McGill University ( Université McGill) | Ville-Marie, Montreal Qc - Historic Places Days

McGill University ( Université McGill) | Ville-Marie, Montreal Qc

Montréal, Québec
Historic District / Neighbourhood
805 Rue Sherbrooke O, Montréal, Québec H3A 0B9, Canada
Get directions
(514) 398-4455

McGill University ( Université McGill) in Montreal, Quebec

45°30′15″N 73°34′29″W / Campus

Downtown: 32 ha (80 acres)

Macdonald Campus: 650 ha (1,600 acres)

Is an English-language public Research University located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Founded in 1821 by royal charter, the university bears the name of James McGill, a Scottish merchant whose bequest in 1813 established the University of McGill College. In 1885, the name was officially changed to McGill University.

McGill University’s  main campus is on the slope of Mount Royal in downtown Montreal in the Ville-Marie district, with another campus situated in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, in the western part of Montreal.

The university is one of two members of the Association of American Universities located outside the United States, alongside the University of Toronto, and is the only Canadian member of the Global University Leaders Forum (GULF) within the World Economic Forum.

The university offers degrees and diplomas in over 300 fields of study.

The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning (RIAL) was created in 1801 under an Act of the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada (41 George III Chapter 17), An Act for the establishment of Free Schools and the Advancement of Learning in this Province.

The RIAL was initially authorized to operate two new Royal Grammar Schools, in Quebec City and in Montreal. This was a turning point for public education in Lower Canada as the schools were created by legislation, which showed the government’s willingness to support the costs of education and even the salary of a schoolmaster. This was an important first step in the creation of non-denominational schools. When James McGill died in 1813, his bequest was administered by the RIAL.

In 1846 the Royal Grammar School in Quebec City closed, and the one in Montreal merged with the High School of Montreal. By the mid-19th century, the RIAL had lost control of the other eighty-two grammar schools it had administered. However, in 1853 it took over the High School of Montreal from the school’s board of directors and continued to operate it until 1870. Thereafter, its sole remaining purpose was to administer the McGill bequest on behalf of the private college. The RIAL continues to exist today; it is the corporate identity that runs the university and its various constituent bodies, including the former Macdonald College (now Macdonald Campus), the Montreal Neurological Institute, and the Royal Victoria College (the former women’s college turned residence). Since the revised Royal Charter of 1852, the trustees of the RIAL are the board of governors of McGill University.


McGill College

The first Principal of McGill College, The Rt. Rev. George Mountain.

James McGill was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on October 6, 1744. He was a successful merchant in Quebec, having matriculated into the University of Glasgow in 1756. Soon afterwards, McGill left for North America to explore the business opportunities there, especially in the fur trade. Between 1811 and 1813, he drew up a will leaving his “Burnside estate”, a 19-hectare (47-acre) tract of rural land and 10,000 pounds to the Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning.

As a condition of the bequest, the land and funds had to be used for the establishment of a “University or College, for the purposes of Education and the Advancement of Learning in the said Province.The will specified a private, constituent college bearing his name would have to be established within ten years of his death; otherwise, the bequest would revert to the heirs of his wife.

On March 31, 1821, after protracted legal battles with the Desrivières family (the heirs of his wife), McGill College received a royal charter from King George IV. The charter provided the college should be deemed and taken as a university, with the power of conferring degrees. The third Lord Bishop of Quebec, The Right Reverend Dr. George Mountain, (DCL, Oxford) was appointed the first principal of McGill College and a professor of divinity. He is also responsible for the creation of Bishop’s University in 1843 and Bishop’s College School in 1836 in the Eastern Townships.

University development

Although McGill College received its Royal Charter in 1821, it was inactive until 1829 when the Montreal Medical Institution, which had been founded in 1823, became the college’s first academic unit and Canada’s first medical school. The Faculty of Medicine granted its first degree, a Doctorate of Medicine and Surgery, in 1833; this was also the first medical degree to be awarded in Canada.

The Faculty of Medicine remained the school’s only functioning faculty until 1843 when the Faculty of Arts commenced teaching in the newly constructed Arts Building and East Wing (Dawson Hall).

The Faculty of Law was founded in 1848 and is also the oldest of its kind in the nation. In 1896, the McGill School of Architecture was the second architecture school to be established in Canada, six years after the University of Toronto in 1890.  Sir John William Dawson, McGill’s principal from 1855 to 1893, is often credited with transforming the school into a modern university.

William Spier designed the addition of the West Wing of the Arts Building for William Molson, 1861. Alexander Francis Dunlop designed major alterations to the East Wing of McGill College (now called the Arts Building, McGill University) for Prof. Bovey and the Science Dept., 1888. This expansion of the campus continued until 1920. Buildings designed by Andrew Taylor include the Redpath Museum (1880), Macdonald Physics Building (1893), the Redpath Library (1893), the Macdonald Chemistry Building (1896)—now known as the Macdonald-Harrington Building, the Macdonald Engineering Building (1907)—now known as the Macdonald-Stewart Library Building, and the Strathcona Medical Building (1907)—since renamed the Strathcona Anatomy and Dentistry Building.



  • Family-Friendly
  • Food and Beverages
  • Guided Tour
  • Parking
  • Parkland
  • Pet-Friendly
  • Washrooms
  • Wheelchair Access


805 Rue Sherbrooke O, Montréal, Québec H3A 0B9, Canada
Get directions

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