In 1866, one year before Canadian Confederation, James A. Ogilvy founded his linen shop situated on Mountain Street, one door north of St. James Street. It had only one counter and one clerk.
Jas A. Ogilvy Ltd. re-located in 1884 to the then fashionable Mountain and St. Antoine Street area. It was here where many prominent Montrealers resided. Among them were the Honourable Charles Séraphin Rodier; businessman, financier and Montreal mayor, as well as Sir Francis Hincks, a pre-Confederation Prime Minister.
A “recklessly bold” move in 1896 brought Ogilvy to the sparsely populated Mountain and St. Catherine Streets (although on the north-east corner). Westmount did not yet exist and few people foresaw Montreal’s rapid expansion.
Twelve years later Ogilvy bought the site on which it now stands from the Prévost family. When construction of the store was completed in 1912, Ogilvy was professed to be the latest and most modern store.
J. Aird Nesbitt acquired the store in 1927 initially as a hobby more than a business. It was his passion for Ogilvy to be a distinctively special place that began the well-known tradition of tartan boxes and the famous piper.
The fifth floor and Tudor Hall, Montreal’s first Music Hall, were built in 1928. This impressive oak paneled room rapidly gained prominence partly due to the existence of a grand concert pipe organ, an important feature of Tudor Hall. For several years there were virtually daily organ recitals and at least once a week, a variety of local radio station broadcasts emanated from the Hall. In 1931, from their broadcasting studio adjacent to Tudor Hall, CFCF and CKAC aired the first Montreal Orchestra broadcast across Canada. During the 40s, the Hall was used for war effort purposes.
Nesbitt also introduced the remarkable grand chandelier, today still hanging on the ground floor. For generations this extravagant fixture hung in Her Majesty’s Theatre on Guy Street.
The mechanical windows have been a well-known tradition with Ogilvy and Montreal since 1947, since the first one was brought in from the Steiff Co. of Germany. More than 100 moveable parts, featuring handmade, animated stuffed animals involved in a variety of activities cover the entire corner window of St. Catherine and de la Montagne streets.
These sceneries “The Enchanted Village” and “Mill in the Forest” illustrate the traditional aspects of Christmas. Montrealers and visitors alike enjoy taking a few moments away from the fast, hectic pace of the commercial holiday season to simply admire this enchanting display.
Extensive renovations were undertaken and after a two-year period the breathtaking results were unveiled at the “Grande Ouverture” in September of 1987. The Ogilvy “store-within-a-store” concept (a first in Canada) has proven to be an immensely successful approach; each boutique maintains its own unique look, complemented by the individual identity of each floor.
The distinctive style and cachet of Ogilvy is protected through the establishment and maintenance of common, high standards and policies that begin at the design concept stage and continue through after sales service. It is the universal application of these standards and policies by all tenants and Ogilvy departments that differentiates Ogilvy from all other specialty stores, from shopping centres and from department stores.
The Selfridges Group acquires Ogilvy in 2011; Canadian retailer W. Galen Weston and family take charge.