his dry goods store in a new five-storey remained and prospered at this location for a quarter century notwithstanding the competition from Samuel Carsley who, in 1871, opened his own department store next door. By 1890, Murphy's was active in mail order: "Orders from the country always receive our best attention and samples sent when requested. We keep a staff of hands who give their whole attention to letter orders."

Squeezed by Carsley's and drawn by the opportunities in Montréal's Golden Square Mile, John Murphy & Company abandoned Old Montréal for St. Catherine Street, where it opened in a new five-storey building at the corner of Metcalfe in 1893. Presumably the mail-order division remained an integral part of the store. A year after the reorganization of Murphy's as a limited liability company in 1904, the Robert Simpson Company acquired a controlling interest, but continued to operate the store under the Murphy name. The store was extended in 1909-10 to occupy the western half of the block between Metcalfe and Mansfield Streets. In 1929, it was renamed Robert Simpson Montreal and all its assets were sold to Simpson's Limited, which demolished the building and built a new store covering the width of the block. Simpson's thus assumed a powerful presence on Montréal's premier shopping street.

Hamilton's and Ogilvy's

The remaining two department stores that moved their operations to St. Catherine were Hamilton's and Ogilvy's, neither of which was significantly involved in mail order. The origins of the dry goods business of Henry and N. E. Hamilton remain obscure, but, in 1891, the firm was sufficiently large and prosperous that it was able to take over the store vacated by Henry Morgan & Company on Victoria Square. After remaining there for five years, Hamilton's relocated to St. Catherine Street, where it occupied a new two-storey building on the southeast corner of Peel. In 1906, the department store made its final move, this time to the northwest corner of St. Catherine and Drummond where, as its business expanded, it gradually occupied the whole five-storey building by 1915. The firm last renewed its lease in 1925 and within two years ceased operation.

The history of Ogilvy's is unique, since it began neither in the former retail district in Old Montréal, nor on St. Catherine Street. The store, founded by James Ogilvy in 1866 on Saint-Antoine Street, occupied premises at the corner of Saint-Antoine and de la Montagne Streets, on the edge of the uptown district. In the 1880s, the character of the street changed dramatically after the Canadian Pacific Railway built its tracks on the escarpment between Saint-Antoine and the Dorchester terrace. In 1896, James Ogilvy & Sons moved to a three-storey building on the northeast corner of St. Catherine and de la Montagne. Continued growth made further expansion necessary and, rather than enlarge the existing building, in 1909-10, the firm built a new four-storey store, six times greater in area, across the street on the northwest corner of de la Montagne. A fifth storey was added in 1929.
by Alan M. Stewart

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