The first permanent accommodation (1949)


From July 1946, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) started negotiations with the host Government and the Canadian National Railways to establish a permanent accommodation to replace its temporary quarters consisting of parts of two adjoining buildings on the Dominion Square; by 1949, the Secretariat staff numbered 390.


Montreal - The International Aviation Building,

1080 University Street.

The new commodious office accommodation would become the International Aviation Building, for a total calculated space of 90,000 square feet reserved for ICAO, to be constructed at the corner of Dorchester Boulevard (now Boulevard René-Léveque) and University Street (at 1080 University Street). It had the additional attraction of adjoining the city’s central railway station. ICAO would occupy the six upper floors of the new US$ 4 million 10-storey building. The premises were ready for occupation by 15 July 1949. The official opening ceremony of the International Aviation Building was scheduled during the Fourth Session of the Assembly on 1 June 1950 in the afternoon. The Conference Centre was located on the 10th floor. Air conditioning was not installed until 1964 and then only on the tenth floor, while ventilation on other floors came from the windows on the perimeter of the building, resulting in more lost space between perimeter offices and central corridors due to lack of heat, ventilation and natural light in these intermediate areas. Furthermore, open windows in the summer months meant lots of dust and dirt blowing around, making conditions even more uncomfortable. Elevators were close to one end of the building, causing excessive walking. The maintenance of security and privacy in the building was complicated due to three main entrances to the building in addition to many side accesses. No parking facilities for automobiles were available on the premises.


The building also accommodated various airline offices and the headquarters of IATA, the International Air Transport Association (on the 2nd floor).


It is to be noted that no provision was made in the new building for a dedicated conference room in which to hold the Assembly Sessions. They were therefore held either in Montreal (at the Windsor Hotel, ICAO Headquarters, or Laurentien Hotel for the third Assembly) or outside Canada at the invitation of one of the Members States; during the first 20 years, ICAO Assemblies were convened at seven different locations. Due to the Organization’s expanding work, an increasing number of staff of the Secretariat (close to 500 in 1970) and an ever-growing number of Member States (119 in 1970), the accommodations built in the 40s had become too cramped and restrictive for efficient operations of ICAO. From an initial space occupied of 90,000 square feet in 1949, the Organization occupied in 1970 almost the whole of the International Aviation Building, for 160,000 square feet.


Bronze plaque which indicated the entrance to ICAO building

on 1080 University Street.


United Nations New-York – 9 February 1955.

10th Anniversary of the Interim Agreement and the first PICAO meeting.

ICAO Council in Session, on the 10th floor of the International Aviation Building.

Note that the civic number 826 (on Dorchester), shown on this cover, comes from the location of the building at the corner of Dorchester Boulevard and University Street, whereas the ICAO official address was: 1080 University Street.


First Day Cover issued on 1 June 1955 for the 10th Anniversary of the Interim Agreement. Caneco Company cachet. Back view of the International Aviation Building, 1080 University Street, occupied by ICAO from 1947 to 1975.


Commercial cover sent to IATA at the International Aviation Building.


1949 – International Aviation Building.

Picture taken from Dorchester Street.


1 June 1950 – Inauguration of the first permanent headquarters

during the Fourth Session of the Assembly

(Raising of the United Nations flag on top of the building).


Service cover sent by ICAO from the International Aviation Building.

It is interesting to note that, although this cover was mailed on 22 August 1963, the meter slogan still shows an emblem which officially was in use only between 1950 and 1954.


Commercial cover sent to ICAO at the International Aviation Building.